February 2018
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February 2018
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What Is Microlearning?

Lately there’s been a lot of noise around digital transformation in learning, and one word often bandied around is microlearning. In fact, just before Christmas 2017, U.S.-based Grovo registered a successful trademark for this word in a U.S. court. Notwithstanding this, nothing changed. The sun still came up, and the L&D profession continued to use the word has it always had.

But what is this microlearning? I found “The Micro Manual” a very good start. The guide collates some of the best articles and thoughts on digital transformation, taking a pragmatic look at what’s changing for us all in L&D and how best to embrace it. Using this guide won’t make you an expert in microlearning, but it will help you ask the right questions.

I also approached my good friend, Jo Cook, Director, Lightbulb Moment Limited in the United Kingdom, to discuss this topic further.

What is microlearning? And to whom?

Good point about “to whom,” because it’s probably L&D practitioners who worry about the labels more than people using the content or doing the work. They probably just see it as, hopefully, a useful thing to help them do their work. I like Clark Quinn’s definition of “small but useful learning experiences that can fit by size of objective or context ‘in the moment.’”

What are other good definitions of microlearning?

Along with the above, Tom Spiglanin tells us a bit about what microlearning isn’t: “Microlearning products are not simply chunked learning content. As part of a larger product, any one chunk of content may require knowledge or context provided by earlier chunks in the overall sequence. Microlearning, in contrast, stands alone and provides its own context where needed.”

How can microlearning be applied in corporate learning?

In all sorts of ways! It takes learning out of the classroom and focuses on putting it not only in the workflow but as resources available for people when they want and need them. GSK Pharmaceuticals, the winner of Training Journals’ Best Use Of Technology in Learning Award, supported sales people in the workflow. One way they did this was through short videos within a platform that users could learn from. Viewers could also record the videos for their managers and peers to comment on.

The whole point of microlearning is something that’s small but does the job and helps you in your work.


Have you seen any good examples?

Yes! Every tweet that makes me think. Every short blog post I read or learning nugget from Google. I think this animated video is a great piece of microlearning. I loved it. Short, to the point, and it demonstrated different techniques that I was able to apply directly to my work. However, when I ask other people, they don’t think so. They tell me there isn’t enough context or detail of how to do use the software show. So microlearning can be quite subjective.

There is a theory that microlearning is all about length of time. What do you think of that?

That’s a part of it, but whether that length of time is 30 seconds or 3 minutes is context- and person-dependent. Microlearning can also be a poster or sign reminding you how to wash your hands properly. That’s about physical size.

Microlearning is usually associated with video. Do you believe we can achieve microlearning via other mediums and platforms?

In my blog about microlearning, I quote Shannon Tipton who says, “Microlearning has been around for as long as people have been creating work aids to put toner in copy machines.” As I said earlier on, microlearning could be tweets, posters, or audio, too.

When you think of microlearning, does one L&D professional or organization come to mind?

Shannon Tipton of Learning Rebels is hugely knowledgeable on this topic. Kineo also have ample expertise in the area, and I enjoyed their Stream of Thought podcast on the topic.

Learn more about Jo Cook at, and leave your thoughts about microlearning in the Comment section below.

© 2018 ATD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Con Sotidis is a solutions consultant with Kineo (Asia Pacific). He works with organizations to help them achieve their business goals by developing effective and efficient learning and performance strategies and solutions. Sotidis spent more than 15 years as a director of learning and development in the Australian public sector and in various senior learning and performance consultant roles. He is a fellow of the Institute of Learning Professionals Australia, a certified professional member of the Australian Human Resources Institute, and a member of the Association of Talent Development.   Email: Twitter: @learnkotch LinkedIn: Website:

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