“Microlearning is an instructional unit that provides a short engagement in an activity intentionally designed to elicit a specific outcome from the participant.”
— Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice
It can be any learning activity, a short video, a text message, a job aid, or a 7taps. But it needs to be a piece of instruction that can stand by itself. The experience is not meant to last beyond a few minutes. Different learning or performance needs require different lengths of time.
✅ Engage learners in the right way
The value of microlearning is lost when there’s no learner engagement involved. However, we don’t want to add a lot of unnecessary interactivity and call that engagement. (And, no, gamification is not the answer to everything). Microlearning content is often used when you get closer to the moment of performing a task, to reinforce training. In this scenario, instructions that are less interactive would actually ensure a better learning experience.
“Imagine needing to use a new machine at work to finish a job, and you want to quickly look up an instruction, but first you must play a game that shows you around the machine, then answer 3 quiz questions before you get the content you need. You’d be pretty frustrated right?”
— Karl Kapp
When your learners are looking for quick help to solve a problem, they need to be able to grasp the concept and get back to work. In most cases, they don’t have time to match visual elements with text or to drag and drop words. You can, however, try adding a brief targeted quiz. This helps them draw their own conclusion from the training, ensuring the answer will stick better in their memory.
✅ Set your priorities (aka learning objectives)
Microlearning assets should help to facilitate a specific outcome. In most cases, this means you’ll have one learning objective per nugget. Don’t try to squeeze an hour-long course into a series of five-minute chunks (this is NOT microlearning). A true piece of microlearning is designed intentionally and aims to achieve only one objective, not a bunch of them.
✅ Appeal to the specific audience
Knowing your audience demographics and background is not enough. Think about the context.
Under what circumstances will your learner, or participant, turn to your microlearning content?
✅ See beyond microlearning lessons
Microlearning training activities should be used reasonably and be a part of a larger learning strategy that consists of a blend of experiences. Don’t expect one single method to meet every instructional need.
This means you’ll want to refrain from converting all your existing learning assets into bite-sized courses —because microlearning is not a magic bullet for knowledge retention all by itself. Developing microlearning content to reinforce a training session would be a smarter choice. To that end, let’s go through 4 common microlearning examples that you can use now.
Microlearning examples for different learning objectives
1. Reinforce a learning event
This is a very common scenario for microlearning. Try the following ideas to reinforce learning:
- Enhance your existing training module, webinar, or any instructor-led experience with follow-ups and reminders. Share practice exercises and re-introduce the concept to make it stick.
- Create warm-ups before training sessions to balance the knowledge among the participants and/or to motivate your learners.
- “Refresh” acquired knowledge by delivering a five-minute summary. Learners need to be reminded to use their new skills.
2. Introduce a simple skill
Microlearning modules could be a great help to improve employees' performance on a daily basis —especially via mobile learning. Some microlearning examples to get inspired from:
- Create a simple explainer on how to do a task using new software or how to operate office equipment.
- Create a bite-sized asset for the sales team on how to handle one particular customer objection.
- Create a “refreshing” mini-course or cheat-sheet that a sales representative can review before an appointment with a client.
- Use this in instances when a person doesn’t have time to go through a 30-min long webinar but is happy to learn a helpful bit of knowledge from their smartphone.
Make sure the concept you aim to deliver is small and distinct. For instance, you should not use microlearning courses to deliver complex technical employee training or philosophy concepts, when complicated analysis or in-depth study is required. (Doing so would leave learners with plenty of standalone insights but no comprehensive knowledge).
Also, make sure that your training content can realistically be broken into standalone pieces. Forcing someone to go through a microlearning version of a course originally designed for a longer, more in-depth format is a recipe for disaster. The Solution: create a compelling longer training and then provide short microlearning exercises to ensure understanding and help with knowledge retention.
3. Provide performance support
Use bite-sized courses to help your learners do the job and provide support in the moment of need —this is where microlearning really shines.
According to research, training is needed for moments one and two (see image above), while support materials are more appropriate for moments three, four, and five.
Think of something very practical and targeted: job aids, SOPs, guides, instructions. It might be a 7taps QR code or infographics on the wall people turn to when they don’t know how to do a task. It might be an SMS with a 7taps instruction a frontline worker gets before starting their operational duty —you name it!
Just keep in mind that your learner won't have time for loads of interactivity or detail — they need to quickly learn the concept and get back to their work.
Imagine an employee facing a problem with in-house software when being on a phone with a client. The situation is intense and there’s time pressure. The employee opens the corporate library and manages to find the right instruction. She opens it. The guide tells her to touch the screen to reveal more clues, to match visual elements with text, and perform a bunch of other tasks. The solution is there, but is it well-designed for the context??
4. Prototype eLearning
Microlearning assets are invaluable when prototyping conventional eLearning modules.
Why dive into designing a long full-fledged learning piece when you can start small? Presenting a prototype to stakeholders can save instructional designers and eLearning developers hours (or even weeks) of work. Moreover, you can organize a dry run of the program and use learners’ feedback for building the full module.
The challenge is to keep prototyping fast in production without compromising on its quality and design. To make an impression and to get fair results from your experiment, your eLearning sample should be visually appealing, too.
Not every tool or eLearning platform provides you with such capabilities. Thankfully, 7taps does. Take a look at the recap of this post, which I made in just 12 minutes:
7taps makes it 20X easier to create and deliver engaging microlearning experiences (that’s not a made-up number, either). Try it yourself!