What to Do About MicroLearning?

Ah, we finally have a new buzzword. I got the standard email yesterday: “We’ve got to do something about <insert buzzword here>” The buzzword of the day is “MicroLearning.” We’ve been talking about “chunking” content for years without getting much traction but dressed up in a new, more grown-up word, it gets taken more seriously. That’s cool. It’s still a good concept. People don’t have time for epic courses. By breaking down content into smaller “micro” parts, they are easier to consume in a hurry and they can be targeted to the right people, the right task and the right delivery channel.

There’s a problem though. It was always lurking behind the chunking conversation. Our current process for delivering learning content: The LMS via SCORM is too heavy handed for the scale we will be working in. Imagine that launching a course takes longer than actually doing the course. Imagine that loading many SCORM based microlearnings into an LMS being more cumbersome than it is worth. How do we track these things in a reasonable manner?

Here are some options:


In the LMS you can load the url for the content and let the user click complete when they are done. This is the simplest idea and I always defer to the simplest but it may not meet your stakeholder’s standards for data integrity.


The Experience API (a.k.a. Tin Can, xAPI) has the advantage of sending data to a database when the learner takes an action rather than forcing the learner to launch the content from the LMS like SCORM does. This would simplify the process but you would have to build a process to insert xAPI calls into your content and figure out how to get the data back into the LMS.

Track the Assessment

Load only the final assessment for a group of microlearnings into the LMS. In this way you are only tracking the successful completion of the quiz as evidence of the learning achieved through the microlearnings. The microlearnings themselves then become supporting material that the learner can launch at will. This is probably the ideal solution but I do have one more trick up my sleeve.


I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Think about a video game with rooms and levels. If you run though the rooms as fast as you can, you won’t beat the level. You need to take something from each room, a key of sorts into the last room to win. How can we apply this to microlearning? Imagine that at the end of each microlearning you are given a key, a badge, a code, that you enter in the right place in the last module. Collecting all the keys gives you a passing score and that is sent back to the LMS. This brings us closer to the idea of experiential learning.

What are your plans for MicroLearning?

Check out my friend Tom Spiglanin’s post on this topic.

7 thoughts on “What to Do About MicroLearning?

  1. I think your question of finding, chaining MicroLearning are perfectly appropriate but why closing the perspective to the LMS or xAPI. These things have been build in the past with a very narrow horizon they may very well not be around before long. One should get outside of the building (the LMS) and think again instead of thinking from within and later complaining of the limitations and lack of innovation of L&D. It’s like in IT we were still thinking in term of client/server or mainframe/terminals at the time of Internet Of Things, mobile and web.

    FYI Next #PKMChat is on this topic of composing Microstuff.

  2. Hi Bruno, thanks for the comment. You make good points about the viability of the LMS but it isn’t going away soon. Until it does we have this monolithic infrastructure that measures reach. For our stakeholders that’s what they want for now. I think the stranglehold of the LMS will loosen slowly over time by people like us circumventing its control with xAPI and other techniques. Hopefully the LMS will evolve into something sustainable and value creating. Here’s a post I did about the topic: https://weisblatt.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/it-should-be-called-a-participation-management-system/

    • I’m really questionned by how the L&D community live with this LMS. It’s a like a prison imposed to you by people we never meet in any forum, chat, blogpost. IMHO it’s a very much self imposed limitation. Both promoting the use and complaining about it.

      BTW I read your post last year and already commented it last year very much in the same mindset. I’m consistent in my views.

      If you follow xAPI you will note that I voiced my opinion on the process as well. Strange enough few people seem interested to spend time and apply critical thinking to it. It will be more confortable to complain about it later and call it a useless stranglehold imposed to you afterward.

  3. Pingback: Microlearning: Fab or Fad? | Tom Spiglanin

  4. Bruno – I read your comments with interest. In my conversations with L&D professionals inside and outside my network, few are arguing the unnecessary inflexibility and jail-like design of the standard Learning Management System. I do believe it will be, and has to be, learning professionals who need to take action to demand simplicity and viability in an overly complex mechanism. We do this by not buying into the argument that more is more. This is where we are at fault, without question. We allow ourselves to be sold sub-par, overly complex, overly promised and under delivered, products. We fail to research and test for UI and UX. We then have the nerve to act all shocked and amazed when the product fails with flames.

    Now, that being said – I do not believe the LMS is on its death bed. It may be dying in its current iteration but its not gone by a long shot. This is why – and it’s simple, forget business needs or the need of every risk manager and HR dinosaur to have data – the need is, and will be driven by, the government and in this we have no input. As long as the government requires compliance training for subjects ranging from ADA to OSHA, and as long as they are wielding a big $$ penalty stick, there will be a need for a measurement devise of some sort.

    What Adam is saying is grounded in this reality. We have to juggle the now with future (or present). Micro-learning is a key element in performance support and it has to be juggled with an organizational requirement for an LMS. Just as with any process, there is a time to stop and start over – and I do believe the time regarding the LMS process of 1982, is well upon us. This is not to be confused with throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The baby needs its bath, but the right bath for its needs.

    • I got your point Shannon, regarding the compliance training. I agree that some type of recording will continue to take place but
      – Only for some category of people and jobs
      – Only for some of the trainings they do
      – Only some data needs to be kept

      Teaching people to use a software, teaching people to do microlearning, teaching them do build web pages, to cook delicious meals are all outside of this requirement and could set themselves free of this.

      What I realize based on what you say is that these regulations have been used as trojan horses by LMS promoters.

      I can very well see cases where learning experience are not supported by an LMS at all and just feed some necessary data to an LMS as an option via a web service. It would fit regulatory requirements while leaving a total freedom of inventing new things.

      What I criticize is the closed world approach. Whatever ideas come forth, trying to find the negative argument: what could block it or reasons to continue to do as was always, or continue to rely on those who supplied SCORM and LMS for innovation and freedom to innovate. Reminds me how bookstores reacted against Amazon, Record industry against MP3 and streaming, Taxis against Uber.

      For me problems are just opportunities to innovate and disrupt, not obstacles. Let’s be creative.

  5. Pingback: #PKMChat 2017-02-01 Use cases of Microlearning | #PKMChat

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