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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2019)

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A Microlearning Design Practice

By Yu-Ping Hsu and Ifedayo Kehinde, Western Illinois University

Figure 1.  "Microlearning" (by harishs on Pixabay on a Pixabay License)

The Concept of Microlearning

Cognitive load and the delivery of effective learning are mutually related in the field of Instructional Design and Technology (IDT). Assimilation of knowledge for a learner becomes an easy achievement when instruction is delivered in its simplest form. Microlearning (also written as micro-learning) is a learning delivery approach in the learning tasks are broken into tiny content designs.  Microlearning is also defined as training delivered in bits, at the same time giving learners the freedom to control what they are learning (Fox, 2016).  

Job and Ogalo (2012) gave a detailed definition to the microlearning concept:  

Microlearning is based on the idea of developing small chunks of learning content and flexible technologies that can enable learners to access them more easily in specific moments and conditions of the day, for example during breaks or while on the move.

As such, microlearning applies to instructional design work.  

Microlearning for IDT

The concept of microlearning first came into light in the early 2000s. It was introduced in response to the shortcomings of traditional and online learning methods. Traditional learning methods basically describes learning involving physical interaction between the instructor/teacher/trainer and the learner/students. The need to make learners access knowledge remotely gave rise to the concept online learning (or eLearning). Studies suggest that online learning is basically the digitization of traditional learning content thereby making knowledge available to learners outside the walls of the classroom. This is achievable using internet. Online learning made learning convenient and easily accessible. One needs to ask the salient question; “why do we need Microlearning?”. According to AllenComm (2016), the is a need to change the way learning is delivered for present day learners.

Research studies show that traditional and online learning do not possess the required strategies to keep up with present day learners. The average present-day learner tends to focus on learning a new skill or idea; only when the time for completion is short and the presentation is captivating. It is important to note that microlearning not only divides learning content into small chunks, also it provides feedback as well as high degree of interaction to the learner (Bruck et al,2012). AllenComm (2016) gave three components of Microlearning:

  1. Microlearning is targeted to a specific performance objective.
  2. Microlearning includes a focused learning activity. 
  3. Microlearning is usually part of a larger strategy.

Training Time

One of the distinguishing attributes of microlearning is the brief engagement required by the learner. Research has shown that a standardized time length of a typical microlearning is still a subject of content. It is misleading to refer to breaking of a long instructional video into bits as microlearning. Drakidou (2018) opines that the most important factors to be considered in developing microlearning content is brevity and precision; possessing the ability to stand alone as a sub-module. 

Workplace Performance

A solid agreement of microlearning is a technique that favors informal learning greatly. Studies how that adult learning is majorly informal; learners in this category seek knowledge to improve on their prior knowledge or to learn new skills entirely (Brebara, 2017; Souza & Amaral, 2014).  

An Example of Microlearning Design Practice

This practice focuses on two characteristics of microlearning.  One is comprehension and chunking.  The other one is mobile compatibility.  This practice design is Learn Learning Experience from a Microlearning Training Course in Mobile Environment for NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) e-Learning Program Manager.  This is a prototype of the project practice.  The prototype is presented in iSprint.  

The Design Process of the Practice

The design process of this practice involves six steps which are define the problems of the project, microlearning implementation, navigation plan, content design, interactivity design and testing (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The Design Process of this Practice

Define the Problem

The NATO e-Learning Program Manager must ensure that NATO designers clearly understand microlearning, its value, and have a clear plan for its design and development requirements.

This practice includes an overview of microlearning and an implementation project plan, with these components:

  • traditional training and e-learning courses
  • training time for workplace performance
  • mobile learning delivery formats and strategies

Microlearning Design Practice Prototype

Following initial screenshots provide the idea of the microlearning design project practice. 

The practice contains four modules.  Each module divides into a short and small content.  Learners spend a few minutes for each learning content (Figures 3 and 4).  

Figure 3. The Learning Objectives

Figure 4. The Introduction Page 

One module includes several small contents and self-evaluation.  Learners can learn and refresh the same knowledge in a minute. (Figure 5).  

Figure 5. The Learning Content and Self-Evaluation Design

The learning module can be viewed on a mobile device.  (Figure 6)  

Figure 6.   Going Mobile for Learning 


AllenComm. (2016). Microlearning techniques. Driving results by empowering learners. Salt Lake City, UT. Retrieved from

Brebera, P. (2017). Microlearning in Foreign Language Courses: A Threat or a Promise?. In European Conference on eLearning (pp. 85-93). Academic Conferences International Limited. Retrieved from Q/1?accountid=36196

Bruck, P. A., Motiwalla, L., & Foerster, F. (2012). Mobile Learning with Micro- content: A Framework and Evaluation. In Bled eConference (p. 527-543). Retrieved from https://domino.fov.uni-$FILE/P38_Bruck_35. Pdf

Drakidou C., (2018) Microlearning as an Alternative in lifelong eLearning.
Fox, A. (2016). Microlearning for effective performance management. Talent Development, 70(4), 116-117. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-

Souza, M. I. F., & Amaral, S. F. (2014). Educational microcontent for mobile learning virtual environments. Creative Education, 5(9), 672-681. doi: 10.4236/ce.2014.59079

About the Co-Authors

Yu-Ping Hsu is an assistant professor of the IDT program in the department of Engineering Technology at WIU.  She teaches courses in graphic applications, multimedia instructional design and development, performance technology, and internet resources for teaching and training. She was NNg certified user experience designer at Agile Technology Solutions, University of Kansas for 3+ years. Her research interest is in the area of user interaction design approaches to learning that emphasize multimedia, collaboration, emotional responses, information visualization, universal design and accessibility design.  She sees herself a multidisciplinary designer.  Her email is  

Ifedayo Kehinde is presently a graduate student in the Department of Instructional Design and Technology at Western Illinois University (WIU). He has a passion for the design of instructional content with the help of various graphics design softwares. Upon graduation, he plans to proceed for his PhD program, and he will like to focus on the aspect of Performance Improvement theory.  His email is  

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