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Microlearning under the Microscope: Part II - Do’s and Don'ts of Microlearning

Matthew Brew
Matthew Brew

Microlearning is an innovative way of teaching and delivering content to learners in 3-5 minute segments. It’s typically given to learners during their “moment of need.” For example, learners might encounter the microlearning format when they search for a how to video, reference a job aid or view a video that summarises a larger topic. For more on the basics of microlearning, read our blog, What is Microlearning?

If you feel like you have a good handle on the topic and are ready to create some microlearning content of your own, let this list of do’s and don’ts guide you in creating effective and engaging microlearning content for your audience of learners.


Keep it short (5 minutes maximum, and preferably under 3 minutes)

Microlearning is defined by being small in size and quick to complete. A ten minute video or a fifteen minute eLearning course, these aren’t microlearning just because they’re shorter than other options. Microlearning should be completed in one session, often while the learner is on-the-go, using a mobile device. If they have to sit down and concentrate on the instructional content for an extended period of time, it’s not microlearning.

Focus on a single topic with 1 or 2 main learning objectives

Present only what the learner needs in the exact moment they are accessing this content, and nothing more. On the introduction screen or beginning of the content, tell the learner what they will get out of the experience, and how they can immediately apply this information. If you need to cover several topics, consider creating several microlearning courses which the learner can access as needed, or as a series if they need the full set.  

Consider your format and formatting

Microlearning can include a variety of formats, from eLearning courses to videos to infographics. Choose the format that makes the most sense for your learners and for the topic. Then ask yourself how and where the learners will access the information. Test all content on mobile devices to ensure the final version has the look and feel you want. Consider other factors that also impact mobile users, such as the need for video subtitles (they may not have earphones) and whether or not your content repository (such as your website or learning management system) is mobile friendly.

Choose the right words and media to communicate your message

Learners will scan for the content they need on demand. Catchy titles will grab learners’ attention, but be sure to be descriptive enough so the title accurately describes the content. Within the course, long passages of text do not create ideal microlearning experiences because learners read at different paces. If you have passages that consist solely of text, add relevant and attractive images to reinforce the content.

Videos provide a consistent experience for all learners, and can be highly engaging. Videos work well with “how to” or demonstration topics; in fact, up to 70% of millennials use YouTube to access tutorials on how to perform new tasks. No matter if you create content in written, audio, or video formats, use a light, conversational style throughout your presentation. Microlearning is highly effective while also being engaging and simply fun for the learner to experience.  


Don't forget to include opportunities for reinforcement, practice, and feedback

Even brief microlearning experiences can still provide learners with the chance to gain knowledge, practice new skills, and be assessed. After the initial presentation of the content, include a recap of the main points or remind learners of the takeaways. Present them with checklists or cheat sheets to reference later if needed. Ask reflective questions to help them relate the content to their lives, or to help them apply it immediately. Be creative – and don’t just use microlearning as a mini-lecture!

Don't use microlearning as a stand-alone activity to cover complex topics

The short nature of microlearning works well to introduce or summarise main ideas. Even to break up longer passages of content with quick, engaging videos; however, microlearning alone might not be the best format for topics that are complex or are difficult for new learners to pick up.

Don't skip on production quality

Just because microlearning content is short doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be high quality! Professional authoring tools found on microlearning platforms, allow you to quickly and easily create microlearning experiences for your learners that are as sophisticated and polished as courses they would spend much more time completing. Check out our list of best practices for additional tips on producing great videos for microlearning.

Don't run out of content!

Binging isn’t just for Netflix! If you offer your learners valuable and engaging content they will binge consume microlearning content back to back the same way they’ll watch an entire series of their favourite shows in one session. They will be better informed and far more engaged!

Want to know more about microlearning, and get some expert insights into workforce training and learning?