How to Use Microlearning Principles for Rapid Course Design


Microlearning has become a lasting trend in learning and development circles and is being leveraged by an increasing number of corporate training teams. It’s popularity stems from its ability to help L&D overcome many training challenges in today’s digital world and rapidly changing business environment.

The design trend also helps corporate training teams to create learning experiences that meet the expectations of modern learners. Josh Bersin, global HR analyst, predicts expensive, portal-based LMS systems will become increasingly obsolete as organizations move to systems that allow employees to learn “in the !ow of work.” A report by Axonify also found that  94% of employees prefer learning at their own pace. Microlearning provides one option for moving beyond traditional forms of elearning design.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning modules are small content snippets between 2-10 minutes in length centered on one learning objective

While many presume microlearning is video-based, it actually encompasses any type of content or learning experience that is short, and highly focused on a single skill, topic, and learning objective.

Why microlearning?

The benefits of microlearning extend to each side of the learning experience. Improvements can be  made to both the instructional design process and the consumption of courses by leveraging microlearning design principles.

For the training team

In a nutshell, microlearning helps training teams to save time and costs for elearning development. In fact, Ray Jimerez’s 3 Minute e-Learning asserts that development costs can be reduced by 50% and the speed of development can increase by 300%.

These results are achieved because microlearning allows L&D departments to:

  • Work agile: from content gathering to design and deployment, courses can be quickly iterated on and updated as needed.
  • Keep up with demand: course turnaround is much quicker, allowing L&D to quickly pivot with evolving business needs.
  • Reduce costs: microlearning has been shown to dramatically reduce the cost of content development and course design
  • Save time: studies have shown that microlearning can help training teams to massively increase the speed to market for online courses.

For your learners

While microlearning can help training teams save time and costs, there are numerous benefits for learners, too.

A study in the Journal of Educational Research Review found that microlearning helped improve student retention by 18%, showing that bite-sized learning works.

Other learner benefits include:

  • Learning that’s accessible anywhere: microlearning is often closely associated with mobile learning and is especially useful for deskless workers that need to learn in the flow of work.
  • It gives users access to “just-in-time” learning.
  • Microlearning can help to create personalized learning plans so learners can build on existing knowledge rather than sitting through redundant content in long-form courses.
Source: Elucidat

How to structure your microlearning modules

Like all learning experiences, the creation of effective microlearning should still take core instructional design principles into account.

Only use one learning objective

Microlearning courses should focus on a single learning objective. It’s tempting to simply chunk long content into 5-minute segments, but microlearning modules should stand on their own.

However, instructional designers can take advantage of this to re-purpose existing long-form content into shorter courses. 

Highlight the bigger  picture

Research shows people learn information faster if they explicitly connect new information to previous knowledge. In the beginning, designers can give learners a map of the overall learning progression then zoom in on exactly which part of the skill this module covers.

Optimize learner engagement

Part of the appeal of microlearning is that it enables L&D to meet the expectations of modern learners that are impatient and busier than ever.

To optimize learner engagement with microlearning courses:

  • Package microlearning as you would a social media post. Make it engaging, available on-demand and use plenty of media-rich content. 
  • Don’t be afraid to incorporate gamification techniques and interactive content.
  • Build a shared learning culture and a community around your microlearning program.
  • Create reaction and discussion groups so learners can network and grow through each others’ experiences.

Leverage frequent feedback

All instruction needs to be tweaked for optimization. Microlearning provides the opportunity for optimizing instruction through frequent assessment.There are two types of feedback loops microlearning can create:

  • Feedback on student performance

It’s imperative to prioritize learner feedback to ensure employees meet the learning objectives and the microlearning courses are meeting their needs. Add performance metrics to elearning platforms so you can identify gaps in employees’ knowledge. Employees can also take responsibility for improving these gaps.

  • Feedback on the effectiveness of the training

If microlearning includes frequent assessment, it can generate big learning data. This data can pinpoint the modules causing employees the most frustration. Designers can then accurately assess which skills need the most improvement in their business’s workforce. Using this data, they can focus on training for performance-based skills that will push the needle in terms of meeting key organizational objectives. The best part is that by using microlearning courses, any updates needed in reaction to feedback can be quickly made to the courses.

Learn more about implementing an effective microlearning strategy with the free ebook:
Unleash the Power of Microlearning: 4 Step Roadmap to Success.

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How to Use Microlearning Principles for Rapid Course Design