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Making the Most of Microlearning

March 12, 2021 | By David Wentworth


As organizations seek more digital learning solutions, they often consider Microlearning as a crucial one. In fact, in Brandon Hall Group’s 2020 Learning Strategy Study, 71% of companies say that increasing their use of Microlearning is either important or critical to help them achieve their business goals. However, one of the challenges companies face is understanding what Microlearning is and how they can use it.

The most important thing to understand is that Microlearning does not simply mean “short.” While it is critical to think in smaller, bite-sized chunks, smaller isn’t always better. Microlearning consists of targeted, concise, and focused content. 

Here are some of the ways Microlearning can be used:

  • Immediate learning to support “in the moment” needs. 
  • Intermediate learning to build existing competencies.
  • Transitional learning to help learners evolve into future roles.

Using Microlearning makes it easier to move learning into people’s workflow, where it becomes part of the job rather than an interruption. This approach also helps people build stronger learning habits and promotes an overall culture of continuous learning in the workplace.

Many organizations have success with Microlearning by using it to reinforce larger, more formal learning events. By creating infographics, short videos, scenarios and quick messages from leadership, learning can fend off the Forgetting Curve and ensure that learning retention stays high.

A Microlearning approach can also be taken to break up larger Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) sessions. Many companies struggled as the new remote-work environment forced them to switch from face-to-face training to virtual platforms. For most, the direct shift produced sub-par results. Instead, organizations can take that same content and create smaller interventions such as quick facts, short exercises, and micro-assessments.

When taking this approach to VILT, there are some key practices to keep in mind:

  • Change focus: VILT content typically has a broad focus. Find a series of narrower focus areas that can fall under the broader focus.
  • Chunk-up content logically: As a rule, keep things in the neighborhood of three-five minutes but don’t arbitrarily cut up your VILT sessions. Find specific nuggets you can repurpose.
  • Condense themes: Microlearning is not just about physical length. Condense the themes, topics, or subjects of the VILT sessions when breaking out Microlearning elements. Don’t try to cover too much at once. 
  • Change … but don’t pivot: Don’t lose sight of the original intent of the VILT program. Stay true to the themes and outcomes originally identified. 

BHG Smartchoice Platinum Preferred Provider EI has been helping organizations develop Microlearning content and strategies for more than a decade. They provide organizations with the insights and tools to make Microlearning work in their unique environments. It all starts with EI’s Learning and Performance Ecosystem.

  • Within this ecosystem, Microlearning, Formal Training, nudges, practice, feedback, and experiential learning are natural and expected.
  • Microlearning and Mobile Apps create a Social Learning space. This serves as positive reinforcement for correct behaviors.
  • Microlearning can be leveraged for Formal Training as well as just-in-time learning.
  • Microlearning supports VILT programs with pre-workshop assets, during workshop assets, and post-workshop connects.

Using this ecosystem approach, EI zeroed in on several key strategies for making the most of Microlearning:

  • Make it accessible: In the context of learning in the workflow, they design nuggets to be “accessible,” which also covers content that’s intuitively hosted that learners can find quickly.
  • Make it on-demand: They recommend short videos and podcasts, summary PDFs, quick references, templates, and sample checklists.
  • Offer intermediate learning: They help organizations use Microlearning to supplement Formal Training targeted to help employees do better in their current roles. Such short-form content may serve well as review and refresher training modules too.
  • Provide transitional learning: They can also add Microlearning nuggets as part of VILT at pre-, during, and post-training sessions. They can be used as training-readiness tools, exercises and assessments, and to deliver learning summaries.

If your organization is like the 70% of companies that plan to increase their use of Microlearning over the next year or so, EI can help you understand what it is, what it isn’t, and how best to leverage it to drive outcomes.

David Wentworth, Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

David Wentworth
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