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The ‘Short & Sweet’ of Microlearning

September 19, 2019 • Steve Hoechster

The GamEffective Blog editor had the distinct pleasure of spending time recently with two giants of the learning and development world, Karl M. Kapp and Robyn A. Defelice The purpose was to discuss their new book, Microlearning: Short & Sweet.

As the authors say, microlearning is instruction that provides a short engagement in an activity intentionally designed to elicit a specific outcome from the participant. Microlearning is able to target specific performance outcomes by engaging with and motivating the participant.

To give a sense of how influential both have been, If their credentials and accomplishments were listed here, there’d be no space left to share the key portions of our conversation. Yes. They’re that important. Here are the highlights.


Editor:  First, congratulations on your new book. We are especially taken by the case study that cites the GamEffective platform. In the book, and true to form, you go beyond the theoretical and offer ways to put microlearning into use to good effect. About the title. What are you trying to communicate with the phrase “Short & Sweet?”

Kapp:  If done correctly, the person receiving the microlearning gets a short piece of content, and, when done right, it directly addresses their immediate learning need. That’s sweet, especially when compared to an eight-hour lecture or two-hour eLearning module.

When creating anything that is short, precise and to-the-point, careful thought and consideration are required to do it right. So the development of microlearning isn’t necessarily short or sweet. It’s hard work. But why spend time creating microlearning if you’re going to do it incorrectly? We explain how and why by not cutting corners in microlearning development yields sweet dividends.

Defelice:  The term “Short & Sweet” typically means “get to the point,” and in our book we do just that. Microlearning is a topic that has prompted folks like us to author dozens, if not hundreds, of books and articles. In the case of “Microlearning: Short & Sweet,” readers will find a focused examination that will be useful for seasoned trainer as well as the novice.


Editor:  What do you hope people take away from this book?

Defelice:  I’d hope someone who reads the book gains a foundational knowledge of microlearning. More importantly, after reading it, someone should be able to apply the use cases we offer to help achieve their own organization’s performance needs. And, by extension, they gain clarity on planning and managing the design and implementation of microlearning methods or products.

Kapp: Let me add to that a desire for the designer of microlearning to know how to do it right; that they have the confidence to create an effective and impactful microlearning. If we accomplish one thing with this book it would be to make microlearning seem less intimidating. That it can be done with a little bit of planning and critical thinking. And, when done right, it makes all the difference.


Editor:  What’s driving the interest in microlearning?

Kapp:  I think it’s the convergence of three factors. First, there is a huge push to do “more with less,” so microlearning is a way to embed learning into the workflow so it’s not disruptive to the employee’s productivity. Second, technology, like smartphones, adaptive systems, and ubiquitous internet connection makes it easier than ever to make microlearning accessible. Third, people are rediscovering that small, targeted pieces of learning are better for recall and retention than hours and hours of lectures or instruction. The convergence of these three items makes it highly attractive to organizations.

Defelice:  Based on organizations I’ve worked with there is keen interest in microlearning. Generally speaking, their main challenge is getting clarity on what microlearning is, plus what the vision for its use. And that’s yet another reason for reading our new book.


Editor:  What makes microlearning work best?

Kapp: Microlearning works best when the right type is applied to the right desired outcome. We identify six types of microlearning in the book, and discuss when each type should be used. We believe that as someone designs the instruction, matching the right design with the right deliver method is critical.

Editor:  What needs to happen for microlearning to become more widespread across an organization?

Defelice: For those that have implemented microlearning, they need make sure they gather data that shows how and what the microlearning is impacting; whether negative or positive. This data makes for a more compelling argument that it has an effect. Additionally, for those that have collected data, they need to analyze that information to determine effectiveness and opportunities to continue current microlearning efforts or expand its use.


“Microlearning: Short & Sweet” can be ordered from Amazon, here.

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