Monday, March 12, 2018

3 Examples of Microlearning Lesson Storyboards - Tip #172

One of the challenges in Microlearning is how to smartly reduce big, bloated, and overloaded courses. These courses are the typical “click-and-read” eLearning, lengthy classroom programs and long references.

This tip and guide presents the key steps in Microlearning Lesson conversion and three example storyboards of Micro-Lessons.

These are the steps we cover in the Microlearning Workshop and the book on Microlearning.

You will learn valuable insights on how to smartly reduce your lessons into useful and smaller lesson content aimed for Microlearning.

What Are the Parts of a Micro-Lesson?

  1. Select the must-do and must-learn - this is content that has significant impacts on the workflow and requires the workers’ immediate attention
  2. Use events - these are situations or issues that get the workers' and learners’ attention the most
  3. Add context - always explain factual content with real-life applications
  4. Ask micro-questions - this creates a feedback loop that helps the worker reflect on the testing of ideas and solutions
  5. Ask application questions - these are micro-questions intended to reinforce the workers’ and learners’ need to find ways of applying ideas on the job
  6. Replace learning objectives with target questions - this is necessary for instructional designers and SMEs to clearly define what they want their learners to learn
  7. Create learn-on-need references - these are tips, FAQs, guides, hints and others that help accelerate actions. It is a link for easy access of workers and learners who may wish to review the linear goals of the lesson
  8. Share the lesson - workers and learners are encouraged to share “what we know and can do now” for experience sharing and expertise development

Examples of Microlearning Lesson

Click each image for the enlarged view.



In converting big, bloated, and boring courses to a micro-lesson, always keep in mind the 8 parts mentioned above. The main goal is to bring learning closer to work. Use real-life incidents or situations and ask questions that raise the value, provoke the emotion and make it easier for your learners to apply the lesson in real-life, while doing work.

Related Blogs

Tip #84 - Remove the Sting of Compliance Courses: Make Them Short, Succinct, and Easy to Learn
Tip #108 - How to Create 5-Slide Microlearning - Tiny, Succinct, Fast

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When to Use "Face Time" and When to Use Webinars and Virtual Meetings - Tip #171

Online learning affords learners more independence in learning content at their own pace. However, the need for expert guidance is still a critical factor in the learning process. An expert can read a learner’s performance and provide immediate feedback. A trainer’s expertise helps them see patterns that determine what the learner needs--things a computer just can’t do. Thus, "face time" with learners is more important in online learning than ever. But, it can also be easy to overdo.

"Face Time": Scarce Resource or Default?

"Face time" energizes online learning but only if used effectively. There’s such a thing as “hangout creep”--we know it better as “cognitive overload,” a failure of attention. There can be so many things going on during video face-to-face time that learners can get easily distracted. That’s why it’s essential to treat "face time" as something scarce and precious, and “balance it with something equally important: quiet heads-down time.”

Using “Face Time” Effectively

Preparation is key in making the most of your "face time" with learners. This means spending time to think about the training’s goals and what you want you and your learners to take away from your time together. So, ask yourself: What is the best use of face-to-face time in my online course?

A useful tactic is to provide resources ahead of time. This eliminates silent reading or the time used to go over a doc “together” over video. Learners can review the resources beforehand and you can use “face time” for something more valuable, like Q&A, experimentation, etc. This may sound familiar if you’ve come across the concept of “Flipped Classroom.”

What Zone are Your Learners In?

Source: Sam Kaner’s Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making

Group dynamics still apply when conducting “face time” with learners. So, it’s important to "read the room" and know what zone you’re in. The image above illustrates Sam Kaner’s five zones, also known as the Diamond of Participation.

Divergence Zone
This is the idea generation phase, characterized by learners being open to and sharing ideas. It’s where learners express multiple perspectives and divergent opinions.

Tip: Create a comfortable environment. Try using icebreaker questions or encourage learners to come early to play or familiarize with the webinar tools like chat or annotation tools.

Groan Zone
In the Divergence Zone, individuals shared their ideas. In the Groan Zone, learners struggle to integrate what they learn. Success here means the group generates new ideas as a whole.

Tip: Ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions or start curiosity conversations. Package them in fun mini-activities.

Convergence Zone
Whereas there was a lot of uncertainty and struggle in the Groan Zone, the Convergence Zone is where clarity builds, and meaning and decision making are made.

Tip: Use the whiteboard (or other tool) and allow learners to brainstorm. Encourage and guide them to arrive at their own conclusions or resolutions.


Francesca Burns. The Importance of “Face Time” in Teaching is Crucial. The New York Times The Opinion Pages Room for Debate, udpated June 27, 2014
Brie Anne Demkiw. Hangout Life. Automattic Design, February 13, 2018
Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps. Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology. John Wiley & Sons, 2008
Tip #100 - Spur Learning Through “Curiosity Conversations”
Tip #102 - Cognitive Tunnelling: How to Achieve Focus Through Stories
Tip #143 - How to Use questions to Immerse Larners in Your Lesson
Tip #150 - Using Intuitive and Deliberate Learning in Story Lessons
Sam Kaner. Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, 3rd Edition. Jossey-Bass, 2014
Tip #156 - Five Sure Ways to Prepare for High-Impact Webinars
Tip #159 - 21 Things To Do Before a Webinar
Tip #162 - How to Create Context-Setting Learning Objectives

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, February 16, 2018

How to Leverage Opportunities for Microlearning Impacts - Tip #170

Back in 2017, the Association for Talent Development (ATD) conducted a survey on microlearning. According to their research results, 92% of organizations are already using microlearning and planned to do more of it. More than 67% of organizations not using microlearning planned to start doing so in 2017. Undeniably, microlearning was the focus of the training industry last year.

"Microlearning" web search trend for the past 5 years.
A screenshot from Google Trends

This year, that focus isn’t expected to shift. Microlearning is predicted to continue leading discussions in 2018. Where can microlearning make the most impact? Here are some of the opportunities I think training and development professionals should watch out for:

Opportunities for Microlearning Impacts

Crisis, urgent, rapid answers needed.
With the dynamic and fast-paced nature of work in an organization’s environment of rapid change (vortex of the workplace), employees must use their time efficiently. When a problem arises, they must be able to solve it quickly. Microlearning tools enable this by providing information when and where the need arises.

As-it-happens need for answer.
Microlearning helps workers obtain solutions to their problems in real time. That is, the right information can be quickly accessed in the workplace when learners need it. And, this is essential because “we all have a Google-search mentality now,” not just Millennials, says Stephen Meyer, president and CEO of the Rapid Learning Institute. “The internet has changed the way we think. … We expect to get the information we need now.”

Customers teaching themselves and employees gaining new knowledge from experience.
Because microlearning provides the right information at the right time, it allows employees (or customers) to rapidly acquire skills that will help them solve problems themselves. This method of problem-solving sticks in their memory because research has shown that we retain more when we recall information from memory. It obviously builds up valuable experience knowledge.

Constant updates make it easy for microlearning content to adapt to changing needs of workers.
In an age where workers heavily rely on technology to get the job done and where that technology is constantly improved and updated, learning tools and content must keep up. Unlike traditional learning resources, microlearning content can easily be created or revised/updated to help address problems and issues almost as soon as they come up.

In-between formal learning and applications.
Microlearning happens outside a classroom setting. Within just a small amount of time, learners can consume learning content in the form of one-page articles or 10-minute videos or even snippets of information they can quickly access.

Self-driven, continuous learning.
“Employees want more than structured corporate training and development programs. They want to discover and define their own personal learning journeys,” says John Hiraoka, chief strategy officer at Saba. “They expect learning to be available everywhere and at any time, across a broad range of modalities and content, within the flow of their day-to-day work.”

Microlearning motivates workers to pursue learning on their own. This self-driven, continuous learning is empowering for workers and translates into operational excellence, improved efficiency and reduced training and development costs.

There are more opportunities for microlearning impacts, such as rapid, no-wait time onboarding; obsolescence of knowledge; spaced-out learning delivery; subscription learning, and many others.

What other opportunities do you predict for microlearning? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


ATD Research. Microlearning: Delivering Bite-Sized Knowledge. April 2017
Biz Library/Association for Talent Development. What Trends are Going to Shape Employee Training in 2018?
Annie Murphy Paul. How to Make Microlearning Matter. Society for Human Resource Management, May 1, 2016
Greg Blackburn. Microlearning in Learning and Development: The Digital Industrial Revolution. eLearning Industry, February 16, 2017
Susan Mazza. Develop More Leaders with These Three Microlearning Opportunities. SABA Blog, January 12, 2018
Tip #42 Provoking Learners with Story Questions
Tip #134 - Microlearning Leads to Rapid Skill Acquisition
Tip #158 - What Happens If There Is a Chip on Your Windshield? Cases of Microlearning Impacts
Tip #164 - Vortex of the Workplace and Microlearning Fix

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

How Story Characters Help Learners Learn Difficult and Sensitive Topics - Tip #169

Sensitive topics, like sexual abuse or harassment, dealing with personal failures (where learners have an emotional stake) and handling "no correct answer" situations (gray areas at work), can be difficult to teach.

These topics create in learners the following:​
  • Discomfort​ - Even if they are in learning mode, they become uncomfortable since many people have strong emotional sentiments on issues like social justice, protection of the environment, and other "political" and spiritual beliefs​.
  • Uncertainty​ - Real life at work consists of many uncertain situations. There are areas where "the worker looks bad if he does it or if he does not do it" situation. This uncertainty makes lessons hard to learn. Since we teach perfect answers--meaning to say, we teach in the ideal world--we often do not address the gray areas.
  • Fear of consequences, ridicule​ - They feel that there might be personal consequences if their bosses knew of their answers.

If not done right, difficult and sensitive topics could result in uninterested learners and discouraged trainers. Fortunately, story characters can rescue them both. Story characters can help trainers teach difficult topics at a deeper level and create interest and motivation to learn among learners.

Characters as Teaching Moments
One day, HR received a complaint from Nancy. She said she was harassed by another
employee, stating: “He cornered me in his room and started abusing me.” The details
aren’t very clear, but Nancy’s boss, Julian, after learning of her complaint, took it
personally. He became violent and threatened to file a suit against Nancy. Was this
the best move for Julian?

While reading the story above, learners would quickly imagine themselves in a character’s shoes, which is a natural response. According to experts Roger Schank and Michael Corballis, people tend to create versions of the story and insert themselves as a character in it--they become part of the story. This creates a great opportunity for designers to pose the challenge or dilemma to learners.

That’s why our use of characters in stories shouldn’t be accidental; it needs to be intentional. Because every story has a moral lesson, the characters' personalities and quirks, and the specific situations and dilemmas they’re in can teach learners important lessons.

In fact, characters can represent the content. They depict issues in real life. Their actions and behaviors can portray ideas. When characters “do the talking,” they instantly connect with learners and help initiate discovery (vs. spoon-feeding).

Characters Evoke Empathy

John’s boss, Jane, always does things in specific, and sometimes peculiar, ways.
She always insists on following her procedures. One day, John encountered a
situation where Jane’s procedure was wrong. John is concerned about following
and pleasing Jane or doing what he thinks is correct. But, Jane was not there to
help him. What should he do?
Framing the story from a learner’s perspective allows learners to feel what the character feels and imagine possible options. What would they do, or not do, in this particular situation? And, because it’s easy for learners to imagine a character doing something, they can also smoothly emulate or follow what the characters do.

Learners feel less anxious if they see that characters in real-life situations face the same or similar challenges and dilemmas as they do. They can envision the consequences of their actions based on what happens to the characters.

They also feel reassured that although topics are difficult and sensitive, they are learning, privately and allowed to deal with the issues in their own pace and time and allow their own emotions to play.


Tip #55 - Discover the Secrets that Make the Story-Based Lesson Tick
Robert C. Schank. Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence. Northwestern University Press, 1995
Michael C. Corballis. The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization. Princeton University Press. 2011
Tip #59 - The Brain and the Stories We Tell: Top Reasons Why Stories Change Our Behavior
David Holt. Professional Education Using E-Simulations: Benefits of Blended Learning Design. IGI Global, September 2011.
Is It Spoon-feeding or Discovery Scenario Learning?

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

How Empathy Makes Your Learners Learn - Tip #168

Back in 2012, Time named Google Glass one of the best inventions of the year, but Google pulled out the headset in 2015 after a short-lived release in 2014. What happened?

Empathy Gap

In marketing speak, Google Glass failed because the team behind it did not do the market research right. A MediaPost article states:

In learning and development, we face the same problem with a different name. Let’s call it the “Empathy Gap.” This happens when the instructional design fails to connect with online learners or meet their actual needs. It happens when trainers fail to stimulate and motivate learners.

Storytelling Links Technology and Empathy

Fortunately, there’s a simple formula to fix the empathy gap in elearning.

Image Source: Jacquelyn Quinones | TEDxIHEParis

Empathy fuels connections and its mechanism is stories, or experiential storytelling, as Bandyd CEO Jacquelyn Quinones calls it. Through stories, we can connect with learners on an emotional level. Stories help learners recall their own memories and experience what others feel as if it was them in that specific situation.

An empathic person says, “I can imagine how that feels.” Empathy is connecting with something in ourselves that knows that feeling in order to connect with others. Empathy is feeling with people. And, stories open the portal and transport us to that emotional or imagined experience.

Stimulating the Growth of Empathy in Online Learning

How then can we leverage storytelling and technology to elicit an empathic response from elearners? Here are some tips:
  • Weave a story around facts. Hard facts can be emotionally overwhelming so weave them into a story that helps learners feel and take someone else’s perspective.
  • Create scenarios. When developing stories, try including characters with different emotions and ask learners to identify these emotions and how they might respond to these emotions.
  • Encourage collaboration and communication. Hearing what others have experienced or think about helps learners understand them. It helps learners put themselves in another person’s shoes or brain.
  • Customize resources. Some learners are more empathetic than others, so it would be best to tailor resources to meet their specific needs and preferences.


Empathy Gap. Wikipedia
Collin Sebastian. Google Glass and Market Research: A Cautionary Tale. MediaPost Marketing Daily, February 26, 2015
TEDx Talks. Technology’s “empathy gap” | Dan Hon | TEDxLiverpool. August 27, 2014
TEDx Talks. Is Technology killing our empathy? | Jacquelyn Quinones | TEDxIHEParis. June 23, 2016
The RSA. RSA ANIMATE: The Empathic Civilisation. May 6, 2010
Making Facts Stick With Stories - Jiggling Atoms
Creating Micro-Scenarios – X-Men Plays Hockey
Tip #75 - Insight Sharing - How They "Meet and Mate"
Tip #113 - Empathy: Helping Learners to Feel Others

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, January 26, 2018

5 Proven Ways to Help Learners Remember Lessons - Tip #167

Learner engagement is a constant challenge for designers and trainers. Learners are hounded by countless information media. So how do we help them recall, retain and eventually apply what they learn?

Ponder these ideas and see how it can help your learners:

1. Add Realism

Start with a recent story or current event that catches attention.

An example would be about the new Amazon Go store. No lines, no checkouts, no registers - no cashiers. The world’s most advanced “Just Walk Out Technology” has opened its first store in Seattle. So you ask,
“How does this affect you?”

Or how about the false missile alert that went off in Hawaii last January 13, 2018 that sent the entire island into panic mode?

This brings learners to a "now" and real event that can be associated with a lesson.

2. ​Have a Dinner Table Conversation

Have a human to human conversation with your learners.

Speak and write with candor - defined as the quality of being open and honest in your expression.

Many of our writings are so impersonal, we have lost the ability to be candid and direct with our learners. We have also been unable to talk with our learners as it happens in real life. We are perceived as superficial and not present because of our technical jargon.

Here are some helpful insights that I hope will help you build quality conversations with learners:
  • Commit to build rapport with your learners, both with encouragement and guidance throughout your sessions.
  • Provide helpful positive feedback as you stir them into realizations.
  • Motivate experience sharing by using real-life examples.
  • Design thought-provoking questions to stimulate conversations.

As we recognize this challenge, we should seek to speak and write to learners as if they are having a conversation with you at the dining table.

We call this "dinner table” conversation - warm, candid and reality-based​.

3. Create the Big Picture Impacts

Framing is like helping the learners think with a big picture in mind. The disconnect with learning lessons, in a significant number of instances, is that the learner does not recognize the bigger perspective. The best way to do this is to always tell the learner how the lesson matters in relation to the bigger scale of things.

For example a 1% reduction in defect might be small, but if there are thousands of workers doing this it would be a total turnaround - extremely significant to the company.​

4. Let Them Do Something

It has been said time and again that practice makes perfect. But how do help our learners apply ideas?

Studies show that people/learners will not show the big projects as assignments during learning events,  but would do the small incremental ones.​

The SRIA Model of the Story-Based Design is a helpful tool for different types of learners.

SRIA™ Summary:
Set up - Why do I need to know this?
Relate - What exactly is this?
Interpret - What if I do it this way?
Apply - How can I use this in my life?

5. Allow Reflection

​Why is there a need to stop and allow our learners to reflect?
  • This provides meaning to the process one is engaged in.
  • You actually learn more when you reflect on what has been learned.
  • It automatically creates a story out of your own experience which your brain easily understands.

… allow silence
… allow a break
… allow the sharing of reflections
… allow the change their learning from new reflections

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, January 22, 2018

Pixar in a Box: Lessons on Storytelling - Tip #166

“Monsters, Inc.” is a Pixar animated movie that features monsters going to work scaring kids for a living. At least, that’s how director Pete Docter pitched it originally. And, although people who first heard the idea laughed and thought it funny, the people he pitched the story to got “bored and restless.”

“They don’t understand what this movie is about!,” Docter shares in Pixar in a Box’s Introduction to Storytelling video.

Why did the film people react this way?

The Missing Piece

Docter’s initial pitch lacked a key element: The story needed a piece of himself.

“What you’re trying to do really when you tell a story is to get the audience to have the same feeling.” Since the pitch had no emotional anchor for Docter, he had a hard time eliciting an emotional reaction from his audience.

A New York University piece about storytelling in teaching and learning argues that stories give meaning to disparate information--something I’ve been talking about in the blog over and over for so long.

Here are just some of the ways stories can give meaning to elearning content:
Tell Your Story

So, what was “Monsters, Inc.” about? It was about a man becoming a father--exactly what was happening to Docter at the time. That pitch worked!

“The power of a story is that it has an ability to connect with people on an emotional level. You hear this advice all the time: Write what you know as a kid. … What that actually means is ... put something into it that talks about your own life. … Something from your own life will make that story come alive.”

What’s your story? Share a piece of yourself with learners so they can tell their own stories. That’s what Pixar did and continues to do and it’s working! The company is worth billions for one reason: “People who work at the studio direct all of their creative energy toward crafting the best stories possible.”


Pixar in a Box’s Introduction to Storytelling video
Storytelling in Teaching and Learning
Tip #17 - Converting Obscure eLearning Content into Usefulness
Tip #118 - Content That Lives Within a Story Lasts Forever
Tip #121 - Stories of Real-Life Fiascos and Blunders Motivate Learners
The creative minds at Pixar break down what makes their movies so successful

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why Avoid Comparing Microlearning with Instructional Design - Tip #165

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, explains why many good ideas never become successful ventures (paraphrased):

“When we assess an idea, we need to see if the core concept works and has potential to provide solutions and new opportunities. What we often do, however, is compare the new idea immediately to current-day conventions -- to what we know and do today, today’s standards -- that kills the idea even before it shows its true promise.”

Microlearning is undergoing a similar comparison and evaluation today. Most literature on Microlearning compares it to “Recreated World” conditions. Its value is evaluated based on what we know and do today - the principles of traditional instructional design which is rooted in the “Recreated World.”

With the "Recreated World" model, it’s easy for many learning professionals to think of Microlearning simply as “small content” and “chunked content,” delivered in spurts. The main criteria here is the small size of the content. Most think of Microlearning as content.

Our definition of Microlearning (low effort, easy, fast, quick to apply and *useful) does not fall into the patterns of traditional instructional design. In many cases, there is a conflict of understanding and application with traditional instructional design and Microlearning.

These types of comments tell us that a person has compared Microlearning with traditional design standards:
  • “How do you know they are learning?”
  • “Learners will miss a lot of information.”
  • “They need to pass a test to show retention.”
  • “Who should say what is the correct micro content to learn?”
  • "Where is the change in behavior?"

By shifting the focus of Microlearning initiatives from recreated worlds to the real world, we can begin to explore the opportunities that Microlearning principles provide.  When we do this, we will change the playing field and do justice to the true applications of Microlearning.

With this shift of focus towards the real world, Microlearning will yield these disruptive results:
  • Lower content development costs
  • Faster answers and solutions
  • Higher usefulness of content and solutions
  • Easier to launch and maintain
  • Higher levels of experience-based learning


Vance, A. (2017) Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and a Quest for Fantastic Future
Jimenez, R. Old Instructional Design Does Not Work in Microlearning
*We added usefulness to the definition of Theo Hug on Microlearning

Related Tips

Tip #124 - Are Instructional Designers Incapable of Microlearning Design?
Tip #127 - 3 Strategies for Sure-Fire Microlearning Success
Tip #135 - Learning by SNIFFING: Are Learners Really Distracted or Are They Learning Differently?

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"