What is Microlearning?


Although there is no set definition for microlearning, there are a few universally accepted characteristics that constitute a “microlearning” training module.

ATD defines microlearning as small content snippets between 2-10 minutes in length centered on one learning objective.

It’s a concept that is often associated purely with video, but any written, visual, or multimedia content consumable in 2-10 minutes and centered on one specific learning objective counts as microlearning. Experts suggest presenting the information in whatever format best fits the learning objective.

74% of employees voluntarily engage in 106 microlearning training sessions per year. This level of engagement speaks to the effectiveness of microlearning modules. 94% of workers cite learning at their own pace as an important factor in corporate training. This makes a lot of sense when you consider they only have 1% of their working week available to dedicate to learning.

Microlearning addresses a lot of the change that has taken place in the workplace in terms of how, when, and where employees are willing, or able, to take part in corporate training. It also helps instructional designers meet the expectation of quick and agile learning strategies that can keep up with the speed of business.

There can only be one (learning objective) 

Experts agree microlearning should center around one specific learning objective.

It’s tempting to simply chunk long content into 5-minute segments, but microlearning modules should stand on their own. Focusing a small training window on one learning objective increases learner engagement and boosts retention. 

Keeping the bigger picture in mind 

Effective microlearning gives learners context, so they can understand how this one skill fits into the bigger picture.

Steps for giving learners context:

  1. Design backward by starting with a large concept, then make a module for each smaller skill.
  2. Develop a competency checklist for each larger skill so employees can create personalized learning journeys and access the modules they need on demand.
  3. Tell your learner which part of the larger skill they are working on at the beginning of the module.
  4. Incorporate “breadcrumbs” into the platform (those little strings of a navigation menu that pop up on websites) so learners know where they are in their skill development.
  5. Provide links to extra information at the end of the module.

Microlearning in the flow of work 

With new technology, the needs of the modern learner are evolving faster than ever. Employees have less time to dedicate to learning than ever before. In order to keep up, L&D must start meeting learners on platforms they already use to optimize employee engagement. 

One of the key benefits of microlearning is that it allows for self-paced learning in today’s world of flexible schedules and time-crunched employees. 

Part of “meeting learners where they are” is also styling your content in ways that you already know are engaging to learners in their day-to-day lives. Package microlearning as you would  a social media post—“on-demand, engaging, and media-rich.”

Designing microlearning

Track and improve performance 

Frequent feedback gives both learners and L&D the ability to track and improve their performance. 

Unlike longer-form training where employees take time out of their workday, microlearning can happen on the job. This provides the opportunity for optimizing instruction through frequent assessment.

Engaging in agile design

Microlearning reduces the expense of redesigning longer-form courses since only one or two small modules might need to be re-designed or improved. Since microlearning provides data on the exact part of the skill where employees require assistance, businesses can respond in a more agile way to the training needs of learners. 

The key to agile response, however, remains frequent assessment provided through microlearning modules. In this way, microlearning generates the learning data needed to pinpoint knowledge gaps that are impacting organizational performance. It also enables a more agile approach to close those learning gaps as quickly as possible.

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What is Microlearning?