How Microlearning Benefits Your L&D Strategy


For years, there’s been debate within Learning & Development circles regarding the topic of microlearning – even the very definition of what it is has been open for discussion. Despite this debate, or perhaps because of it, “microlearning” has become a buzzword in workplace learning, and today we’re joined by JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect for Axonify, and the Principal + Founder of LearnGeek. Here, he explains:

  • How he defines microlearning;
  • How microlearning plays into human nature and the ways we learn;
  • The myth of "short attention spans"; and
  • The reality and value of creating engaging content!

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What Is Microlearning?

  • The concept of microlearning really comes down to a couple of basic principles:
    • As humans, we can only take in so much information and retain that information effectively. 
    • People are often very busy and lack the time needed for the robust learning and development needed to progress personally and professionally.
  • Microlearning is essentially “learning that fits.”
    • This method of L&D stems directly from scientific principles about how humans most effectively learn and retain information, which is via repeated instances of smaller bits of information.
    • Microlearning delivers effective learning experiences in shorter increments that match our limitations as humans. 
  • The timing, methodology, and content of the microlearning experience all play a role in its effectiveness. It is more than just delivering smaller bits of information as an L&D strategy.


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The Rise Of Technology in L&D

  • Just like it does for almost every other aspect of life, technology enables people to have quick and easy access to information and digital resources.
  • Technology also allows for better opportunities to reach people that fit into their everyday working lives and schedules.
  • The methods in which training and L&D are delivered have been drastically changed by the rise of smartphones and other forms of technology.
    • Access has never been easier and more accessible than it is now, and the days of the eight-hour training session are now likely a thing of the past.
  • Microlearning and technology allow for quick hires and quick training to get new people up to speed as soon as possible.
    • Microlearning allows organizations to reach people at the right time as opposed to the time they are “permitted to” learn.

Human Nature

  • Contrary to everything we see today that claims attention spans are getting shorter due to the nature of information consumption on the internet, etc., humans naturally have great attention spans because we retain what is most important. 
  • With longer courses, the challenge is keeping people engaged for as long as possible.
    • The answer to this issue is not to break it up into smaller parts, it is to deliver value in those sections of the course.
    • If training content is not designed to be of value for the entire duration, people will lose interest.
    • The training should also help people quickly solve a problem. If it doesn’t people will quickly turn their attention to other resources that will solve that problem. 
  • Often there is too much emphasis placed on perceived attention spans as opposed to the true value of the content being delivered. 

Measuring Successful Microlearning

  • Everything begins with the reasoning behind the L&D program.
    • What is the issue we are trying to fix?
    • What skill(s) are we missing?
  • The goal is to achieve a measurable outcome.
    • How do we measure that outcome?
    • How does that outcome apply to the strategy moving forward?

Methods Of Microlearning Delivery

  • With so many methods of L&D delivery, it can be difficult to pinpoint what the best methods are.
  • With microlearning, it is all about what method fits best into your workflows and what will deliver the most value. 
    • The scale and speed of the delivery are also important to consider.
      • A company with 40 employees will likely require a different style of delivery compared to a company with 40,000 employees.
  • The methods used should be integrated into the working experience, not a computer behind the locked door of a manager’s office that to use, an employee would have to stop their normal workflow. 

Considering Your Entire L&D Strategy

  • Your strategy should be viewed as a “toolbox” where different tools are utilized for different challenges. Ideally, we should be utilizing every tool in the toolbox simultaneously to overcome challenges.
  • The underlying principles and concepts of those L&D tools should be what stands out, not the method of delivery that fits a particular situation.
  • In-depth L&D experiences will always have a greater impact than simply an L&D experience that only fits the situation. Each “tool” in the toolbox should provide a robust and meaningful experience.
  • Microlearning allows these meaningful L&D experiences to be continuous as opposed to only being utilized when they become glaringly necessary to solve an issue.
  • Microlearning is by no means a replacement for a larger-scale L&D program. We are simply shifting the way L&D strategy is implemented throughout the workplace. 


  • LearnGeek helps organizations to develop and execute successful L&D strategies.
  • Mr. Dillon works with organizations via consulting and presentations to help them rethink the shape, scale, and evolution of their L&D strategies. 
    • If there is a new challenge an organization is facing, LearnGeek will help develop and implement an L&D strategy that not only works to take that challenge head-on, but also fits into the organization’s workflows so the experience is productive and efficient.
  • LearnGeek also has a bi-annual “hype cycle” for L&D trends.
    • This industry assessment discusses many of the new and trendy L&D strategies that may seem easier to implement or execute than they really are, or vice-versa.
    • It allows people to see what new strategies might work for their organization or workflow better than another. 

Axonify’s Report On Frontline Work Experience

  • Every year, the Axonify team goes out and talks directly to the frontline workforce to get a sense of what the experience is like along with what is working and what is not working for these employees when it comes to evolving the workplace. 
    • Oftentimes, these workers tend to be underserved.
  • Last year's report was focused on the beginning stages of the pandemic and how effectively frontline employees were being supported as the pandemic began.
    • They discovered information like “45% of frontline workers decided to leave their job.”
      • The biggest reason for this was not compensation, it was burnout. 
    • Burnout is a dangerous factor for companies because it directly relates to turnover, and is also largely preventable with the right implementation of workplace flexibility and L&D opportunities. 
  • In Axonify’s report, they aim to take everything learned by talking to frontline workers about their everyday working experience and match those findings up with case studies that can provide best practices or proven practices around how the working experience can be improved.
  • Check out Axonify’s reports and resources here.

JD Dillon Background

  • BA in Communication & Marketing from the University of Central Florida
  • MBA from Kaplan University (now Purdue University Global)
  • Mr. Dillon has worked as an HR Professional for over 20 years with companies such as AMC Theatres, Walt Disney World, and Brambles.
  • He is the Founder & Principal at LearnGeek, an independent practice that provides advising and educational services to organizations and professionals that want to provide better workplace learning and support experiences for their employees.
  • He is also the Chief Learning Architect at Axonify, an award-winning team of software developers and learning specialists based in Ontario, Canada.


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