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What to make of snack content and micro learning?

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Snack content and micro learning: Training fast food or a real learning innovation? Opinion is divided on this new trend, which has been the subject of much discussion in recent years. While some fear a potential loss of knowledge and skills, others see it as a great opportunity for improving their teaching practices, grabbing learners’ attention and other advantages besides. So what to make of it all? Are you afraid the quality of your courses will suffer? Follow the guide to understand it all better and perhaps even take it up yourself. Why not?

Micro learning explained!

Micro learning, snack content, nugget learning, fast learning: all terms to describe the same e-learning trend making the headlines in training blogs. But what is it exactly?

What is micro learning?

Behind all of these terms lies a relatively simple definition: micro learning, in order words short, digital training modules. As easy to ‘consume’ as a YouTube video, this content is generally under 5 minutes long and focuses on a specific concept or idea. Portable and easy to access, it can be viewed at any time. Learning at the tip of one’s fingertips, for people with little time but with a thirst for knowledge. Nowadays, snack content permeates all aspects of our daily life, in particular on social media. Social media has, in effect, become the vehicle for sharing a lot of information, videos and expertise.

Although this trend has generated a lot of debate in recent years, in reality there is nothing new about it. In fact, the term was first coined in 2002. Already at the time, the Austrian author Theo Hug, who contributed a great deal to documentation about the subject, was advising caution regarding its use and meaning, which vary significantly from one country to another. How did it emerge? These short formats emerged in various fields primarily to divide up information given the development of digital technology and the multiplication of media and devices. The aim: to enable such content to be viewed quickly and efficiently. Training has not escaped this rule. But how does this learning ‘fast food’ work in concrete terms?

How does snack content work?

Micro learning can make use of various materials: articles, videos, quizzes, graphs and diagrams, etc. ThinkOvery, a company specializing in the learning experience, has identified the following characteristics:

  • Focused on the learner, who must be as active and autonomous as possible in their learning. It is the learner who seeks out the knowledge they need;
  • Versatile and available at any time, otherwise known as ATAWAD (anytime, anywhere, any device);
  • Quick (between 20 seconds and 5 minutes) in order to be easily consumed and assimilated;
  • Novel and personalized, as the learning does not form part of a given course but may be consulted on demand. The content also adapts according to whether or not the user has progressed;
  • Practical and concrete so that the knowledge acquired can be directly transposed into real life.

A learning method suitable both for young people at ease with new technology and for working people in search of efficiency. What are the benefits for training organizations?

The advantages of micro learning

The definition of micro learning has probably already given you some ideas concerning the benefits it has to offer. Let us examine these benefits in a bit more detail. Artips Factory, a company that proposes storytelling training for companies, has identified 4 advantages specific to training organizations:

  • Real tracking and measurement of results. Thanks to distance learning, you can track the progress of your learners and the knowledge they have acquired or not;
  • Personalization and adaptability of the content for a unique learner experience. As the learner is the primary player in their own learning, they can choose what they need to improve and work on further. It is then up to you to adapt to their needs;
  • Stronger motivation and engagement of users, who see the results more clearly as they directly apply what they have learned;
  • An attractive return on investment thanks to e-learning. The content can, moreover, be quickly created and at little cost.

Although micro learning offers many advantages, its detractors accuse it of lowering the quality of the content by prioritizing speed. Is this true?

Is micro learning going to replace all other forms of training?

Have you so far resisted the siren call of micro learning and don’t really understand what all the fuss is about? Like many training organizations, you may have invested long days, weeks or even months in preparing the fullest and most extensive content possible. All this to enable your students to really benefit from new skills. Also, perhaps in your opinion, quality implies quantity and reducing your content is unthinkable. Perfect, because this is exactly what nugget learning does not mean!

Long formats irreplaceable in training

No, micro learning will not replace long formats.

All the content that you have produced is not, therefore, obsolete; on the contrary. It provides full and exhaustive information that is often essential for learners seeking a fuller understanding of the subject or looking for intensive training. Snack content can be used to complement this fuller content. It can be an excellent teaser to present or spark learners’ interest for a longer module. The idea is to change the paradigm and address the question of innovation in training.

Accepting innovation in training

The crisis quickly revealed the need to refocus attention on the learner experience and, regardless of digital technology, to consider the quality of the training content. Whether long or short, therefore, content remains relevant and effective. Provided the learner’s needs have been taken into account in advance. Learners now have greater expectations with regard to interaction than before, for example.

Micro learning offers this possibility, as do longer formats. Provided the trainers have taken it into consideration from the outset. Snack content is not therefore designed to replace ‘old-fashioned methods’ but to inject innovation into the sector by adapting to today’s devices (telephone, tablet, computer, etc.) and users. It is vital that we move past a certain antagonistic view of these two approaches and, on the contrary, focus on innovation and complementarity. The quality of your training courses will be vastly enhanced as a result.

Conclusion: micro learning offers new opportunities for e-learning

Micro learning has a role to play in training today, as it corresponds to our new digital way of living. Like any innovation, however, it must be well-handled and structured. It is not about chopping up content and spreading it around willy-nilly, along the lines of social media. On the contrary, a real strategy and teaching approach must be set up to enable trainers and learners alike to reap the benefits. It may, therefore, be a very useful addition to your teaching practices. Remember: quality must take priority over quantity in your content. Hence, a simple phrase can sometimes affect someone for life, as opposed to a long, drawn-out speech. It’s all a question of balance.


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