Learning Solutions has been publishing articles on microlearning for five years now, and as Pam Hogle noted in the Buzzword Decoder on the topic, it is such a trendy buzzword that "people can't quite agree on what it means."

There is more than one use case for microlearning. Assuming that microlearning is a good match to your objective and delivery challenges, what should the end result look like? Should microlearning consist of short, informal learning experiences to be undertaken individually, without any kind of connection or curriculum plan? Think of a dozen individual learning experiences that give an employee-specific skills each sufficient to perform a specific task with an Excel spreadsheet, but no continuity from each to another. Or should microlearning consist of short modules organized into basic, intermediate, and advanced skills courses, each intended to rely on skills learned in different modules and taking (notionally) 10-15 minutes to complete?

What the experts say about microlearning

In their book, Microlearning: Short and Sweet, Karl M. Kapp and Robyn A. Defelice said, "Microlearning may seem like just another item to put in the instructional designer’s (ID’s) toolkit; use sound instructional design practices, plan the initiative, and off you go! However, that method may only work for a small minority of IDs. With any learning approach, there are nuances you must recognize because they alter our standard methods of developing learning. Microlearning is no different.

"For example, the idea that microlearning is a quick and easy way to jazz up a stale learning program is a bit of a myth. Microlearning can actually take just as long, if not more time, to develop and implement. This is because microlearning is typically distributed over a period of time. If that’s not what your organization does for standard implementation, it may woefully underestimate the resources necessary for executing the solution. It’s not always as simple as uploading a program into a learning management system (LMS) and providing notice of a new course. It could take time every week, month, or business quarter to create and launch the microlearning initiative your organization created. What we are saying is that microlearning needs as much attention from an instructional design standpoint as any other form of training."

What's an instructional designer to do?

Does microlearning still sound like a simple way to plan and execute your learning solution? If it's the right answer and the right use case, it will be simple. If it's the wrong choice, it will be the wrong answer because it will be ineffective, at least for reaching the intended purpose.

Next week, Learning Solutions articles will focus on microlearning, with short articles to guide you through the reasons to select it and to not select it, and to deliver it when appropriate. This is an essential topic for dealing with learning in 2021 — please join us!