Study: Micro-learning quiz helped change health behaviors
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Study: Micro-learning quiz helped change health behaviors

Organizations that are interested in deploying micro-learning to train their members often wonder: It’s nice, but does it work? Does micro-learning actually change behavior?

The answer for any single organization depends a lot on what micro-learning system is chosen and how it’s implemented. But there’s some pretty strong research showing that when done right, micro-learning does a lot to change behaviors in positive ways.

The study we’re talking about was done by researchers at institutions in the Netherlands, Austria, and the United States. They evaluated the effectiveness of a multi-pronged wellness program offered to 86 employees at three Dutch organizations. The program included in-person activities, a “health buddy” system, email reminders, and a micro-learning piece: a health quiz covering seven course units and delivered via mobile phone or laptop.

The researchers looked at the behavior of the participants over a 10-month period. They used a standardized health survey and analyzed completion rates of the health quiz to gauge how well the program — and specifically the quiz — worked.

Activity, diet

As it turned out, both the broad program and the quiz did well at changing behaviors.

Overall, the share of participants engaging in moderate physical activity rose from 40% before the program to 63%, and those engaging in intensive activity went up to 40% from 22%. Eating of fruits and vegetables shot up by a total of 45 percentage points (the two items were the object of separate survey questions), and alcohol consumption was brought under better control: 81% reported watching their tippling compared with 64% before the program.

But how much did the micro-learning piece, the health quiz, contribute? Quite a lot, actually. Participants were asked which of the program elements stimulated healthier behaviors on their part, and the quiz was rated strongly. Some 53% said they agreed or strongly agreed the quiz had helped them improve their wellness. That was more than having a buddy, 25%; receiving weekly health tip emails, 36%; one- and three-month surveys that were conducted, 37%; and a follow-up workshop that was done after one month, 52%.

Of all the influences on better health behavior, only a couple rated more strongly than the micro-learning quiz. These were the opening workshop, 75%; and the individual health activity plans participants were helped to create, 66%.

High completion rates

The effectiveness of the health quiz was backed up by the completion rates that were recorded. The researchers said that typically, 90% of users of health support programs fail to complete them. But in the case of the quiz, 66% of all the course offerings provided to the 86 participants were completed.

So what does all this data tell us?

Simply this: Because micro-learning is by definition short and focused, people pay attention to it. And because good micro-learning is easily applicable to the life experience of learners, it gets acted upon.

These sound to me like awfully good reasons to consider including micro-learning in your training toolkit.

This blog entry is based on the following research study: Simons, L., et al. (2015). Microlearning mApp raises health competence: hybrid service design. Health & Technology, 5(1), 35-43.


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