Microlearning Answers 3 Critical Questions


Implementing a microlearning strategy isn’t just about new content or technology.  It requires a basic change in perception throughout your entire organisation.  We must educate people to change the way they view learning as it relates to business results and work performance.  Many of the people I have worked with – L&D pros included – still believe learning simulates school.  While it might not always take place in a classroom, people consider “learning” to be a scheduled activity that requires a considerable time and focus.  They believe learning has a beginning and an end – because that’s what school was like.  They have not caught up with the realities of the modern workplace and reconciled what we do with the science of learning.


In introducing microlearning (as Modlettes) to organisations we often come up against a number of reasons why people think it won’t work for them.


  1. But We have To Cover . . .

This objection usually comes from people whose present training consists of a 127 slide PowerPoint presentation.  The subject matter expert (SME) is convinced that you must include every word in your training materials, otherwise employees simply won’t know enough to do their jobs.  We call this the “coverage syndrome”.


Two concepts can help overcome this objection; learning science and shared knowledge.  The simple fact is that a human being cannot retain all this information this quickly, no matter how the package is presented.  Saying they MUST know it doesn’t change the science.  If your SME disagrees send them to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics and tell them to absorb this entire information and they’ll be tested on Friday to see how much they retained.


The source information must be broken down into two sections¨ NEED to know and NICE to know.  Nice to know information becomes shared knowledge (or researched).  Need to know information can then be delivered using brief, topical content Modlettes that align to the person’s ability to consume and retain.



  1. My People Don’t Have Time . . .

This is a standard cry in today’s busy and objective driven world of work.  We learn by doing – not just consuming.  Therefore, it makes no sense when people say their employees “don’t know time to do learning”.  Of course, they are referring to their preference for operational value as opposed to formal training outcomes.  Rather than leverage a continuous learning strategy with daily or weekly microlearning opportunities, many managers prefer we just schedule their teams for a half-day training session to get it out of the way.


The answer to this is a simple maths solution.  Let’s consider a weekly microlearning session of say fifteen minutes.

 *  15 minutes x 4 weeks per month = 60- minutes


Would a manager sooner send their employee to four half-day sessions a year where their retention would be only 10 percent after 60 days OR allow for targeted micro sessions that align with learning science and require a minimum of time away from the operation.  Imagine in a manufacturing environment the value of scheduling a weekly safety microlearning session that people can absorb rather than trying to cram that information into them in a day away from the job.



  1. This process is too Complex for . . .

“Our people do complicated work.  Surely, they need more than just microlearning to work it out.  After all, you can’t teach a nuclear scientist his/her skills in 3 to 15 minutes a week.”


That’s true, but fortunately we don’t expect our employees to become nuclear scientists.


We must apply the support tactics that best fit the performance challenge.  In some cases, it means three day courses – because that’s the solution that best fits the need.  However, this should not be the default tactic.  More often or not, complex topics can be broken down into smaller, topical chunks to aid comprehension and retention.  Plus, by leveraging on-demand shared knowledge like job aids and checklists, we can eliminate unnecessary complexity.  So, while the BIG subject may be too complex to solve with a 3-minute video, some text and a quiz, we can use a blend of tactics to better fit learning and support opportunities into the workflow.  And yes, we will still need to build courses and use classroom instruction . . . but only when it fits.