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Microlearning Is More Than Content—It’s a Strategy

Thursday, May 16, 2019
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I recently had the privilege of joining an industry panel to discuss the impact of microlearning in the workplace. As the discussion began, I was taken aback when a panel member proclaimed, "Microlearning isn't a real thing." His defense? It’s a blurry concept that learning practitioners struggle to define.

At the risk of being obtuse, I wholeheartedly disagree.

Our struggle to define a concept doesn't make it any less real, nor does the presence of differing viewpoints on it. Consider terms like digital transformation or business model innovation. Do our diverse perspectives and evolving understandings of these business-critical concepts make them invalid? Absolutely not. Microlearning is real; and if we as practitioners and leaders don't take the time to understand and deploy it, we'll miss a critical opportunity to drive change in our organizations.

So, let’s define it then put it to work for us.

How I Define Microlearning

During my time as chief learning officer of Grovo, my team and I set out to properly define and conceptualize microlearning. Our intentions were twofold: First, we wanted to pull it back from the brink of buzzword, and second, we needed a framework by which we could consistently create microlearning content. After significant collaboration, we landed on a three-part definition:

1. Single-concept: Microlearning isolates individual ideas and covers them systematically.

2. Multi-modal: Microlearning should be designed using mixed media to reinforce the single concept. Think video, audio, job aids, quizzes, and so forth.

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3. In the workflow: Microlearning, like all workplace learning, should aspire to be delivered and consumed at the place where real work happens.

With this as a foundation, we can move on to more strategic applications of the term.

Making Microlearning a Strategy

Consider how you might employ microlearning to drive your unique business goals.

Let’s say a major driver for your business is the need for individual contributors to, without authority, influence and lead teams. Start small and resist the urge to over-architect. What are the individual concepts associated with that task? How might you build a program that highlights those single concepts, reinforces them through various media, and delivers them as part of a typical working day? You might start by correcting any misconceptions among learners that they need authority to have influence. You can then teach them a framework for the five main drivers of influence at work.

Suddenly, microlearning evolves from a content-based definition to a powerful organizational strategy.

During my ATD 2019 session Earn Your Seat at the Table With a Microlearning Strategy (May 19 at 3 p.m.), we’ll explore concrete ways you can use a microlearning strategy to drive business objectives and build your credibility as a strategic business partner.

About the Author

Summer Salomonsen is the head of content studios at Cornerstone OnDemand. Previously she was the chief learning officer at Grovo where she was responsible for Grovo's microlearning content strategy and market-facing voice to the industry. While a Principal Consultant at Intrepid Learning, Summer won gold in Brandon Hall's 2017 Emerging Star Awards for her work crafting high- impact, modern learning experiences for leading global brands. Prior, Summer spent seven years managing and implementing corporate learning strategy in the healthcare space. Summer is set to complete her EdD in organizational change and leadership from USC in May, researching innovative learning design models.

2 Comments
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Thanks for sharing. I don't know if i'll become a learning design geek. But, I'm interested in learning more about ID.
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Hi ATD, I would respectfully ask that you not post content that is a "here's a question, come to this is event to see the answer." This is an ad.
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