Microlearning, as a concept and as an approach to learning, gained traction in 2017. It is poised to become one of the hottest eLearning trends of 2018. Problem is, there’s no standard definition of what microlearning is or where it is best applied.

When eLearning trends, technologies, and terms emerge, The eLearning Guild customarily takes a leading role in facilitating community discussions around these phenomena. Referring to digital learning, the Guild’s executive vice president, David Kelly, said, “My intention is not to necessarily define it, but to start a conversation about it. That’s what we do at the Guild. We provide a platform for the community to engage in discussions to make sense of changes and trends in our industry.”

His statement—and the goal—apply equally to microlearning.

In pursuit of this goal, the Guild reached out to eLearning leaders across the industry—microlearning experts who will speak at the Guild’s upcoming Summit, Microlearning: Beyond the Buzzword, as well as those who’ve presented workshops and sessions at Guild conferences.

Eight experts answered the call to assess the state of microlearning in 2018. These leaders shared their definitions of microlearning and their assessment of its strengths—and weaknesses. They also described where microlearning fits into an eLearning ecosystem and described significant ways that designing microlearning differs from designing longer-format eLearning. They even offered tips for instructional designers aiming to create effective, engaging microlearning to offer training, refreshers, and performance support.

The contributors were Dan Belhassen, JD Dillon, Diane Elkins, Roni Floman, Ray Jimenez, Summer Salomonsen, Tanya Seidel, and Ryan Seratt.

Varied definitions of microlearning

“Rather than a stand-alone strategy or tactic, ‘microlearning’ is a trendy way to express the change in mindset that applies many familiar L&D tactics in ways that better align to the needs of the individual employee. The term itself is just a buzzword that, unfortunately, often distracts from the real message,” said Axonify’s JD Dillon, a Learning Solutions columnist.

Several contributors cautioned against defining microlearning primarily based on the length of content or its format, and most agree that merely breaking long-form content into smaller chunks does not turn it into microlearning.

Like the concept of digital learning, microlearning is founded on a recognition that the way people seek and access information has changed dramatically. Learners’ expectations are shaped by the way they behave as consumers and everyday citizens.

Dan Belhassen, of Neovation Learning Solutions, said that eLearning is often not designed for the way modern learners access and use information. “You and I, we go to Google—we don’t launch an eLearning course to find out about something,” he said, pointing out that most people look for the minimum amount of information that will quickly answer their question or solve an immediate need.

Microlearning meets that need: “It’s a brilliant strategy that meets learners where they are now,” said Grovo’s chief learning officer, Summer Salomonsen.

Read the full report to learn:

  • Why it’s time to discard microlearning myths that focus on the length or format of content or fixate on learners’ attention spans
  • Areas of education, training, and performance support where microlearning shines as an instructional approach
  • The importance of integrating microlearning into a comprehensive, multimodal eLearning strategy
  • Why a significant paradigm shift—a “leapfrogging of the mind”—is required to design microlearning, enabling eLearning professionals to adopt new approaches to creating, formatting, and evaluating the effectiveness of microlearning
The eLearning Guild’s research report, The State of Microlearning, is out today. The research report itself is available to Guild members who have purchased a content package.