Monday, November 26, 2018

Microlearning That Kicks Learners Into Thinking and Acting - Tip #202

Remember that science experiment where you use a magnifying glass to burn or ignite a piece of paper or dried leaf?

Microlearning is (or should be) like that.

Etching Lessons Through Glass and Sun

This magnifying glass experiment is perhaps one of the first scientific activities that we all remember having participated in as kids. Why do most people still recall that specific experiment even if they conducted it when they were still children?

Simple. As with other memories, the experiment engaged them. It was fun and it stuck in their brain.

And the best part is that most of us will find it easy to remember the lesson behind the experiment as well. After that experiment, we might never have viewed a magnifying glass the same way again. No longer is the magnifying glass a harmless little thing, but indeed a fire hazard and even “a weapon of ant destruction.”

What can this science experiment teach us? How can we apply it to microlearning?

Zoom In and Focus

Microlearning comes in different formats: videos, courses, infographics, games, simulations and many more. But underneath these various ways of presenting microlearning lessons is a core principle that should guide designers and trainers. All microlearning content should should zoom in and focus on a single problem or issue that the learner needs to solve or address.

“What does it take to build successful microlearning?,” asks this Association for Talent Development (ATD) article. “Mostly, it’s just careful consideration of the problem you’re trying to solve—the very specific, narrowly focused problem you’re trying to solve.”

Why just one problem? Well, we have to remember under what circumstances microlearning content is mostly consumed. While performing a task, an employee might run into an issue and shifts focus to overcoming this hindrance so they can continue performing their job.

This means they have very little time to solve the problem at hand. A speedy answer is necessary so they can get back to their work immediately. This actually matches with how modern workers learn. According to Josh Bersin, modern workers commit only 1% of their time at work per week to learning and development activities. (That’s only 24 minutes a week!) A separate report also found that “employees utilizing microlearning know 85% of the information they are required to know to perform on-the-job compared to 73% when they started.”

What does this data mean?

Learning That Drives Thinking and Action

The report shows that microlearning is an effective way to kick learners into thinking and acting. By smartly integrating content where learners can easily access them— i.e., embedded in their daily work—microlearning seamlessly incorporates L&D so that it actually drives action.

How do you integrate microlearning into your learners’ daily work life? Share your answers with me on the comments section below.


Tanya Seidel. Microlearning Is More Than a Buzzword. Association for Talent and Development, June 27, 2018
Josh Bersin. The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned. March 2018
Global Newswire. New Axonify Study Reveals Microlearning Key to Enabling an Agile Frontline Workforce. July 25, 2018
Tip #167 - 5 Proven Ways to Help Learners Remember Lessons
Tip #170 - How to Leverage Opportunities for Microlearning Impacts
Tip #182 - Curious Language Sparks Learning Engagement
Tip #197 - 5 Ways L&D Can Adapt to the Evolution of Employees

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


  1. Thanks to taking two Vignettes Learning workshops, one onsite and one in person, I turned a two-day classroom course on customer service into twenty 5-20 minute eLearning units (interactive, self-study, using Storyline). Where there were topics within modules, we identified best practice guidelines and rewrote topic titles as action statements. Employees can read down the list of titles on an LMS index/table of contents and immediately see a workflow process, for example, in a section on negotiation, "Clarify the other person's needs and goals" - then click on what they wanted to learn (unless assigned the sequence.)
    - In the Vignettes Learning courses, I learned how to start each unit with a work challenge related to the topic that replaced any slide lecture in the original course with an attention-grabber that showed why the topic was important - in the above example, an argument breaking out in a micro case -
    - and add an interaction the guides the participant to realize the two people involved are not right/wrong (as the case seems to imply), but they have very different needs.
    - Then we walk through the elements of a best practice skill guide for learning about someone's needs in order to propose action that finds common ground.
    - And the unit ends with a downloadable, printable action plan - a template that guides the employee to adapt the strategies to their own work challenge and turn the unit's ideas into on-the-job performance and needed results.

    1. Hi Anna, Thanks for sharing your experience in learning. It is gratifying to know that the ideas we share added value in your design work. Best, Ray


Welcome! Sharing your comments is very valuable learning experience for me and others. Thanks!