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ATD Blog

Defining Great Microlearning—Being Concise and Effective

Thursday, April 5, 2018

While the term "microlearning" seems rather self-explanatory, there is a big difference between a short piece of content and a productive lesson. Microlearning can come in all shapes and sizes, but what must remain consistent is a focused purpose behind it. At Artisan E-Learning, we have worked hard to define great microlearning as something that’s not only concise, but also effective.

As our expert Diane Elkins has said, "It's not as much about length as it is single purpose. Short and to the point, and targeted." When microlearning is targeted toward a specific skill or task, for example, it becomes something that is easily repeatable and ready to serve a just-in-time situation. Imagine you have an hour before a big sales meeting and you’re a little nervous about price negotiations. If you had a five-minute course or video that you thought could help, you might take the time to complete or watch it. But if that course or video were much longer, you might pass altogether.

More often than not, learners want shorter nuggets of content. But for instructional designers, it can be challenging to try to fit everything into five- to seven-minute chunks. As instructional designers, we tend to provide information we want our learners to have, instead of just the information they need to have. Even worse, as our courses get longer, we often don’t give our learners enough opportunity to practice the skills being taught. By focusing content topics on things learners need to have, along with opportunities to practice what they’re learning, you can create microlearning that’s targeted to the learner and easily repeatable.

Artisan has worked with several clients to create microlearning covering topics in soft skills, sales, systems training, and more. We’ve delivered microlearning in such formats as interactive infographics, branching scenarios, software simulations, videos, and even games. Whether you’re conforming to a specific format of microlearning or want some variation, one way to become efficient in your development process is to make use of custom templates.

Developing a custom template helps provide consistency with color themes, image styles, and user controls, and templates can be designed to easily support multiple brands. When you start with a custom template that allows a variety of presentation and interaction possibilities, micro-courses can be developed concurrently while still providing uniformity across a curriculum or library.


While this approach has worked for a range of topics, it’s important to recognize that some courses just don’t fit within a template, some topics just aren’t suitable for microlearning, and “chunking” is not necessarily the answer. Complex topics may indeed warrant longer courses—and that’s perfectly OK.

With today's companies supporting multiple locations, diverse populations, remote workers, and employees spanning multiple generations, there is no doubt that microlearning makes training less costly and more accessible; but as with all training, the true measure is in the learning transfer and the impact on business objectives.


To learn more about effective microlearning and how to make the best use of microlearning templates, see Amy Morrisey, Tanya Seidel, and Diane Elkins at the ATD 2018 International Conference & Exposition this May in the following sessions:

SU206—Don't Just Learn It; Do It! Microlessons Focused on Practice and Application
Diane Elkins and Amy Morrisey | Sunday, May 6 | 1:30-2:30 p.m. | Room 28

W208—Microlearning: Why We Like It, Who It Works for, and How to Get Started
Tanya Seidel | Wednesday, May 9 | 10-11 a.m. | Room 28

About the Author

Tanya Seidel is the vice president of finance and technology at Artisan E-Learning and has more than 10 years of experience in the e-learning industry. In addition to managing Artisan’s finance, technology, and marketing landscapes, she is involved in the development and delivery of e-learning courses for a variety of clients and is well-versed in accessibility (Section 508 and WCAG), responsive design, SCORM, and xAPI. Tanya spent more than seven years working for Trivantis, the makers of Lectora. She has been involved not only in creating instructor-led and web-based training programs and materials, but also in leading the design and development of e-learning authoring software and learning management systems.

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