Millennials and Microlearning

Learning, in some cases, has become less about retention and more about immediate application. As organizations strive to reduce the time between learning and applying, microlearning has become a popular technique to use. It allows learners to quickly move through content and then refresh their knowledge as needed while on the job.


Millennials are a complex group of individuals who are often stereotyped as a job-hopping generation with a disregard for traditional workplace norms. However, it is important not to categorize them too quickly regarding their needs for learning and development. Like their non-Millennial colleagues, these individuals have little time. They are masters of multi-tasking, and in order to reduce the “noise” of all the demands on their time, they tend to prioritize their tasks by asking “What’s In It For Me?”

Knowing this, how can we as learning and development professionals leverage their intense desire to produce while still enabling them with the knowledge and skills they need to do the job?

To begin, let’s explore two examples of how microlearning can be used, for Millennials as well as other learning audiences.

Example 1: Using Adaptive Learning to Facilitate Microlearning

Have you ever attended a training program that spent the first hour or two going over information that you already knew? An adaptive approach seeks to minimize disengagement by assessing up front what learners know and where there are knowledge gaps. This is appealing to learners as they are not forced to sit through large amounts of content that may not apply to the concept they’d like to learn about. By delivering micro nuggets of content in an adaptive platform, you can keep learners engaged and reduce the total amount of time spent in the learning environment.

Example 2: Incorporating Multimedia into Microlearning

Microlearning is not limited to video. Although video is popular, it does not satisfy every learning need, and it can get tiresome. Learners enjoy variety and tend to pay closer attention when activities vary in their cognitive demands. Break content down into micro chunks through activities such as discussion prompts, role play exercises, reflection questions, and 1:1 time with a manager or mentor. When each activity is designed as a stand-alone event, the learner no longer feels they are a captive audience and can move through the content at a pace that is comfortable for them.

There are a few guidelines to consider when designing microlearning:

  1. Keep the overall learning time for each activity to no more than 5-10 minutes.
  2. Be clear on what you expect learners to get out of the exercise.
  3. Set expectations at the beginning of the course.
  4. Allow for easy access to the content and multiple viewings.
  5. Recognize when microlearning is not an appropriate solution.

Microlearning requires careful planning and a focus on the overall learner experience for it to be successful. As learning and development professionals, we have an opportunity to take advantage of this natural learning style to reduce frustration and increase engagement within our learning audience.