Leveraging Microlearning for Professional Development and Continuing Education

BY Jeff Cobb

Microlearning for professional development and continuing education represents one of the biggest current trends and opportunities for organizations in the business of lifelong learning. This article provides an overview and examples of microlearning for professional development.

Microlearning for Professional Development - photo of group of people around table, all focused on different mobile devices

The additional posts in this series are:

Definition of Microlearning

In contrast to traditional educational experiences, which tend to be designed in 50 to 90 minute units, microlearning experiences may last anywhere from a few seconds – the time it might take to answer a quiz question, for example – to roughly 15 to 20 minutes – the time it might take to watch a video, for example. While microlearning does not necessarily imply online learning – pecha kucha, for example, can be considered a form of microlearning – Internet and mobile technologies have certainly made creating and accessing microlearning experiences dramatically easier.  The explosion of smart phone and tablet usage – along with, many argue, shrinking attention spans – have set the stage for microlearning to become a major force. (Depending on who is talking, you may also hear microlearning described as “nanolearning.”)

The follow table from “Microlearning: a strategy for ongoing professional development” suggests some of the key differences between microlearning and traditional “macrolearning.”


Microlearning for Professional Development: Readings

I recommend reviewing the following resources prior to attending the session. Given that the session is only one hour, and we have other topics to cover, I will not spend a lot of time discussing the history of microlearning or how microlearning works.

Microlearning for Professional Development: Examples

  • 10 Minute CPE – While there’s not yet anything to link to (as far as I know) the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) recently sought and received approval from the state board of accountancy for issuing continuing professional education (CPE) in 10 minute increments. “Nanolearning” will be a significant part of the organization’s education strategy moving forward. The same is true of the Ohio Society of CPAs. Check our our interview with their VP of learning, Josh Goldman.
  • MOCA Minute – MOCA Minute® is an interactive learning tool the American Board of Anesthesiology began piloting in 2014 to help diplomates prepare for the MOCA exam. It consists of multiple-choice questions like those typically presented on MOCA exams.
  • Common Sense Consulting – A year long subscription series of five minute videos to help consultants up their game.  I like this example because the execution is so simple: the only technologies involved are a video camera, an e-mail list, and unlisted YouTube URLs
  • Coursmos – A start-up that provides a platform for creating, publishing, and selling micro courses. (This, by the way, is an example of the market maker business model I have argued associations should embrace.)
  • Fractus Learning – An example of a commercial company aiming specifically for a niche professional development market with bite-size content.

(More to come – and if you have other examples, please send them!)

Microlearning for Professional Development: Tools

Just as I have said with MOOCs and flipped learning, microlearning does not necessarily require fancy new technology. Many organizations already have access to some of the most common tools  – e.g., a video camera and/or screen capture software, an account with YouTube or another video hosting providers, and social tools like Twitter or a listserv for distributing links and providing interaction.

Whether you need to move beyond relatively common, basic tools depends to a large extent on how much control you need over the way microlearning experiences are distributed and what you need to track. If you do need relatively significant control, then you may need a learning management system (LMS).  Given that so much microlearning content is delivered over mobile devices, you will want to make sure that any LMS you considered is truly mobile capable – meaning the LMS environment and navigation adapt to small screens, and learner activity can be tracked to the same degree that it would with laptop or desktop usage. You may also want to determine whether the LMS provider has implemented or plans to implement the Tin Can API, as suggested in this eLearningIndustry article on tracking microlearning.

As might be expected, companies are beginning to emerge that promote their platforms as supporting microlearning. Grovo is one example. EdApp is another.

Finally, microlearning lends itself very well to “spaced education.” an approach to learning that stresses repetition and reinforcement of learning activities over time. Organizations serious about spaced learning may want to look at specialized platforms offered by companies like MindSetterMindMarker, and BoosterLearn.


P.S. – You may also be interested in this brief video on microlearning pros and cons.

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  1. Tom Hood says:


    Thanks for shout out. We have official published regulations approving our ten minute increments and expect to start offering 10 minute CPE programming in spring, 2015. We are also working on several other ‘nano’ learning projects involving social medial we have also issues our first badges for our Leadership Academy. I am sorry I was unable to be at ASAE Tech in person this year.

  2. Jeff Cobb says:

    Thanks for providing us with a good example, Tom. I always look forward to seeing what MACPA has coming next! – Jeff

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