Microlearning Webinar

I just attended The Microlearning Transformation: Understand How Behavior Change Really Works webinar presented by Alex Khurgin, Director of Learning at Grovo. This was a particularly timely and interesting topic for me, as I am aiming to create learning programs that are there when the learner needs them, easy to digest and remember (and use!), and able to be applied on the job (sticky learning). This webinar provided another method of creating learning in just this manner.

In this presentation, Alex covered Grovo’s process for designing microlearning. This is my overview of his presentation.


Focus on transformation, not information transfer. When learning works, it changes our brains; it changes who we are as people!

  • We should be aiming to turn people into the kind of people for whom reaching a goal is easy; not making a goal easy to achieve.
  • We should be changing how people think about what they do, which includes changing how someone thinks and changing what they do.
    • To change what people do, you must provide continual support for them to continue to do what they learned.
    • When you change how they think, you’re ensuring they can be flexible in decision-making regarding that topic in the future (vs. needing more training to accommodate novel scenarios).

How to Change Behaviors: Traditional Ways


  • Hope vs. Fear
  • Pain vs. Pleasure
  • Social Acceptance vs. Rejection

A-Ha! Moments – can change behavior, bypassing motivation

  • Make you feel smart
  • Small hacks with maximum impact
  • Help you understand (instead of know)



The third way to change behavior.

Weapons of Mass Instruction – Massive, event-based instruction (lectures, workshops, traditional delivery methods)

  • Cognitively Oppressive
    • Too much information at once
    • Overloads working memory
  • Out of Context
    • Instruction happens so far outside of relevant performance context – not useful
    • No reinforcement afterward with practice (no skill transfer)
  • Information-Based
    • About content
    • Purpose just to transfer facts/knowledge, which ignores room for experience, feedback, failure, reflection, practice

Microlearning is

  • Digestible
    • Designed to minimize excessive cognitive load
    • Working memory = five +/- 2 items
    • Each microlearning event is self-contained, short as possible, covers one topic
  • Provided at the point of need
    • Accessible right when you need it
      • Checklist to review prior to a one-on-one
      • 20 second video on how to extract wins from a quiet worker
  • Action-based, not information-based
    • Creating resources that help the learner perform actions
    • Structure learning programs around real objectives
    • Surround objectives with resources that help people accomplish objectives

Start with a Campaign

Set of daily lessons 2-3 weeks (up to 8 weeks). Helps someone achieve a behavior/inspirational change.


  • Getting into the Manager Mindset
  • Getting to Know your People

Campaigns are marketed: Launch video gets learners excited.

  • Introduces aspirational outcome.
  • Includes a trailer about what’s coming/what to expect.
  • Can also tell people not involved in campaign because everyone will benefit – gets everyone excited and on-board and expecting behavior changes.

Create Objectives of Campaign

You have an aspirational outcome – single, big behavior for campaign…

  • Objectives are actions/sub-behaviors someone would need to perform to indicate that the campaign goal is happening.
  • Completion of objectives = transfer of learning to real world.
  • Must be small enough to to measurable and large enough to be meaningful.
  • Easily interpreted by c-suite. Concrete measurement. Not subjective.

Getting to know your people = meaningful, but not small enough to be measurable.

Meaningful and measurable objectives to meet campaign objective (can say “Yes” or “No” to each objective):

  • Have weekly one-on-one conversations with all your direct reports = meaningful and measurable.
  • Have a “love and loathe” conversation with all your direct reports = meaningful and measurable.


Develop Learning Resources

Once you have campaign objectives, develop learning resources surrounding each objective using the KESHA model (if you’re not “in” with new-ish music, KESHA is a contemporary artist).

  • Knowledge
  • Environment
  • Skills
  • Habits
  • Attitudes

If the objective is for managers to have one-on-ones weekly, you need to develop learning resources for each of these:

  • Knowledge
    • Weekly
    • Longer than 45 mins (prob an hour)
    • Rough flow (start with wins, move to frustrations, projects, feedback)
    • Happen in certain place
    • Schedule it this way, etc.
  • Environment
    • May need a Google calendar to schedule
    • Manager must have time available consistently
    • Make available a performance report
    • Make available a checklist for time of need (when the manager is ready to conduct the one-on-one)
  • Skills
    • How to get someone to think positively/talk progress vs frustration
    • A few scenarios spaced out over time
  • Habits
    • 1 on 1 useless unless done regularly
    • Reminders
  • Attitude
    • For the continued psychological safety of each of your reports.
    • They have an hour of your time each week…not gonna bother you throughout week…not ad hoc because that can be invasive
    • Provide attitude WIIFM at beginning – here’s why important

Daily Lessons (5-10 Minutes)

Focus on objectives in daily 5-10 minute lessons.

Daily lessons:

  • Emphasize experience of learning/making progress everyday
  • Practice, reinforce, reference

How Objectives are arranged into lessons

  • Start with A-ha! lesson
    • Have right attitude
    • Initial knowledge
  • Elaboration
    • Examples
    • Counterexamples
  • How to
    • Concretely showing how to do
  • Guided Practice
    • Start practicing with some guided scenarios
  • Practice (Lessons 5, 6, 7)
    • Try scenarios
    • Use performance support to try new skills in variety of situations

Natural spacing/flow of lessons:

  • Introduction
  • Review previous lesson
  • Give current lesson
  • Preview next lesson

Everything the learner gets is seen three times.  This gives the learner time to sleep in between and consolidate memories.

Each lesson ends with cue card:

  • Small action.
  • Takes less than 2 minutes to do.
  • Feels like a win.
  • Reinforces learning.
  • Transfers lesson to real-world immediately after.
  • Cue (trigger) – behavior – reward = value to learner in the learning experience.
  • Example: E-mail one of your reports right now. Praise/recognize them for something they did last week.

Stories Supercharge Your Campaigns

Stories help us remember things better. Our brains react differently to stories than just “information.” We understand them better.

Use stories at beginning of campaign to tell what’s going on in the campaign.

“I used to be a terrible manager…but one thing I learned is that…management is a skill just like any other thing…there’s a set of things great managers embody that enables success are: modeling growth mindset strategies, using motivation strategies, and as people are growing and are motivated, knowing how to talk to them and give feedback along the way…”

Helps engage people; bring them in; help them connect/relate.

Feature role models in your organization. Tell their stories. Allow them to contribute as an example (or non-example). This helps people see role models everywhere.

  • A role model is someone that excels at a particular behavior, not someone who is perfect at everything.
  • Focus in on the behavior when looking for role models.
  • Natural social learning will happen when you know someone in your org is good at a particular behavior – you can seek them out for guidance/insight on that specific behavior.

Microlearning Boosters

Fold motivation/A-ha! moments into microlearning:

We give learners objectives to accomplish and this, when done well, will increase their interest/engagement, but this only gets you so far…s

In order to truly engage and create effective learner, we need to be there with campaigns at the moment people are MOST motivated – when they NEED and are LOOKING FOR resources and are willing to change behaviors:

  • When they start new job,
  • become a manager,
  • interview a candidate for the first time,
  • give their first presentation, etc.

When they need to learn something, they are already motivated and vulnerable, and are willing to change a bunch of behaviors at once. This is a very clever motivation hack.

Additionally, be mindful of a-ha! moments. These should be at the center of instructional content.

  • Identify one most interesting perspective on a topic. Tell a story on it. Have an expert passionately explain it.
  • Surprise learners with unusual scenarios.
  • Create tension.
  • Create puzzles and conundrums
  • Have experts give a different perspective
  • Tell stories that may not relate at first, then A-ha! that’s the connection.

New mindset

Microlearning can help create a new mindset for your learners:

  • Gives learners a growth mindset:
    • A framework/way of thinking about topic
  • Gives learners confidence in their incremental progress toward objectives that make up big aspirational goal
  • Provides learners a mindset about learning itself
    • Provides metacognitive skills
    • Lets them be aware that there’s a way they’re learning
    • Allows them to model better learning strategies, become a better learner


CEU credits: HRCI: 285666 SHRM: 17-QT5KL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s