In spite of excellent guides such as Microlearning: Short and Sweet by Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice, many practitioners continue to misunderstand the idea of microlearning and have difficulty applying it in their work. In this article, I will recap some key points and offer a suggestion that will further help you implement microlearning in your instructional designs.

In my review of Short and Sweet I summarized common misunderstandings, including the idea that the point of microlearning is to reduce learning to five-minute chunks, the notion that microlearning is a cure-all that can be applied to any learning requirement and to every instructional situation, and claims that microlearning can be designed and implemented quickly. All three of these ideas can lead an instructional designer into a waste of time and effort that fails to result in learning.

These misunderstandings can prevent instructional designers and learning leaders from embracing microlearning, using employee time judiciously, and fostering continuous learning. They will also make it difficult to identify where microlearning can most effectively fit into the learning repertoire, including the creation of motivation that gets learners to engage with microlearning programs that are not required.

Use cases and the goal of microlearning

Kapp and Defelice present six use cases for microlearning. For all those use cases, the goal of microlearning is a single outcome, not an entire lesson or curriculum, or mastery of an entire topic. Microlearning works at the lowest level of learning, not as a summary or new set of skills or behaviors. It is possible for the instructional designer to be the source of the microlearning, or it may be the learner individually, such as using flashcards or software to prompt responses. There will not be the presentation of new information within the microlearning.

If you have not already acquired a copy of Short and Sweet, I recommend the book as one of two “next steps” before adding microlearning to your repertoire. The authors point out that “learning professionals understand that the right application of the right techniques at the right time is what makes a learning program work—not the technique itself.” There are 78 software offerings listed on Capterra’s site for microlearning, and unless you can discern the use case for which each one supports distribution of training and learning content “in bite-size pieces that can be consumed in short periods of time," you may find it difficult to make the most appropriate choice.

The second step is free!

On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, Carla Torgerson will present a free, exclusive one-hour DevLearn webinar session that will not be on the DevLearn program in October. “Find the Right Fit to Integrate Microlearning into Your Learning Ecosystem” will further address misunderstandings about microlearning that may be holding you back from its use. Registration for DevLearn is not required to attend this webinar, and you must register separately for DevLearn if you wish to attend DevLearn itself.

By looking at four primary use cases for microlearning and real examples of each being used successfully in organizations, you’ll begin to develop a vision for where it can fit into your learning ecosystem. You'll consider your performance objectives and the four use cases to identify places where microlearning could have a valuable impact on your organization. Finally, the webinar will consider learner motivation for continuous learning and strategies to engage learners in a consistent and sustained way with microlearning programs. At the end of this program, you will have developed ideas for where microlearning can have a strategic value in your organization and how to get learners to engage with it.

To register for this free Zoom webinar, go to this page.