Modern Training

Have We Forgotten What Microlearning Means?

Posted on: October 14, 2016Updated on: February 15, 2022By: Laura Martin

Let’s take a walk around the modern corporate learning ecosystem. Picture a lush garden, where technological innovation has ploughed over a massive acreage of ineffective tools to completely renew the landscape.

Hear that? If you listen closely, that’s the sound of a thousand buzzwords being born. The profound transformation currently underway has reached a level of maturity where established principles are now being shamelessly misused and exploited for the attention they grab. (Think gamification, adaptive learning or, more recently, machine learning). After all, the market is in the billions of dollars by some estimates, and growing, so is it any surprise that so many tools have sprouted up to capitalize on the opportunity?

It’s time to set the record straight on one of the more malicious examples: microlearning.


Microlearning: What is it good for?

The human brain can only hold about 7 pieces of information for less than 30 seconds. Microlearning was established to remedy the glut of information blasted at modern employees over multi-hour training sessions, which often resulted in them forgetting most of what was taught to them. As one of the early innovations in the corporate eLearning space, microlearning was one of the first victims of gross mishandling. Entire businesses have cropped up in the past few years claiming to transform your company with microlearning—by creating 60-second videos. Sorry, but that’s just not enough.

Bite-sized learning, on its own, cannot guarantee that employees remember the knowledge that they need to know to do their jobs, that the knowledge they have is being translated to their on-the-job behaviors, and that it’s having a measurable result on the business. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s only one of many steps that need to be taken if a company is setting out to truly make a competent training process that provides a tangible impact.

Here’s a comprehensive guide that lays out, in detail, what organizations need to do to be successful with microlearning. If there’s one key takeaway to keep in mind, it’s this: Microlearning is not just about turning 1-hour training sessions into 1-minute videos, it’s about driving continuous learning and lasting behavior change.

Microlearning in practice

MCAP, a leading independent mortgage financing company, is a great example of what a successful approach to microlearning should look like. The organization’s leaders knew that it was critical for their mortgage specialists, many of whom are millennials, to not only have in-depth knowledge of the company’s products and services, but to have top-of-mind access to this information; many of their customers are people who have just made the biggest purchase of their life—a home—and quick and accurate responses are essential to assure those customers that their mortgage is in good hands.

MCAP delivers daily training bursts to more than 200 mortgage specialists, helping to support the company’s onboarding and ongoing coaching programs by reinforcing knowledge around products, policies and procedures. With this in place, MCAP’s leaders not only have a way to ensure critical information is refreshed continually, but also have a means of measuring the impact of that training.

Those results can be found in this case study, where you can read more about the company’s success in detail.

Beyond microlearning

Microlearning should just be one of many tools an organization uses as part of its training solution. This Training Industry article, which details 5 key components that make microlearning truly effective, reinforces the idea that without the support of other critical pieces, including brain science, engagement, and personalization, microlearning on its own is simply ineffective. That sentiment is echoed in the following blog post about adaptive microlearning. Just as much as employees dislike spending endless hours of training in a classroom, they hate having their time wasted being forced to take training—even if it’s in bite-sized chunks—on topics they already know and information that has no relevancy to their job.

The last word

So no more claiming ignorance! Above are some of our top resources that help re-root microlearning in sound principles for effective corporate training. You’ll no longer be deceived by flowery language disguising false microlearning promises; you know better now. And you’ll be sure to plant the right seeds so your modern learning ecosystem will flourish because you know there’s more to doing microlearning right than simply chunking up content.

Oh, and one more thing. If you want to bring this knowledge to others in your organization, we’ve got you covered there, too—3 steps on how to take what you’ve learned here to warm up your organization to microlearning.

Laura Martin

As a process person, she loves nothing more than taking a business and transforming it from obscure to renowned and beyond. She takes the reins on Axonify’s strategic alliance marketing efforts that put the company on the map.

Read More by Laura Martin