How to Design Effective Microlearning

Within that set or module, you would divide the content further, into sets of related ideas, like customers who want to return a product or customers whose product is malfunctioning. Then, you’d drill down even deeper, defining specific issues that can arise with a return, such as “the return window has closed” or “the customer doesn’t have a receipt."

Finally, within each of those narrow ideas, you’d identify specific pieces of information and build learning activities around those. 

In a short microlearning session, a learner might engage with activities that touch on several related topics. Over time, the learner covers all of the information.

Microlearning design focuses on the learner

The next step in microlearning design should be analyzing the learner’s needs. This can and should be done on a couple of levels:

Learner environment impacts microlearning design

The inside view of a car behind the wheel. A man's hand grips the steering wheel while he drives the road at night.

Think about the learner’s environment. Sales personnel who spend a lot of time on the road might love podcasts. People who work on a busy sales floor might need something that can be done in a noisy environment — so no audio. Both of those learner groups appreciate mobile-first content that they can use on a phone or tablet.

On the other hand, the manager who wants to look up how to fill out a form or review how to use a piece of software might prefer a quick-reference guide, an infographic or even a short video. The learner’s environment might play a large part in determining the format of the microlearning.

Adapt microlearning design for learners at different levels of expertise

How much prior knowledge learners have — and how much expertise they need — are essential factors in microlearning design. If your learners are a fairly uniform group with similar levels of experience and knowledge of the topic, they might all need the same content.

If, however, learners have different amounts of expertise, vary from new hires to seasoned employees, or need different levels of mastery or expertise, your microlearning design might go in a completely different direction — adaptive content.

Adaptive microlearning might be in the format of a game, which can allow expert learners to quickly move up to more challenging “levels.” Or, it could be a text- or chatbot-based app that engages learners and targets specific content to each learner, based on their performance and their desired depth of knowledge or “mastery level.” 

An adaptive microlearning platform engages learners at their level and stretches them to the limits of their knowledge. The adaptive algorithm targets content to each individual by considering the learner’s past performance, pushing them to work on their weak areas and only intermittently reminding them of content in areas where they are knowledgeable. 

Busy learners love mobile-first design

Consider where learning and reinforcement fit into the learner’s day.

Most learners are also busy employees — they want to find the information they need, when they need it, and quickly get back to work.

Many microlearning formats allow learning to slide easily into the learner’s workflow. Mobile-first microlearning is easy to squeeze in — a few minutes first thing each morning or when their shift starts. They might do it on a break, especially if they can’t have a mobile device with them on the retail or factory floor. Those sales reps on the road might do their training during “windshield time.”

Other users have already had training, and will use the microlearning content to remind them of what they learned or build retention through repeated exposure. These learners and employees have different needs in terms of microlearning design and delivery.

Choosing a format is part of microlearning design

Four colored doors, side-by-side, similar to a gameshow in which someone must choose door number one, two, or three.

The learning goal, the learners’ environment and the learners’ overall needs, in terms of depth, adaptive or uniform content, etc. all factor into the microlearning design and choice of  format. 

The content itself also strongly influences these choices. A screencast or flow chart is a great way to teach a process but might be less effective for explaining concept or reviewing product features, for example.

  • For self-paced learners and for quick references and performance support, short documents and articles, infographics, curated content, libraries of short videos or blog posts or newsletters are great microlearning design choices.
  • Videos, podcasts and short eLearning courses work especially well for larger groups of learners who all need the same content. 
  • Podcasts are ideal for on-the-go learners who spend a lot of time driving.
  • Games are a great way to deliver microlearning that covers a lot of factual information and details, like product features or vocabulary.
  • Adaptive microlearning that drills learners regularly offers spaced and repeated exposure; it also adjusts content for learners who are at different levels. 

How to develop microlearning

Once you decide on a learning goal and a format, and you write the content, you need to develop the actual microlearning. How you go about developing microlearning depends on the format, the platform and the content. Within those parameters, it’s similar to developing longer-form eLearning.

It’s possible to develop video and podcast microlearning content using simple tools like a smartphone and a video or audio editor — or to set up a studio with more professional equipment. You can use eLearning authoring tools or even PowerPoint to create short eLearning courses, for example. A lot of elements of the microlearning development process depend on your budget. Create text-based microlearning and infographics using everyday office tools, or find dedicated free or low-cost tools online. 

For a list of microlearning content development tools we recommend, read our article about microlearning tools.

Discover More About Microlearning