ATD Blog

Microlearning Is More Than a Buzzword

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

You’re about to conduct an interview, but it’s been awhile since you’ve interviewed anyone. While you had the best intentions of preparing, you’re not feeling at all confident in your capabilities. You don’t even know what you can and cannot ask! You look at the clock. The candidate will arrive in 20 minutes, so there’s no time to brush up on your skills.

Or is there? If you had something you could review in under 10 minutes to understand what questions were appropriate for your interview, would you use it? Enter microlearning.

With around 15 sessions focused on microlearning at the recent ATD International Conference & Exposition, it should come as no surprise that microlearning continues to be a hot topic within the learning industry. But it’s more than just the latest buzzword. Microlearning is effective, efficient, and gives learners an opportunity to focus on a very specific skill.

If you’re still not a believer, just consider YouTube. This year, how-to videos are ranked as the second most popular type of video on YouTube. While YouTube videos aren’t typically geared toward workplace learning, their popularity suggests that more and more, we’re relying on short bits of information to help us complete our tasks. You might find a short video on YouTube that teaches you how to braid your hair. What you likely won’t find is a video that includes an introduction to the history of braiding hair, why braiding hair is so important, and the five different ways you could go about it. The success and popularity of a video on braiding hair isn’t necessarily about the video’s length, but more about the fact that it places laser-like focus on a very specific task—and nothing more. This is precisely what makes effective microlearning so successful and popular.

But microlearning isn’t limited to video. In fact, it doesn’t have to be multimedia at all. Even something like a poster or infographic on the wall of your breakroom is microlearning. Formats for microlearning include:


● posters
● infographics
● interactive infographics
● e-learning courses
● games
● branching scenarios
● videos
● job aids
● simulations.

It’s easy to evaluate microlearning that already exists, but what does it take to build successful microlearning? 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. Don’t start by trying to target the format that you want. Instead, identify your learners’ needs and let them drive the format of your microlearning.


In Diane Elkins ATD 2018 session, Don't Just Learn It; Do It! Microlessons Focused on Practice and Application, Diane shared a job aid for how to create your own microlearning. The job aid leads you through the steps of identifying your problem, your learners’ needs, and what format will have the biggest impact. Taking it one step at a time allows you to create successful microlearning on your own, in the format that best suits your learners.

If you missed Diane’s session or others around microlearning that you wanted to attend, have no fear! ATD is making session recordings available to conference participants. If you weren’t a conference participant, but want to learn more about the microlearning successes Artisan E-Learning presented at the conference, be sure to see our online portfolio and specifically, the projects we completed with Pryor Learning Solutions and LogMeIn.

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.

1 Comment
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Agreed. Whatever you call it, its here to stay. Learning professionals need to change the paradigm; we need to help the indivdual perform a task safely and acccurately by providing them with support material (can be any of the outputs you listed above) and pet them use it a few times (or as many times as they need to refer to it) and eventually learning will happen as a result of the repeat use and application. You learn to swim when you swim. You do not read a manual to learn how to swim.
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