Maximizing Microlearning

When it comes to microlearning, think about targeted, timely, and actionable learning bites that can be delivered in a short time frame.

Once upon a time, when I was just a little trainer on my way to growing up, there was no Internet, there were no “apps for that,” nor was there a social network through which to reach out. So when the term, “microleaming,” burst onto the stage around 2006, I and others were understandably confused. What is this method all about? The beauty and curse of the Internet is the ability to coin a buzzword and have it spread like wildfire. The last few years, microlearning has been at the center of this wildfire.

Confusion Abounds

However, there is still confusion. The answers were all over the place when I asked my network to define microlearning. Two elements took the lead:

  1. Microlearning is short videos.

  2. Microlearning is short courses.

Well, yes and no. Yes, those pieces of content are micro applications. But, no, just because they are short doesn’t mean they can be classified as microlearning. OK, so what is microleaming? When we think about microleaming, we should not only think small and short. We should think “right-sized” for the need. The very definition of “micro” comes from the Greek word meaning “small.”

So where does all the confusion come from? Well, when it comes to microlearning, there is one thing Learning professionals can agree upon: There is no definition consensus or agreement about the application of the term.

It’s no wonder people are confused, and even a bit intimidated, by the idea of implementing a microlearning strategy within their organizations. This unknowing and uncertainty is one of the reasons L&D is still at the microlearning starting line, waiting to push off and go.

Here is the parameter to consider for microlearning: Microlearning at its core is about performance support.

Is Microlearning the Solution?

The key question is: “What do you expect people to do with the information given?” If we use microleaming for performance support, what performance are we supporting? This means we cannotjump in the pool without analyzing the needs. That being said, here are six factors to consider for your microleaming content:

  1. Short effort required for development: Time is of the essence for creation, and people need help now—not two months from now.

  2. Short time for participant consumption: Your end-users can view and go.

  3. Small units with a narrow focus: One idea, one concept. No exceptions.

  4. Immediately applicable/relevant: Your end-users need the content to do their jobs. This is “just-in-time” learning, not “just-in-case” learning.

  5. Open, flexible: Content has the ability to reach across media and is easy to update or revise. It is fit for mobile, desktop, tablets, and/or digital files.

  6. Easily accessible: Because of its justin- time nature, microleaming content cannot be buried within the learning management system (LMS) or deep down in an intranet shared drive. It must be placed where the end-user can immediately access the content when needed. Zig Zigler once said, “You have the best product in the world, but if you can’t sell it, you’ve still got it.” It’s the same premise for microleaming. You can have the best how-to video in the world, but if people can’t find it, they can’t use it.

The important takeaway is the understanding that microlearning is not about new technology, it’s a new dynamic of facilitating the exchange of knowledge, strengthening knowledge sets, and embedding skills. Microlearning is built to address the needs of a workforce that is becoming faster moving and more dispersed.

While microlearning may not fit all your large-scale training needs, using it in a targeted fashion can help the business cure a specific pain point.

Join me for my hands-on clinic, “Microleaming in Micro Time,” at the 2017 Online Learning Conference in New Orleans to learn more about how to develop and deliver microleaming content that will have your organization wanting more.

The owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist with more than 20 years of leadership experience developing successful infrastructures for training departments across North America, Europe, and Korea. She is the author of “Disruptive Learning,” and her blog,, is in the top 100 e-learning blogs.