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Apr 13, 2017 Katelind Hays

8 Guidelines for Designing Microlearning Resources

how to design microlearning content for trainingWhat’s the deal with microlearning? Neuroscientists boast about the importance and value of this bite-sized approach. More and more instructional designers purposefully break larger programs into smaller, more concise events and resources.

Today, we’ll cover the basics of microlearning and an instructional design approach for creating these content pieces – both highlights from Carla Torgerson’s excellent recent InSync BYTE session, Embracing Microlearning in Your Learning Ecosystem.

Watch the entire BYTE replay here for Carla’s expert advice for creating microlearning programs and common use cases to clarify when and how to use these resources.

Defining Microlearning

Most learning professionals believe short, focused resources, like explainer videos on YouTube, fall into the microlearning category. Before we can design them, though, we need a comprehensive understanding of this methodology.

Carla defines micolearning as “anything that can be consumed in five minutes or less.” Helpful examples include: five minute videos or interactive eLearning modules, text five pages or shorter, or a medium-sized infographic.

Carla reminds us, though, that while content length categorizes something as microlearning, substance matters, too:

“I’ve seen pieces of microlearning that were three minutes long that were a waste of time. I’ve seen pieces longer than five minutes that were incredibly helpful and useful, that were worth the time.”

Fundamentally, she says,

“Even through we’re talking here about short stuff, it’s not always easier. It’s still going to take instructional design effort, our think to put together.”

Creating Microlearning

Carla recommends following these specific guidelines for designing the most effective microlearning, like a blog, infographic, or video:

  • Single topic focus: “Generally, the thing you find most critical in creating a micro resource. Think about what it is you want to say, and stay on top of that.”
  • Single audience focus: “Prevents you from going off on a tangent. Think about the audience. What does the learning they need look like?”
  • Be brief and to the point: "What is most important for your learners on this topic? Start there when building your content piece to keep the focus narrow."
  • Strong WIIFM up front and throughout: “WIIFM: What’s in it for me? This is the motivational element for our learners. Make clear for learners that the content matters to their professional development and supports their needs."
  • Eye-catching title: “Your title is the first impression. It’s how you get people to consume learning and stay with it. This is especially true with informal learning that isn’t required.”
  • Informal but succinct: “Don’t be too formal in your language. When writing blogs or video scripts, talk like you’re talking to a real person. That is who your learner is.”
  • Find ways to use graphics, not text: “A picture is worth a thousand words. When you use good graphics, it reduces your need to say as much."
  • Be engaging: “This is especially true for informal or not required learning. People will leave if it’s not interesting and engaging.”
  • Easily skimmable: “Sometime with new content and required learning, the microlearning resources will be more course-like. If it’s anything to do with performance support or informal learning, you want it to be skimmable because it lets learners self-pace. They can get through it at whatever pace they want, and take that content and use of it what they need. This is one of my biggest guidelines.”

Additional Resources


Published by Katelind Hays April 13, 2017
Katelind Hays