Microlearning assets offer a dynamic way to bring a modern learning approach into the virtual classroom.

Blogs, infographics, videos, podcasts, worksheets—these are just a few of the microlearning options available. Most organizations create microlearning assets to support learners in applying what they have learned or for learners to use as quick reminders on mobile devices. Unfortunately, many learners fail to adopt this microlearning, opting instead to figure out a solution with no guidance. No matter how well designed, unused microlearning is not worth the investment.

Training delivered via virtual classrooms is also ubiquitous. Organizations invest in this delivery method when they are looking for a low-cost alternative to maintaining physical classrooms and paying the other costs associated with providing face-to-face training. As with microlearning, organizations often find themselves disappointed with the results of lessons delivered via the virtual classroom—where learners are often bombarded with slide after slide supported by lecture, with minimal interaction and collaboration.

But what if we can maximize the investment made in these short learning bursts while also increasing the effectiveness of formal virtual training solutions? The key: focus on supporting all moments of learning need with microlearning, instead of reserving it for on-demand, informal situations.

Rethinking the learning experience

Despite attendees’ requests for the slides after a virtual classroom session, few learners ever go back to try to find a point that may have been on slide 42. While slides are rarely a valuable takeaway, microlearning would be.

Teaching in the virtual classroom using microlearning assets can make virtual classroom learning more effective and maximize the utilization of the microlearning assets.

Imagine a 90-minute virtual class with this activity flow:

  1. A one-minute video provides the reason that this content is critical to a person’s job.
  2. A scenario-based game, managed by the facilitator using application sharing, provides examples of how the content could be applied.
  3. The instructor distributes a worksheet that’s intended to assist with a particular task (for example, preparing for a sales presentation, creating a meeting agenda, or debugging a piece of computer code) and provides a case study that offers insight on how to use the worksheet.
  4. Learners complete a breakout activity where they use application sharing to launch the worksheet; small groups collaborate to complete it, using another case study.
  5. The instructor provides a debrief that wraps up with an infographic highlighting the six steps to completing the task.
  6. Learners engage in a wrap-up activity that encourages them to create a best practices checklist on the whiteboard, which the facilitator distributes to everyone as a takeaway.

Notice: The flow doesn’t include lectures more than five minutes long. Slides might contain activity instructions and other logistical information, but the microlearning provides the content.

How does this experience sound?

Adapting the microlearning approach to virtual classroom design

In essence, the goal of the virtual classroom program should be to teach learners how to use the tools they will rely on while doing their jobs. The material supporting virtual classrooms should no longer be categorized as “slides and guides.” Instead, microlearning encapsulates the takeaway content; the same microlearning delivers the coursework.

By taking this approach, the formal learning experience is connected with all five moments of learning need listed by Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher: learning something new, when things go wrong, applying what’s been learned, learning more, and when things change. This supports a modern learning approach—acknowledging that learning continues even after the LMS marks the class as complete.

To successfully support virtual learning through connected microlearning resources, follow these steps:

  1. Start the design process with a task analysis. Identify what tools, job aids, videos, and other resources learners will find useful after the formal training is over.
  2. Design the virtual lesson around the microlearning assets. Learning objectives should address teaching people how to use the support tools.
  3. When content is necessarily lecture-heavy, consider creating short eLearning interactives or videos that can either deliver the content prior to the live lesson or be played during the live lesson. This ensures a consistent message and provides access to this content after the learner finishes the course.
  4. Whenever possible, have learners log into the LMS during the live lesson and access the content directly instead of sending it via email or another means. This has the benefit of teaching learners how to use the LMS and find the content when they need it later on, which should improve utilization of the microlearning tools.
  5. When introducing the microlearning, the facilitator should always provide examples of how the content can be used later. For example:
    • Use this checklist every time you are completing monthly inventory.
    • Access this video to get a demonstration of how to correctly assemble a server.
    • Post this infographic at your desk so you have immediate access to the steps needed to defuse a potentially difficult conversation with a customer.
    • Complete this short eLearning before conducting a performance review to refresh your memory about how it’s done.
  6. Create a communication strategy that quickly and concisely reminds learners that the tools are available and when they should use them. Using email or text to periodically send these micro messages should increase engagement with the tools.

Following this process, an instructor creates a tool, uses it in context, teaches learners how to access and use the tool, and identifies potential moments of learning need when this tool will be useful.

By adopting this approach and designing formal training with informal learning in mind, instructors maximize the time and resources spent in creating learning experiences. At the same time, they create an engaging environment for learners that supports not only formal training but their real work.


How to Incorporate Microlearning Techniques into Virtual Classroom Lessons
This infographic provides ideas on how to use chat, whiteboards, and other virtual classroom tools to deliver microlearning.

6 Steps to Designing Virtual Classrooms Using Microlearning
This infographic summarizes the design approach suggested in this article.