The Surge of Microlearning as a Training Tool

It’s been the dream of corporate learning departments for years. Deliver only what they need, when they need it, in a quick and easy format. That dream may be close to being realized today through microlearning.

The dream of efficient training delivery has taken on many names over the years. Just In Time Training (JITT happens). Performance Support. Asynchronous Training. Is microlearning just another buzzword or is it worthy of your attention?

What is Microlearning?

microlearning breaks instruction into small chunks that are in the momentLet’s start by defining it. Which would be easy if we could find a consistent definition. It seems everyone involved in it has their own way of defining it. Based on research and establishing some common characteristics, we’ll define it like this:

“Microlearning is content in very small and focused nuggets of information delivered on-demand in an electronic format.”

The Next Logical Step

One way to look at it is that microlearning is simply another step in the evolution of learning. Since the 1950s we have known that people learn best and retain information more easily when we break it down into easily digestible “chunks” of information. This is the foundation around a lot of Instructional Design theories about Scope and Sequence.

Consistent with Learning Theories

Look at most training or e-learning today. The well-done courses are arranged with usually five to seven lessons. Each lesson normally has around five to seven topics. Each topic has about five to seven screens or pages of information before it is broken up somehow. That might be a quiz or an activity. That’s what chunking is all about.

Getting Just Enough

What microlearning allows us to do is improve upon that. In a standard training course, you provide a lot of information; some of which may be used right away and some later. Often, the stuff to be used later gets forgotten by the time it needs to be used. Microlearning allows you to provide what learners need when they need it. It can be reviewed again and again. It often gets applied right away.

So from a learning standpoint, you aid retention of learning by providing smaller bits of information and increased impacts on learning in the moment.

What are the Main Advantages of Microlearning?

Learner centered

The entire focus is on providing a particular skill for the learner and making it easy for them to absorb.

Need based

Giving the learner what they need when they need it.

Quicker to produce

Shorter segments means less time to plan and produce. You go from weeks to a day or days.


Very little if any extra software or equipment to buy. The shorter production cycle also saves money.


You could viably take microcourses and bunch them together into a larger course; especially if you have a series that teaches different components of a skill set.

In the moment

The content is accessible right away and allows the learner to get it, apply it, and move on.

How to Start Your Microlearning Initiative

microlearning uses tools you likely already have.The good news is that you already have most, if not all, the tools you need to begin producing microlearning. You may have to tweak your production system a bit but not too much.

In fact, you should be able to reuse a lot of the content you have now. You can take a topic from a single lesson and enhance it a bit. For the purposes of your LMS, create it as a separate course. Perhaps you can even create a library of mini-courses that are grouped by categories and easily accessible.

One thing to keep in mind with this. You are building this content for a primarily younger audience. What is that audience doing? They spend a large amount of their time on their smartphone either texting or accessing video on YouTube or some other platform. The way people text should tell you a lot about brevity and the rest should give some ideas on the format.

Guidelines for Really Effective Development

  1. Keep It Short. How short? Wow, you could probably start arguments in a room full of instructional developer experts with that one. Some say no more than 4 minutes, others say up to 20 minutes. Let’s apply our chunking theory as a guideline. So that means about 7 minutes plus or minus 2 minutes. If you have to err one way or the other, go shorter.
  2. Make It Video-Based. That’s what they look at it. It is the format of choice. Take a look at Facebook and other social media. Video is everywhere. It’s the expected medium and relatively inexpensive to do.
  3. One Concept Per Course. The best option, if you are reusing content, would be to take one topic from one lesson of a large course and make that a microcourse. That will likely fit into your time frame and is instructionally sound.
  4. Quality Counts. When we talk about video, resist the urge to think that you can just sit down with your smartphone and start recording. It takes planning and proper framing. Good lighting counts. Consider an external podcast microphone for audio. You can find some other tips here.
  5. Track It. If you have an LMS, add your creations as courses. You want to confirm that learning has taken place and that the learning is effective.
  6. Give Them More. Provide an avenue where learners can get more details or next steps when they are ready.

The learning world is growing more complex every day. How do you keep up? Let us help you. Contact us at to find out how we can give you a boost.


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