Microlearning Programs for Ambitious Professionals Who Lack the Time and Headspace for Learning

What’s the biggest obstacle between your members and your educational programs? It’s a perceived lack of time. Every professional understands the need to brush up or acquire new knowledge and skills so they can remain employable and promotable. Yet they resist blocking out time in their calendar for a webinar, never mind a lengthy course.

They might feel differently about microlearning programs.

Forces you and your members are fighting against

You must know the enemy if you want to defeat it. What are you up against in the battle for your members’ time? The more you understand their situation, the more effectively you can market microlearning programs to them.

Your members work too hard, too long, and too much. Their workload fills up their entire workday. It threatens to (or does) infiltrate other parts of their lives. No wonder they feel they can’t spare any time for professional development. They think it’s a luxury they can’t afford, one that’s not essential for their career—but it is. 

They’re burned out by hustle culture, constant change, new technology and processes, returning to the office, and all the other demands on their mind and their time. This overwhelm wears on their motivation for self-improvement.

The idea of taking an hour off for a webinar or study session stresses them out. They lack the headspace for learning. 

Microlearning programs focus on a micro-goal

Learning experts say the power of microlearning is not only the time it takes, it’s the cognitive load it requires. The key is focusing on one learning outcome for each microlesson. That single outcome is the most important part of the definition. It’s not the time, it’s the focus that matters most.

In less than 10 or 15 minutes, a microlesson explains one concept or skill and gives the learner the opportunity to practice or apply that new information.

Microlearning is how people learn every day. What do you do when you want to figure out how to make a cocktail, hang a shelf, or put on eyeliner? You watch a short video on YouTube or TikTok. These examples of just-in-time microlearning focus on a specific need. They’re what your association can offer to members and other professionals in your industry.

If members have 5, 10 or 15 minutes, they have time to learn something new. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries offers an on-demand safety training program for forklift operators. This microlearning program in English or Spanish features four ten-minute modules, each with a video and learning check. 

Elements of an effective microlearning program

Aim for a micro-goal. A clear, focused learning outcome or goal is the essence of microlearning, for example, a just-in-time solution for a problem or need.

Minimize the cognitive load. Be aware of the complexity of the content so you don’t overload the learner’s working memory. Present complex information in small chunks with time for practice. For example, in a board orientation, focus each microlesson on one situation or issue, like conflict of interest.

Feature an instructor. Research says learners feel more connected to the content when an instructor is involved. But if this isn't practical for your budget or schedule, go without.

Include time for practice. New information sticks in the memory when learners recall and apply it. Per research, video lessons with interactive quizzes significantly increase learning performance. Try one of these retrieval practice activities: 

•    Interactive quizzes with feedback
•    Online discussion forum
•    Reflection exercises
•    Note taking

Many associations award CE credit to learners who pass a quiz after reading a journal article. 

Connect with related content. Help learners see the next steps in their educational journey. Tell them about related microlearning programs and options for deeper dives, such as live or on-demand webinars and courses.

A woman on her laptop while sitting in bed, sipping on her morning coffee and enjoying her association's microlearning programs

Examples of association microlearning programs

Here’s something I hadn’t seen before, a microlearning challenge. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) is hosting their second Digestibles competition. Learners review case-based endoscopic questions every two days for six weeks. Each question takes less than five minutes to complete. They receive immediate feedback on and references for the correct answer. 

Digestibles 2.0 has three rounds beginning in September, November, and February. Participant points are displayed on a leaderboard. The top three winners from each round compete at ASGE’s 2024 conference and receive complimentary education, thanks to sponsors. The web page highlights testimonials from the first year’s participants.

Many associations, such as the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), offer microlearning videos. Their microlesson videos on YouTube link back to a more in-depth educational activity available for CME credit at the RSNA Learning Center. 

Other microlearning programs in the RSNA catalog link to longer programs. For example, an introductory program, Introduction to Deep Learning Applications in Radiology, takes only 15 minutes to complete, but complements a longer AI course.  

Consider offering microlearning during your industry’s awareness month. The American College of Physicians (ACP) rolled out microlessons on adult immunization during National Immunization Awareness Month. 

The ACP’s Resident Well-being Learning Hub features microlessons sharing evidence-based strategies to foster well-being.

More microlearning program ideas

The most common microlearning format is a short video tutorial introducing or teaching a skill or concept. Here are more ideas for microlearning programs.

Podcast series: Record 10- to 15-minute episodes focused on a specific topic.

Infographic: Visually communicate tips or best practices.

Email campaign: Send one- to two-paragraph microlessons with a link to resources for learning more.

Webinar: Experiment with 20- to 30-minute webinars focused on a micro-topic with time for discussion.

Articles: Read an article and take a short interactive quiz.

Digital flashcards: Review certification exam content. I wonder if any associations have developed an AI-powered chatbot to do this.

Online course: Break an online course into bite-sized modules. Keep the traditionally formatted course and see which one is more popular and effective.

Your members and prospective customers want to learn, but only if it’s easy and stress-free. Microlearning is the solution for these busy ambitious professionals. 

online learning
member engagement
leadership training
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