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Microlearning QuickStart for Busy Learning Professionals

Despite the recent surge in conversations around hybrid learning, microlearning may still be one of the most widely discussed and debated trends for learning professionals (ATD, 2018, p.1). Small learning chunks delivered just-in-time and on-demand used to be part of many companies’ technical performance support systems. However, comprehensive L&D training systems are more costly to build and maintain.

What is Microlearning?

Microlearning is any short chunk of easy-to-access learning integrated into normal work flows to teach, reinforce, or remind the learner of key information. They can be pushed to the learner to support behavior change or they can be sorted out (pulled) by the learner when new information or skills are needed.

How do I know if my organization could benefit from microlearning?

If you’re struggling with two or more of the following learning issues, then you may benefit from including microlearning in your content strategy. Check all that apply.

  • Team members struggle to apply bulky or complicated course content in their business context

  • Training time/attention is very limited

  • Frequent on-the-job errors or compliance issues

  • Low course/workshop completion rates

  • Low employee retention rates

  • Previous efforts to change behavior/culture have been underwhelming

What are the options for getting started?

Even in microlearning… everyone wants to sell you something (What You Need to Know About Buying and Selling Learning). Knowing where to start evaluating your options can be the hardest part. Let’s look at three of the big categories for where you might consider jumping into microlearning.

Option 1: If your budget is large and your need is high then you might consider purchasing a new microlearning LMS or system. Several years ago, one of our clients purchased a large microlearning system, the best at the time, but never got full value from it as they were not prepared to develop/redevelop content for that type of system. It didn’t fit with their existing content strategy and the cost quickly out weighted the learning benefits for them. You need a strategy for content reuse in microlearning. (Strategic Content Reuse in Microlearning)

To be successful in this space you need a well thought out content strategy and time to create, curate, (The Challenge of Curation) or crowdsource effective microlearning content. Regardless of your system you will still need savvy instructional designers or experts to develop and deliver effective microlearning with measurable business results.

Option 2: If your budget and need is more moderate, then you may find a corporate subscription to an existing curated learning solution to be a good option. Other clients have chosen the subscription route. It worked for them because many of their microlearning content needs fit into general HR topics, that required little customization. Whole courses were already chunked out into meaningful microlearning that could either be assigned through their LMS or accessed on demand, as needed.

To be successful in this space your content needs should be mostly generic business knowledge. However, you will still need savvy instructional designers or experts to develop and deliver your niche specific microlearning for measurable business results.

Option 3: If your budget and need is low, then you may want to explore your internal options before committing to a bigger solution. A few clients have chosen to test the waters with an internal microlearning use case they built themselves to support a specific initiative (The Strategy Behind Content Reuse). It is a low-cost way to explore how microlearning can be used to support specific business results.

To be successful in this space you will need to plan for tracking impact, or you will never have a compelling business case. Also be careful – because this is new territory and the overall content strategy is still forming, there is a tendency for these learning chunks to grow from 5–7-minute microlearnings into mini courses that are unlikely to deliver true microlearning benefits.

Review your corporations’ learning struggles and the categories of QuickStart options before you jump to a solution that may not fit your current need.

In summary, it can be hard for the busy learning professional to know where to start with microlearning. Review your corporations’ learning struggles and the categories of QuickStart options before you jump to a solution that may not fit your current need. We encourage you to test, measure, and adjust your learning approach to achieve maximum learning impact. Let me know if we can help ( In the case of microlearning, we have found that something is better than nothing.

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