How to build microlearning

7 steps to a right-fit learning experience

I simply define “microlearning” as learning that fits. I explored the WHYS behind microlearning in this post. Now I’d like to share my experience with the HOWs.

In my session “More Than Micro – Designing Learning That Fits,” I break down the process I have been using for several years to devise strategies and construct learning experiences that better fit the needs of the employee. Here’s the full presentation.

The process for building effective microlearning is rooted in 2 fundamental frameworks.


The Outcome Model

Too many learning interventions begin with a solution in mind. This can be due to a variety of factors, including limited tactics and design experience. To establish a clear connection between a learning intervention and a business outcome, you must begin with the end in mind and “work backwards.”
Outcome-based approach to learning
The Outcome Model is a simple method for guiding you “from end to beginning” in the solution design process. To apply an outcome-focused approach, you must collaborate with subject matter experts to answer critical questions before deciding on a solution:

  1. What is the measurable business goal you want to achieve?
  2. What will employees need to do differently in order to achieve this goal?
  3. What knowledge, skills and abilities are required to enable this behavior?

This process will help you narrow the focus of your chosen solution and target only knowledge and behaviors that are required to reach your goal. It will also help you reduce the volume of content needed, resulting in the short-form material that is often referred to as microlearning.


The Modern Learning Ecosystem Framework

To fit learning into the work experience, you must leverage an expanded set of training and support options – beyond the traditional course. Once the components of the Outcome Model have been identified, the Modern Learning Ecosystem Framework can help you determine the right tactics to apply and the right content to build.

Modern framework for learning

This framework applies a “layered approach to learning,” working from the bottom up to provide just the right amount of support structure and availability based on the identified need. The tactics within each layer will vary by organization, but the same considerations should be evaluated when deciding on how much of the framework should be applied.

  • Context: When, where and how will content be used to close the knowledge and behavior gaps? Each layer supports different employee contexts.
  • Criticality: The worse the impact of failure, the higher up you should go. 
  • Complexity: The more complex the topic, the higher up you should go.
  • Content: Content strategy must be reimagined as part of the framework, as critical information must be continuously available and not locked in structured learning materials. 
  • Motivation: Employees must be engaged and motivated to drive their own learning, especially within the foundational layers.
  • Behavior: Reaching the desired outcome will required behavior change, which must be measured as part of the framework application.
  • Data: Measurement practices must expand beyond completions and test scores to determine the effectiveness and potential gaps within each layer. 

Layers can be combined to strengthen the overall learning strategy. The foundational layers (shared knowledge and performance support) should be considered for all topics.


How to Apply and Build Right-Fit Experiences

Once these 2 fundamental concepts have been implemented, follow these steps to put them together and build the right-fit learning experience.

  1. Identify the audience. This is a bit of chicken/egg with step #2. Regardless, you must define exactly who within the organization will require support to drive knowledge and behavior change.
  2. Define the measurable outcome. Work with SMEs to define the MEASURABLE goal along with exactly HOW the outcome will be measured.
  3. Define the desired behavior(s). Work backwards through the Outcome Model to determine the behavior change needed to bring about the desired goal.
  4. Define the required knowledge. Continue working backwards to identify the knowledge needed to enable the required behavior change.
  5. Determine content considerations. Transition into the Modern Learning Ecosystem Framework by evaluating considerations such criticality and complexity for the identified knowledge and behavior change.
  6. Select your framework layer(s). Work bottom-up on the ecosystem framework and select on the layers required to drive the required change.
  7. Build right-fit content. Only now can you start to build content using tactics within the selected framework layers.

By following these steps, you can create a consistent, scalable approach to developing right-fit support that can grow with your organization and fit your business’ evolving needs.


Do you have a process for building right-fit learning and support experiences? How does this process vary from or build upon traditional instructional methodologies? 

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