Short & microlearning

18 Sep 2019 9:43 PM | Rance Greene

I sat in a large crowded room with about 150 other talent development professionals who'd joined the conference for industry know-how and to get their finger on the pulse of what was…new. The speaker was incredibly gifted. He was touting a way of learning that was…new. And sharing special knowledge with us that was supposedly cutting edge stuff. It was the first time I'd heard a speaker stand on stage and inform everyone that we had the attention span of a goldfish. I looked around the room. "Does everybody believe that?" I thought. I mean, really. If we had such minuscule attention spans, why are we all still in this room after thirty-five minutes? The special knowledge the speaker shared with us is that because of this well-established fact (our brains are suddenly not being able to focus for longer than 8 seconds) there was a…new…panacea for learning that would solve all of our problems. It's called…microlearning!


That this particular speaker was more than a little misinformed goes without saying. That his microlearning company was benefiting from all of this misinformation was without question. For years, we've been bombarded with proposed definitions of exactly what microlearning is. It's a video. It's less than 5 minutes. It's mobile. It's a job aid. Hm…so what is it? And when is it appropriate for learning solutions?

Wonder know more. Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice have written a (short) book that gives us a logical and useful understanding of the sometimes misunderstood delivery method of microlearning. What I love about Microlearning Short and Sweet is that it begins with an answer to the basic question of: "What is it?" I also appreciate the explanation of what it's not. Yay for non-examples! I'd like to share a few nuggets from this particular list of non-examples:


Microlearning is not:

  • New. Get out! Yes, it's true that we've been training others how to do specific skills in short bursts for…well, for time immemorial. Technology has provided new possibilities for delivering that training, but the concept is time-tested.
  • Shrunken head learning. Ha! We'll just take this one hour course and chop it up into 20 five minute pieces, cause that'll work! Actually, no. No it won't. Karl explains this nicely in a video. It's only 1:41. It must be microlearning.
  • Right for every learning solution. Yes, if you're still designing half day leadership sessions, you don't have to live with the guilt that you haven't converted it to 8 minutes anymore.

Karl and Robyn bring their expertise in instructional design to bear on how microlearning fits with learning principles. When should microlearning be considered as a viable delivery method? How do you create a microlearning strategy? How do you plan and create microlearning? How do you design it? How do you measure it? It's a tour of the instructional design process through the lens of microlearning. If you are a seasoned or new-to-industry professional that feel microlearning may be the right solution for your learning programs, Microlearning Short and Sweet is a great resource. It's over 160 pages, so it probably doesn't qualify for microlearning, but it's a quick read..and it's sweet!


As many of you know, Karl Kapp is our 2020 SWLS keynote! 97% of SWLS attendees indicated that they will return next year, so that leaves very few spots open. We sold out this year and expect to do the same in 2020. Lock in this year's rates by registering before September 30. If you've missed that date, go ahead and register to reserve your spot to hear the best thought leadership in Dallas, the talent development capital of the world!


Last month you heard from a couple of our SWLS concurrent speakers who had an amazing experience. Here's a great story from a new friend, Trey Talley, I met through ATD Dallas who is brand new to talent development. He came to SWLS and wrote this great recap of his experience. Everything below, including the subtitles, are his.


“Have I made a horrible mistake?”

I began to wonder if leaving behind fifteen years of experience in one career to launch a new career in talent development at almost forty years old was reckless. I’d been certain that my extensive experience teaching and training plus a graduate degree in Education would open doors for me and it was exciting. However, that excitement faded when door after door closed. Each job application was followed by a cordial rejection or deafening silence. I couldn’t decide which was worse. Both were a gut punch. After a flurry of these, my hope was on the ropes. I was ready to throw in the towel.


“I don’t want to talk about it.”

I began to dread, and even avoid, conversations with my friends and family. They wanted to know I had landed on my feet and I didn’t want them to know I’d only landed on my face. Metaphor can be just as painful as the real thing. I felt like I was at an impasse. Uncertain whether I was at a dead end or simply in need a sherpa who knew the terrain to lead me forward, I turned to the all-powerful-cosmic-answer-machine: the internet.


“Am I going to fit in here?”

I honestly can’t remember how ended up on the ATD Dallas website. Regardless, my digital stumbling resulted in joining the chapter. Before my first special interest group meeting, I remember questioning whether I would fit in here. I wondered if I’d feel like an outsider since I was new to the industry. Those thoughts weren’t allowed to linger. Immediately after the meeting, someone introduced himself because his path into talent development was similar to mine. Shortly after this, at my first chapter meeting, I had a similar experience. These two individuals continue to generously share their wisdom and regularly serve as champions for me. Beyond these two individuals, ATD Dallas has become a community where I fit in.


“You’re doing what on your birthday?”

According to some, waking up at 4:30am to volunteer at and attend a professional conference is a strange way to celebrate turning 40 years old. While they are probably right, I loved every minute of the Southwest Learning Summit this year. Working alongside the other volunteers and conference committee members was a pure joy. Talking with fellow attendees in line or before classes and hearing their stories was a privilege. And lastly, meeting people from companies I sent applications to has started to open doors that were once closed. I can’t think of better birthday presents than those.  


Thanks to ATD Dallas, I have a community of support and resources. Thanks to SWLS, those closed doors are starting to open. Though I haven’t yet accepted my first job in talent development, I’m again excited by my decision to launch a new career in talent development.


Start the countdown. I’m prepared for lift off.

Nice story writing, Trey! SWLS causes no small stir. It's a big deal to a lot of people. Can't wait to see you there!

Coming up on September 30, join the Career Development SIG to hear our own master presenter and networking natural, Sally Luttrell for "Presenting Your Best Self When Networking Face-to-Face". And on October 22, we'll gather for dinner and decay. No, actually decay resistance. You're familiar with the learning decay curve. Michael Torie will show you how to curb the curve. Friends, food and no decay. What could be more fun?


Thank you to the corporations who submitted for an AXIS Award! Judging has begun! I encourage all ATD Dallas volunteers and Dallas area corporate learning departments to join us for a night of celebrating you on December 3 for our annual gala! Recognize and be recognized for the innovative work done by Dallas talent development professionals!


If you're convinced that story-writing for instruction is a competency you want to master, I welcome you to join my online workshop--Story Design--for three action-packed online sessions that will equip you to discover, design and deliver stories for instruction. October 28, November 4 & 11. ATD Dallas members get a discount, naturally!


Each of our in-person events are touch points, short and sweet…like microlearning, but members can continue the self-development and the conversations using your own ATD Dallas Degreed account. And if you like more in-person encounters, volunteer and build a deep and lasting network among some of the best professionals in the industry. Or, if you're brand new to ATD Dallas, like Trey, join me and the Membership team for the New Member Meetup on November 13 at I Love Pho, 75 & Forest, in Dallas at 11:30. Let us know you're coming by emailing!


Let's summarize:

  • Microlearning is not a fad. It's a legitimate delivery method for learning. Buy Karl and Robyn's book to delve in and utilize it's power.
  • SWLS rocks the house and you should register now.
  • Trey writes a very nice story.
  • Meet up with ATD Dallas people frequently to maximize your member benefits (aka - Access. Recognition. Expertise). It's who we A.R.E. 


Rance Greene

ATD Dallas, President

September 26, 2019




  • 25 Sep 2019 1:08 PM | Karl Kapp
    Thanks so much for being a stop on our virtual book tour. We had a lot of fun reading your review and I am really looking forward to keynoting next year. Thanks for the invite! We'll talk about microlearning and some other goodies while I am there. Thanks again, Karl
  • 03 Oct 2019 10:17 AM | Brad White
    Thanks Rance. Great message and I appreciate the intellectual honesty, and not just accepting things without thinking for yourself. That's a very underutilized skill in this age.


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