The Long and Short of It: Microlearning for Professionals

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Microlearning courses are short, interactive, and targeted, addressing a single educational objective.  Micro course offerings are an expectation of young professionals, given they grew up consuming short and direct online content like Ted Talks.  Micro course offerings are effective for all professionals because it is easier for learners to identify and receive content that is relevant to their educational needs, given the single and targeted educational objective of a micro learning course.  Professional associations and other continuing education providers have been slow adopters of this format, but the time is now to develop a plan.  Your learners expect it, and the demand will only grow over time.  According to one blog, by 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the work force.

A micro course can be as short as a few seconds and as long as 15-20 minutes.  The goal of the course is to deliver nuggets of information related to a single educational objective in a quick and interactive way.  An easy way to evaluate meeting the purpose of a single educational objective is to ask the questions:  Does the program stand on its own?  Is there a need for outside information to understand the program content?  A great starting place in planning micro courses is to identify a problem for your practitioners.  Design a micro course to solve that problem.  Narrow practice management topics lend themselves to micro learning.

A positive byproduct of this format is that it requires your speakers to be on task and present directly to the identified educational objective.  While I know to deliver on the educational objective is important in all continuing education programs, a meandering speaker that fails to deliver the targeted information in a micro course is especially problematic and will not produce an effective micro course.  As part of your planning process, train speakers on the needs and uniqueness of this format.

Micro courses are best delivered online and most frequently use the webinar format and the interactive tools of that format.  Further, it is a must that the micro course is mobile accessible. It is reasonable to expect a higher use of mobile devices in consuming a micro course.  Of course, all InReach affiliates have the mobile capability.

Sophisticated users of the microlearning format work to deliver content that is visually interesting and use lots of graphics, images, etc.  Historically, professionals have been tolerant of lower production quality with online delivery of continuing education programs.  Again, as new learners enter the professional, the tolerance for lower quality production will not be as great.  For that reason, work to increase your production standards for the micro courses through the use of graphics and images.  Remember the InReach production department can help you in providing higher-quality production.  Kicking it up a notch is always good!

If you decide to start delivering micro courses, explore branding the format to help your learners more easily identify a micro course.  Target marketing is a must and easy to do with micro learning.  After all, with a narrow and targeted educational objective, it should be easy for you to identify your learners that most likely need the information.  Learners will appreciate your pushing out this relevant information to them through you marketing communications.

Micro courses also give you pricing and discounting options.  For example, provide your learners with an opportunity to purchase an annual subscription to that weekly or monthly lunchtime micro course.  Bundling micro courses by practice area is also a great tool for promotion and providing discounts.

As an aside, micro courses are well-suited for quick updates on recent developments in practice areas.  Plan how to handle the need to quickly deliver content before the opportunity presents itself.  Have a process in place to create, design and deliver a micro course on the update.  It’s okay if it is a short presentation and not an in-depth analysis, your members will appreciate being made aware of the basics of the new information.  Truly, this is a member benefit that all associations should be equipped to provide.

Rules around mandatory continuing education and partial credit can limit your ability to create micro courses.  If your rules prohibit giving credit for any course under 30 minutes, bend the micro learning rules and develop programming that is 30 minutes in length.  It’s close enough!  If your rules prohibit giving credit for any course under 60 minutes, explore the acceptability of giving an hour’s credit for micro learning segments grouped together and that total one hour in length.  Designing and delivering those segments, although part of an umbrella program, will provide the “feel” of a micro course, especially if the learner can stop between segments.

Your InReach client success team is here and available to you if you want to discuss a plan for providing microlearning opportunities.  It’s easy to do, and you already have all the technology needed to deliver it.

 

About the Author:

Donita Bourns Douglas is Executive Vice President of Client Success. She has held the position as director of educational programs for the Oklahoma Bar Association, where she developed one of the most successful CLE programs in the United States. Donita has also served as an instructor at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, is an emeritus member of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Inn of Court, and is past president of the Association of Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA). She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Southern Methodist University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oklahoma College Of Law.

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