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Microlearning Design: 7 Must-Have Characteristics

One challenge training managers across organizations face is to train deskless workers. These are workers who are constantly on-the-go; they could be sales representatives, service technicians on the field, drivers, or warehouse workers who work in shifts and do not have access to desktops or laptops. Now, this is a segment of the workforce that may not be able to spare a lot of time to complete lengthy training programs. Designing microlearning solutions can provide a solution to this challenge. Just as in a full-fledged eLearning course, microlearning design too needs careful thought and planning.

What are the Characteristics of Effective Microlearning Design?

1. Addresses A Single Performance-based Objective

When you use traditional eLearning or classroom training to train employees, it is possible to cover a number of topics and a couple of learning objectives over a period of time. But that’s not possible when you are considering microlearning design, simply because you are looking at a short training time that may probably go up to a maximum of 15 mins.

Tips to Create Effective Learning Objectives7

If you need to develop an effective microlearning solution, then address only one performance-based objective per microlearning module. By doing so, you ensure that your microlearning module is designed to:

  • Deliver targeted and focused information
  • Avoid information overload
  • Fight the forgetting curve

All you need to know about Microlearning for Boosting Employee Performance

2. Microlearning Leverages Existing Content

CommLab India Among the Top 5 Microlearning Providers

What’s good about microlearning design is that you don’t have to start creating content from scratch. If the training content in PPTs used for classroom training, manuals, and PDFs are relevant to your learners’ needs, use that information in your microlearning modules. Even a short video recording of an instructor in a classroom or virtual classroom training can be converted into a microlearning module.

Questions answered during classroom training can be collated to put together as a quick reference tool for frequently asked questions that learners might have. Give your existing training a new look by splitting an hour-long training program into short bursts of learning.

To summarize, you need to identify content that’s precise and helps employees achieve their learning goals.

3. Follows the Minimalist Design Trend

When it comes to microlearning design, less is more. Minimalism in designing microlearning is about using only the most essential elements (crisp content and visuals). Unnecessary content or visuals that do nothing to help learners achieve the learning objective are avoided.

While deciding the content for your microlearning module, one question to ask is “how can this be visualized?” Instead of lengthy text, use crisp bullet points along with relevant icons. Doing so can improve the effectiveness of your microlearning module as it helps learners assimilate information quickly.

Do not use complex instructions in your microlearning module. Ensure that content as well as instructions are to the point.

4. Delivers Short and Useful Bursts of Learning

You might be already aware that microlearning is delivered in the form of short learning nuggets that can be easily consumed by learners. But microlearning design is not only about content that’s short. You also need to focus on the usefulness of content. When you choose content for your microlearning module, check how well it answers the following questions.

  • Is the most important content to help learners complete a task included?
  • By including this content, will learners be able to make a decision?
  • Can the content guide learners to take actions?

5. Microlearning Uses a Variety of Formats

The best part of microlearning design is the use of a variety of formats that support the learning experience. Mix and match various microlearning formats to keep learners engaged in the learning process.

The modern architectural and design principle of ‘Form Follows Function’ is applicable in microlearning design as well. This means your choice of microlearning asset or format depends on the purpose it’s intended to achieve. For example, when we had to design a microlearning module to reinforce food safety practices for a young, upbeat workforce in a restaurant chain, we used a gamified quiz. The reason why this format was chosen was because:

  • Gamified content would appeal to the target audience.
  • Scoring points by answering a quiz was catchy enough to make them want to complete the training.
  • Learners could use their smartphones to quickly complete reinforcement of training.

Here are a few examples of formats used in microlearning and how they are useful.

Microlearning Format


Videos To transfer information quickly
How-to-Demos/Simulations To teach practical application/hands-on practice
Whiteboard animations To introduce a concept or a process
Interactive PDFs Act as a quick reference tool
Quizzes Pre as well as post-assessment of learning/reinforcement of training

6. Adheres to a Mobile-First Design

Microlearning was intitially intended to complement formal training programs or offer performance support. But with the rise in the number of deskless workers, there’s a shift in the way training is designed and delivered. So microlearning is designed for both formal as well as informal learning experiences.

Did you know that 80% of the global workforce is deskless? Consider a scenario where a majority of your workforce turns to mobile devices to complete their learning activities. It makes sense to implement microlearning design for training modules that work perfectly on mobile devices, and do not consume much of the learners’ time in completing the training.

Is it possible to actually learn in such a short duration? Yes, it is but there are limitations. You need to keep in mind that microlearning design cannot be applied to all training programs.

7. Microlearning Provides Intuitive Access

If you are looking for specific information that’s required to complete a task at the workplace, microlearning design is the best option. Imagine searching for information in a training manual or even in a full-fledged eLearning course. It’s not easy to get information at your moment of need.

Keep a tab on information learners are searching for on your Learning Management System (LMS). You can design your microlearning modules around these search topics so that learners are able to access relevant information right when they need it.

For example, if learners are looking for information on the steps to take if they notice a lapse of safety procedures at the workplace, then a quick checklist delivered as a microlearning module might come in handy. What if learners are looking at how to troubleshoot a machine? A how-to-video might be just what’s needed. These are just a few instances, there are many more where you can think of for microlearning design as the right solution to provide just-in-time learning.

The popularity of microlearning design is on the rise and microlearning modules are already part of the training strategy in many organizations. According to the 2018 Microlearning Global Benchmark Report from Axonify, the top 5 areas where microlearning is used in corporate training is:

  • Product knowledge
  • Safety procedures
  • Sales skills
  • HR/Corporate culture
  • Customer service

If microlearning isn’t already part of your training strategy, perhaps it’s time you pay some thought to designing microlearning solutions. Our eBook Microlearning in your Training Framework: A How-to-Guide can help get started on microlearning design.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Where Does Microlearning Fit in Your Learning Strategy?