Make Your Microlearning Interventions Work To Achieve Your Training Goals

Make Your Microlearning Interventions Work To Achieve Your Training Goals
Zadorozhna Natalia/
Summary: Microlearning has been here for a few years now. After a great level of experimentation, Instructional Designers and L&D Managers are able to understand what really works and what does not within the microlearning space. I am sharing my thoughts on this below.

Microlearning Interventions: How To Achieve Your Training Goals

When microlearning was invented – or rather, discovered – it was called bite-sized learning. I wondered if it had anything to do with a "tea time" game that many people indulge in. No pun intended. 

The Story So Far

Soon, the term caught the attention of Instructional Designers and L&D Managers, and they thought it was a good thing to have in your armory. Many IDs assumed that it was the panacea for all the ills that plagued the world of training. This was based on the notion that human memory can hold only so much information at a given point in time and, therefore, bite-sized learning addresses this head-on.

The Fallacy Of Attention Spans

It was hailed as the discovery of the decade, and almost everyone latched on to the idea. However, here lied the fallacy. The theory was based on the idea that people have limited attention spans and that human memory can only hold so much information. This, as pointed out by many experts, is pseudoscience and has no real-world empirical basis. I was recently discussing the same aspects with a leading expert, and he confirmed that "if learners love something, they will spend hours on it".  Another fallacy that had taken shape, albeit for a shorter period, was that mobile learning equals microlearning.

Where Do We Stand Now?

So, from where we stand today, we need to put away the idea of attention spans for good when it comes to microlearning. Also, we realize that microlearning and mobile learning are two different beasts! Microlearning comprises small nuggets of learning, usually requiring only a few minutes of seat time, targeting a specific learning objective. Mobile learning, on the other hand, is learning that is accessible through your smartphone or tablet and is, basically, learning on the go. Mobile learning, of course, utilizes concepts of microlearning, but we can have microlearning concepts applied to traditional eLearning as well.

Microlearning At Work

Consider these examples:

  1. Watching simple "how-to" videos on YouTube
  2. Learning through picture charts or flashcards
  3. Working through a series of practice tests
  4. Receiving emails on "word for the day"

Are these examples of microlearning, or just short nuggets of information?

So, what really constitutes microlearning? What are the guidelines that we need to adhere to?


My understanding is that microlearning must incorporate as many of the following guidelines as possible to be truly "micro" in learning:

  1. A standalone piece of content
  2. Focus on a specific learning outcome
  3. Use of rich multimedia, a game-based strategy, and so on, to engage learners

A Standalone Piece Of Content

My experience says that microlearning needs to be treated as an individual unit of learning piece. It needs to be mapped to a specific topic.

Instead of talking about histories, address a specific need or a problem. This little universe needs to have its own introduction, learning objective, the "how-to" content piece, an activity, and a summary.

It should not be a piece of a large universe. In other words, it doesn't need to be part of a large course or a course that has multiple cross-references.

Well-Thought-Out Learning Objectives

Each learning objective should be clearly defined based on the content that needs to be taught. Of the various ID models, I like the 4-mat model. I think it is quite relevant to microlearning. The four aspects ("what", "why", "how", and "what if") can be easily used to create an impactful microlearning course. If we focus on the what and the how part of the subject, then it addresses the requirement well.

Using Rich Multimedia Or A Game-Based Strategy

While we may opt to adopt mobile learning, we may not be necessarily delivering effective learning. This is because, when we need to train our learners on a vast volume of subject material or when the subject needs to be studied in great detail, microlearning is just not suitable. For example, microlearning is perfect for learning to speak certain words or general communication in a particular language, but when you need to learn the complete language, then it’s eLearning that comes handy.

You should also avoid microlearning when you want your learners to connect various interconnected topics together in a coherent, ‘macro’ picture. Microlearning is just – well – micro in every sense.

Case Studies

1. The customer wanted a short course on food processing that would help learners understand how food is sourced, processed, and marketed. For this, we created a short microlearning course with the requisite content and interesting activities to sensitize the learners about the entire process. This was smartphone-only delivery.

2. The customer wanted to train their employees on the basic concepts of housekeeping. We created a microlearning module that covered aspects such as how to make a bed and an associated activity.

Hospitality demo


At Tesseract Learning, we have implemented microlearning using unique activity-based nuggets, game-based nuggets and, most importantly, by being device agnostic. Learners get the same experience whether on a PC, a tablet, or a smartphone.

Our ID Strategists are the right experts you can turn to for all such doubts. At Tesseract Learning, our ID Strategists will ensure that your custom learning, mobile learning, or microlearning matches the best standards available in the market.

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