What comes next for microlearning?

Two years ago, I wrote what I considered to be the ultimate guide on microlearning. It’s the most popular thing I’ve ever written, and it’s still available for free on the Axonify website. Why am I telling you this? Well, I just want to make sure you remember me now that famed gamification guru Karl Kapp has published the most comprehensive book available on microlearning. 🙂


Microlearning: Short and Sweet gets it right because it works past the buzz and hype to focus on the principles that make microlearning an important step forwards for the profession. No magical durations. No five simple steps. Just solid instructional practices and an appreciation for the realities of the modern workplace. Karl and his co-author Robin Defelice really nail the concept when they write, “In essence, microlearning is not just about learning. In fact, many instances of microlearning are focused on performance – what the participant is going to do as a result of the microlearning experience.” Oh, and they also reference my “Ultimate Guide” and an Axonify case study along the way!

Now that the questions “what is microlearning” and “does it actually work” have been effectively answered, what happens next? Microlearning has been the most popular topic in L&D for two plus years, and sessions are still filling up regularly at industry conferences. However, as is always the case in our ever-changing field, plenty of new concepts are emerging. So will microlearning just fade into the background? Or will it hang on and become a standard part of L&D practice?

Well, yes and no …

Honestly, I would be surprised if we keep using the term itself for much longer. And that’s OK. Right now, “microlearning” is a bucket of convenience, a collective term for a set of principles that are relatively new to many L&D pros, including:

  • Clearly define your business goal
  • Identify the desired employee behavior
  • Apply evidence-based learning principles
  • Provide anytime, anywhere access
  • Use right-fit content formats
  • Leverage data to identify impact

It’s these principles, not the term, that are having an impact on people and organizations in every industry and corner of the planet. While we continue to use plenty of legacy L&D terms (e.g., eLearning, instructor-led training, blended learning), many concepts outgrow their initial packaging to become part of our everyday practice (e.g., mobile learning, social learning). In the case of microlearning, the past few years of intense discussion around providing employees with more outcome-based support have opened to the door to even greater transformation. For example …

  • Microlearning is helping us finally solve the mobile dilemma that has plagued L&D since … well … since the smartphone was released. Content designed with microlearning principles fits the in-context mobile experience a lot better than the traditional course does.
  • With more frequent and varied employee touchpoints, we can now collect a lot more useful data to better target training and determine how we are actually impacting the business.
  • Microlearning data has proven to be the gateway to personalization. Plus, when you fit your support into the workflow, you can provide more timely training that better fits the individual employee’s need at that moment.
  • Plus, you can’t execute an artificial intelligence strategy without data. AI is already disrupting our organizations, and its set to disrupt L&D much sooner than you think.

Simply put, the future of microlearning is the future of workplace learning. Personal. Data-rich. Part of everyday work. Focused on results. Will we still be using the term “microlearning” a year from now? Probably – but not as much. However, the principles will be just as impactful, regardless of what you call them.

If you’re still trying to figure out how microlearning works or you want some help as you try to influence others to start leveraging microlearning, be sure to grab a copy of Microlearning: Short and Sweet available now via Amazon and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) online store. For even more microlearning conversation, follow Karl and Robin’s virtual book tour via #microlearnss.

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.