Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why Avoid Comparing Microlearning with Instructional Design - Tip #165

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, explains why many good ideas never become successful ventures (paraphrased):

“When we assess an idea, we need to see if the core concept works and has potential to provide solutions and new opportunities. What we often do, however, is compare the new idea immediately to current-day conventions -- to what we know and do today, today’s standards -- that kills the idea even before it shows its true promise.”

Microlearning is undergoing a similar comparison and evaluation today. Most literature on Microlearning compares it to “Recreated World” conditions. Its value is evaluated based on what we know and do today - the principles of traditional instructional design which is rooted in the “Recreated World.”

With the "Recreated World" model, it’s easy for many learning professionals to think of Microlearning simply as “small content” and “chunked content,” delivered in spurts. The main criteria here is the small size of the content. Most think of Microlearning as content.

Our definition of Microlearning (low effort, easy, fast, quick to apply and *useful) does not fall into the patterns of traditional instructional design. In many cases, there is a conflict of understanding and application with traditional instructional design and Microlearning.

These types of comments tell us that a person has compared Microlearning with traditional design standards:
  • “How do you know they are learning?”
  • “Learners will miss a lot of information.”
  • “They need to pass a test to show retention.”
  • “Who should say what is the correct micro content to learn?”
  • "Where is the change in behavior?"

By shifting the focus of Microlearning initiatives from recreated worlds to the real world, we can begin to explore the opportunities that Microlearning principles provide.  When we do this, we will change the playing field and do justice to the true applications of Microlearning.

With this shift of focus towards the real world, Microlearning will yield these disruptive results:
  • Lower content development costs
  • Faster answers and solutions
  • Higher usefulness of content and solutions
  • Easier to launch and maintain
  • Higher levels of experience-based learning


Vance, A. (2017) Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and a Quest for Fantastic Future
Jimenez, R. Old Instructional Design Does Not Work in Microlearning
*We added usefulness to the definition of Theo Hug on Microlearning

Related Tips

Tip #124 - Are Instructional Designers Incapable of Microlearning Design?
Tip #127 - 3 Strategies for Sure-Fire Microlearning Success
Tip #135 - Learning by SNIFFING: Are Learners Really Distracted or Are They Learning Differently?

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Vortex of the Workplace and Microlearning Fix - Tip #164

In the 1997 disaster adventure film, Twister, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are storm-chasers researching tornadoes. They figure out a way to get the hurricane’s speed, directions, and behavior by positioning their machine inside the eye of the hurricane. Once inside, the machine pops up hundreds of small spheres with sensors inside that gather the data and sends it to the researchers for record-keeping and analysis. These spheres are about the size of a baseball. Anything bigger will not work because the size and the weight have to be just right for the spheres to fly off inside the vortex of the hurricane. These small orbs are like Microlearning units of anything – content, knowledge, solutions, software, peers, records, etc. Like the spheres, Microlearning can only work well if the size is small.

Whenever we discuss Microlearning, it must be within the context of a vortex of the workplace. The vortex in this case is not a hurricane, but an environment of rapid change, constant technological innovations, transformation of businesses, and continuous improvement of workers.

Whatever we do with Microlearning within the vortex of the workplace, we have to contend with these realities:
  • We cannot slow down
  • It is constantly moving and morphing
  • It is unpredictable
  • It is hard to measure and monitor
  • It spins and is packed with power and energy
  • It has a life of its own
This brings us to the realization that the vortex of the workplace should be approached with a versatile mindset and extremely flexible solutions. The form of solutions and knowledge changes so quickly that it is advantageous to pay attention to the application of the key core principles and beliefs rather than the format and method. Let us not to equate Microlearning as merely one form of method or approach. For example, many practitioners think of Microlearning as just a small video. Creating videos is one form and method of encapsulating content. A PDF, text message, or just one image can still be Microlearning as long as it can provide what’s needed right now or solve an issue. How and where Microlearning is used must be tested against a standard of usefulness.

The core benefits of Microlearning - low effort, easy, fast and immediately applied - is best appreciated when viewed in the context of the vortex of the workplace.

Related Tips

Tip #67 - How to Add Depth to Micro-Ideas
Tip #129 - Why Does Microlearning Mean Better Learning?
Tip #143 - The Bumblebee Effect: How Digital Learners Interact with Information

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ray’s Top Blogs on Microlearning - Tip #163

Here are Ray’s top blog-tips to jumpstart your 2018 Microlearning goals and forward steps.

Expertise: Why the Odds are Stacked Against Novices - Tip #93
We all have some level of expertise knowledge. However, we have to constantly test it and subject it to other unknowns.  In so doing, the value of our contributions are applied by others with the accompanying unknowns.

Breaking 10 Training Rules Using Microlearning - Tip #105
Rule-breaking is important and necessary to change things that have ceased to work. In the training world, however, it appears safer and far easier to continue following the old rules, even if conditions have changed and their value have diminished.

How Microlearning Boosts “At the Moment Performance” - Tip #114
Everyone in one way or the other,  does "at the moment performance" everyday. The goal of leaders, managers, and learning professionals is to help workers achieve optimal "at the moment performance."

Micro-Instant Learning - Tip #123
Instant learning suggests a sense of immediacy and urgency. It means understanding on-demand information and developing skills to perform a specific task precisely at the moment of need.

Learning by SNIFFING: Are Learners Really Distracted or Are They Learning Differently? - Tip #135
Formal learning design and delivery has its own place. However, the assumption that learners ought to pay attention to or focus on learning content contradicts what is referred to as “sniffing” and “foraging.”

How Microlearning Impacts Coaching and Behavior Change - Tip #149
Learners usually decide they want to change behaviors, not because of the content or learning materials, but because they see it as a necessity to be effective in doing their work. It is possible because the worker has the answers from experience, other people and bosses, and access to content.

Microlearning is The "It's-Always-There" Solution - Tip #157
“It’s-always-there” behaviour tells us that Microlearning FORMs are accepted and that VALUE is ubiquitous and normal and usual things we go to, for answers.

What Happens If There Is a Chip On Your Windshield? Cases of Microlearning Impacts - Tip #158
Monitoring the impacts and contributions of Microlearning is like figuring out how fast you are falling while you are actually falling from the sky. Moments of impact might be more valuable to Microlearning impacts.

Microlearning Leapfrogging - How to Succeed Against All Odds - Tip #160
Leapfrogging means vaulting from traditional, basic classroom learning into the rapid and instant Microlearning approach. It means focusing on the desired results which are doable within the means of the organization, at the speed that they want to achieve it. This is not about selecting, implementing and learning the right tools.

Going Beyond the Microlearning Fad Effect - Tip #161
Microlearning works best in the real world. The “Real World” involves doing work in a live actual work environment. In this state, workers take needed actions to complete tasks, solve problems and improve results.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How to Create Context-Setting Learning Objectives - Tip #162

We are inundated by the constant and steady bombardment of information from just about any form of media available - on a daily basis. So how do we help learners focus on usefulness and context of the content and to design and deliver training and eLearning programs to resist the tendency to dump content? How do let go of the need to know everything?

According to Dr. Daniel Levitin, PhD, author of the bestselling book This is Your Brain On Music, we process 34 gigabytes of information during our leisure time alone and we would have created a world with 300 exabytes of human made information. Information overload is a growing concern and it has been discovered that the human mind can only take so much information at a given time. It needs time to digest.

A Massive Problem for Corporations, Classrooms
and eLearning Lessons

Organizations are unaware that they are actually paying a high premium for information inundation. "Corporations are failing to help staff cope with the technological barrage, daily meetings and constant connection, leading to rising levels of stress and psychological illness and costing billions in lost productivity," says Sarah O'Carroll in her article "How email deluge makes frustrated workers go postal" published by Herald Sun Melbourne Edition.

Yes, the overload problem is real and manifests in elearning, classroom training and other forms of learning. The challenge for eLearning designers and leaders to engage users without overwhelming them with dumped content is a reality.

Solutions for Learners and Companies

Paul Hemp in his article "Death by Information Overload" published by Harvard Business Review, suggested some solutions to the problem: changing corporate cultures, providing better tools, learning to use tools to filter and focus. The most important and maybe the most critical is a change in our belief system or attitude. Jerry Michalski, an independent consultant on the use of social media nailed it, "You have to be Zen-like... You have to let go of the need to know everything completely."

In training we are focused on production and efficiency of delivering content, not on its usefulness. Its consequence is the slowing down of the usage of content particularly apparent in the overload problems.

Context is the True King, Not Content

With the avalanche of information, the current challenge is not the lack of content, but the insufficiency of context. 
The need to refocus learning objectives based on the needs of learners becomes apparent. Instead of writing content from the context of the designer, write it as a "Set Up" so learners can instantly see their usefulness in real-life context. This is the essence of using Story-based Learning Objectives.

In designing content, start by asking learners what is important to them and why. How do story questions help make this work? This encourages learners to bring forth their own stories. The learners must be helped with your questions so they can focus on what they consider useful.

Here are some story-based questions aimed to help learners find out the usefulness in a content:
  • What problems will you solve if you find the answer?
  • What is important to you?
  • What are you trying to solve?
  • What do you know NOW about this topic?
  • What do you want to know about this topic?
  • How will you go about learning more about this topic?
  • How do others feel and what do they say about this topic?
  • How does the above change your understanding of what it is that you want?
Context-Setting Learning Objectives

How do we operationalize using learning objectives to aid learners to discover the usefulness of content and finding context instantly? Let's call this Story-Based Learning Objectives.

Preview the two examples below.

Example 1 - Probing Questions

Example 2 - Confidential Documents 

What is the difference between Static Learning Objectives and Story-Based Learning Objectives? Static learning objectives are statements of facts or academic learning goals. This is an example of what we dump during learning lessons. 

Learners are expected to appreciate and learn academic goals. However by the sheer nature of being a static fact, it is difficult to find meaning in it, hence, making it tough to learn.

Story-Based Learning Objectives, on the other hand, are context driven. They quickly bring the content into a contextual form. They help the learners visualize the value of the context in real-life context. 

Reflect on these questions when preparing  Story-Based Learning Objectives.
  • Do we engage the learner when we use it to focus on usefulness and context?
  • Do we relieve them of unnecessary stress?
  • Do we hasten his/her understanding of the content?
  • Do we make it easier for the learner to apply the ideas presented within the content?
The "Set Up Steps" of Story-Based Learning Design helps you to convert your content into highly contextually-focused learning objectives.


Story-Based Learning Objectives  support learners in their quest to understanding the the context of lessons, helping them to focus on what is useful and apply the ideas  presented within the content.

I'd love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments section. 


Ray Jimenez, PhD. Story Impacts Learning and Performance: Monogatari Press. March 5, 2013

John Gantz, Angele Boyd, and Seana Dowling: Cutting the Clutter: Tackling Information Overload at the Source
Annual Reviews: The Role of the Critical Review Article in Alleviating Information Overload

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, December 18, 2017

Going Beyond the Microlearning Fad Effect - Tip #161

When asked where Microlearning works and where it doesn't, we say Microlearning works best in the real world.

By tradition, most training and learning takes place in “recreated worlds,” where we attempt to replicate work conditions in artificial or suspended moments to allow training and learning to happen. Usually, they are pegged as events such as classroom workshops, eLearning, conferences, webinars, and the like.  These “event-type” training experiences are conditions away from work. Such settings are also associated with technologies and tools like an LMS and platforms, which support and deliver the learning events.

The “Real World” involves doing work in a live actual work environment. In this state, workers take needed actions to complete tasks, solve problems and improve results. The learning that happens are largely from experience, on-the-job (OJT), peer-to-peer coaching and sharing, problem solving, and similar approaches.  Much of our learning largely happens in the “real world”.

Chart 1: The Recreated World vs. Real World

Seekers prosper in the real world. Their ability to seek out solutions to problems yields results. Seeking answers is learning that is more evident because of the technical capacities to search and get instant answers from the web servers.

More recent trends have shown that businesses are under unparalleled levels of adoption on digital technologies. Deloitte (2017), Mckinsey (2017), and Bersin (2017) report that organizations are significantly slowing down purchases of LMSs, and are now looking for alternative solutions to help workers and learners learn faster, more effectively, and at reduced costs. If organizations are to succeed in their digital strategies they must enable their workers to learn faster and keep up with the pace. This new change is known as "Digital Learning." Its key approach is to help learners learn better and faster through work experiences while at work.

Microlearning - defined as  low effort, easy, fast, quick to apply and useful learning - presents an opportunity to respond to the “Real-World” needs for rapid problem-solving and learning in the front-line. We need to focus on this understanding of Microlearning instead of looking at it as another content design and delivery principle or method. If we persist on thinking of Microlearning as a content, we will eventually push it aside and dismiss it as another fad.


We define Microlearning as low effort, easy, fast, quick to apply and useful learning. Microlearning is an approach that lends itself well in the “Real World” and in the new approach of “Digital Learning.”


Performance management The process is The Future of Corporate Learning - Ten Disruptive Trends
Bersin, J. (2016). Performance management The process is The Future of Corporate Learning - Ten Disruptive Trends.
The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned
Bersin, J. (2017). The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned.
Digital Learning: An Interview with David Kelly.
Jacobs, S. (2017). Digital Learning: An Interview with David Kelly.
Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future
McAfee, A. (2017). Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. W. W. Norton & Company.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Who Owns “Microlearning?” The Learners Do. Not Grovo.

Grovo, Inc. (founded 2010) has trademarked the term “Microlearning”, reported by Chief Learning OfficerCLO states this is currently on a Supplemental Status.

This is another attempt of a Goliath overshadowing the small folks made up of many Davids.

Microlearning is too fundamental both as a process and for its value. Its core principles, practices and methods have been "owned" and implemented by numerous professionals globally even in early 2000. Sadly, Grovo is claiming ownership of “water” and “air”, in this case.

In my humble opinion, Grovo is being high-handed about running its business. It appears to ignore the needs of its market and clients for open-thinking and open-sharing. It is acting so “UN-Microlearning.” By its actions, it claims their brand is the only way to do Microlearning. I predict, just like other earlier companies that have tried to trademark generic terms, Grovo may not live up to its lofty exclusivity goals especially with the learners.

It’s about the Facts

2006 - First book on Microlearning (Before Grovo was founded)

The book 3-Minute e-Learning: Rapid Learning and Applications, Amazingly Lower Cost and Faster Speed of Delivery, Ray Jimenez, PhD (2006) (ISBN ISBN 978-0-9791847-0-3) Published in

In many instances in this book, I referred to the definitions and applications of Micro-learning, Microlearning, Micro-Content, Micro-Context, Micro-Coaching and many other applications of Microlearning.

Grovo Even Cited “3-Minute eLearning” in a white paper

More on Ray Jimenez’s Works

Ray Jimenez and others have been researching, espousing and innovating systems and software with the Microlearning principles.

2007 Micro-Learning Impacts - Training Conference Study

Published in the Internet by UPFEL

2014 Microlearning Workshops Started

2017 Micro.Expert Deep Dive Learning System

Micro.Expert is a "Digital Learning Platform" following the principles of Microlearning and Expertise Development.

These following works, videos, blogs, webinars, and presentations have continued to be published since 2008

eLearning Guild

Training Magazine Workshops

eLearning Guild Devlearn


Microlearning should not be a proprietary term to be claimed by any single organization or individual. Rather, it should be a learning approach that should be easily shared by learning advocates who believe in its usefulness, employed by organizations  and utilized by learners/workers for immediate information access for efficient on-the-job results.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, December 4, 2017

Microlearning Leapfrogging - How to Succeed Against All Odds - Tip #160

This year I've had projects that I would classify as instances of leapfrogging.

Leapfrogging means vaulting from traditional, basic brick-and-mortar (classroom) learning into the rapid and instant Microlearning approach.

What the client wanted was to have their group of instructional designers and classroom trainers “leapfrog” into the world of high-speed and technology driven Microlearning. From classical instructional learning to largely self-driven, micro-actions, on-the-job learning. The leap may seem risky because the team has no prior experience in any form of technology supported learning: NO skills, tools and aptitude on elearning, webinars, LMSs, authoring tools, and implementation.
This is like shooting your team through a cannonball.
Is this irresponsible and reckless?

At first glance, this looked challenging because I saw plenty of blind curves due to the lack of exposure to actually using technologies. For example, the company has no LMS, hence, the team has never published elearning, has not done tracking of learning, and has never done a webinar. But they just want to move quickly from classroom training to high-speed learning for their organization.

All against my consulting mindset

Considering my years of experience and implementation of learning technologies, I could sense that the leadership may not exactly understand what they're getting into. Being a consultant, I want to succeed in the implementation and help the client avoid death traps. This simply means there are risks of failure involved.

So the biggest question in my mind is: How do you help a client and their instructional designers and developers, and technology team to carefully maneuver the process so that they recognize the daunting task? At the same time, how would you help them allocate their resources and aid them to shift their mindset and skills so that they can do a leapfrog.

Leapfrogging succeeds in these conditions

In the end, I learned more from the client about how to apply Microlearning. Here are my eye-opening insights:

The goal and benefits are so vividly clear; compelling

When leaders gain vivid clarity about the pressure and opportunities involving the shift from brick-and-mortar to high-paced learning, they recognize that they are behind the curve. Customer and organizational demands become the triggers and drivers of change.

Also, armed with a clear understanding of specific financial benefits, workers and customers can be trained faster without having to wait for a scheduled and delayed classroom training. Providing them with online learning allows them immediate access to information whenever they need it. This would drastically reduce the time needed to launch a product and therefore increase adoption and product usage. Furthermore, this increases the company’s cash flow.

A very specific and clear objective enables leaders to make that  great leap of faith -  a LeapFrog.
Leapfrogging Microlearning implementation

As I observe the desire of this client to LeapFrog, it became clear to me after reflection that the implementation process also needed to get a semblance of a leapfrogging process. It wasn't clear to my mind how to implement this because I got hung up on my own thought process - which is keeping the consulting mindset.

Instead of using ideal models - take stack of what the clients have


The client has no LMS. But is it really required in order to achieve the results they have in mind? They have a portal and a website. They also have Sharepoint for internal file sharing and collaboration.

The truth is, for the client, there was no need to even talk about an LMS.

No Captivate or Storyline

What if the client has no authoring tool, like Captivate or Storyline? Although this may shock some of us, should they be required to purchase one? How vital is it to their implementation process?

After a number of interviews, I learned the client produced a lot of PDF eBooks for their documentation.

Brilliant idea! Why not use it? No learning curve is needed.

Smartphones and tablet

A significant number of teams and employees have smartphones and tablets. So, why not let members submit images to Sharepoint or portal to show their work and share ideas on how to solve problems immediately?

Without realizing it, they have access to  free software for screen capturing to readily share learning. So they used Monosnap - a free software - that captures videos in screen motion. They concluded that they can use this to create small references by narrating and showing software actions.

Tweak as needed - No need for perfection

One key characteristic of Microlearning is the focus on usefulness, not high production quality products. Hence, useful knowledge is more important than perfection or “eye candy” quality presentations. The client had no high-quality video production studio nor the staff to run it. Yet, they know videos are useful. So they use them and it worked! They tweaked the Microlearning as they discovered and got feedback.


Leapfrogging means focusing on the desired results which are doable within the means of the organization, at the speed that they want to achieve it. This is not about selecting, implementing and learning the right tools. The passion, drive and clarity of the end results and benefits are so compelling that the ignorance of all of the implementation details was understated and the benefits magnified. This environment is fertile ground and favorable conditions for Microlearning leapfrogging.

Tip References

How to avoid eLearning paralysis and get moving with your projects
Tip #105 - Breaking 10 Training Rules Using Microlearning
Tip #123 - Micro-Instant Learning
Tip #157 - Microlearning Is the “It’s-Always-There” Solution

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, November 27, 2017

21 Things To Do Before a Webinar - Tip #159

These are some important items on my checklist that I go through to prepare before a webinar. And when I follow these religiously, I succeed!

1. Design a truly interactive and no-lecture webinar.

2. Prepare primary and secondary exercises or questions to allow “what if” situations.

3. Test and prepare all the links to demos, videos and websites to make sure they all work.

4. Test the timing of each section of your presentations and interactions.

5. Run a survey to get more background information about your participants.

6. Determine prior experience of the participants on a given topic.

7. Prepare your examples and illustrations based on the participant profiles.

8. Provide online access to advance readings and materials, videos and lessons.

9. Have participants test their video and Internet speeds.

10. Send in advance or ask participants to join a prep session to practice the webinar tools, specially if it is their first time.

11. Find a way through a group portal or social learning site or others like Sharepoint and LMs or Wiki to allow participants to introduce themselves and get to meet their co-participants online.

12. Ask participants to preview an advance video of your welcome message.

13. Set up the webinar room.

14. Meet up with your webinar moderator to plan, practice and prepare both of your roles.

15. Practice and rehearse your presentation using the webinar platform.

16. Do a technical dry run of your webinar tool.

17. Notify participants of very specific instructions on how to access session, schedule, and other reminders.

18. Have a technology backup plan or emergency plan when issues like lost connectivity, frozen keyboards, etc happen.

19. Keep a positive outlook and do your best but be prepared for the worst.

20. Psych yourself up that you are helping others gain value from your session.


A successful webinar presentation needs attention to certain significant details for it to succeed.  This  ensures that learners have a meaningful learning encounter; you facilitate rapid conversations and encourage experience-sharing to achieve the eventual goal of spurring learning and better job performance.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"