How to Search Even Faster Using Microlearning – Workshop Tip #255

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Search engines revolutionized the way we research. By simply hovering on the “search” bar and typing keywords, we instantly get a bevy of information and results. But the questions are: Does this innovation drive more learning? Is searching more important than our push to memorize and recall knowledge nowadays? 

Of course, this remains an open-ended, long-standing debate. A study by Carsten Eickhoff et. al., titled “Introduction to the Special Issue on Search as Learning” presents the aspects of the role of context and expertise in the areas being searched, and the extent of the successful value and results of the search as part of learning.

Most recently, presented a Harvard Publishing study showing that learners and employees prefer “searching” as their way to learn.  

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The study suggests that roughly 90% of the survey responses use “search” on a daily basis as their first step in finding answers. The research inferred that the act of searching is a mode of learning. Additionally, the workers do the search while in the flow of work. 

Based on the article by Carsten Eickhoff, et. al. and the Harvard Business Planning study, there are a few points worth pondering on to propose some practical and useful steps when we design Microlearning. 

1.Workers have defined the goals – When workers do the search, they have a goal to meet and accomplish. Part of this is the need for answers to solve a problem.
2.Workers have already defined the context – The workers know why and what context they need the answers for. They know the problems and the opportunities that are needing answers.
3.Workers have expertise – To a greater extent, they have some level of expertise or prior knowledge of the domain subject they are searching about.
4.Some practical implications – With these assumptions, it is possible to design Microlearning content and experiences based on the following practical steps. These points refer to the Microlearning content you are constructing in your organization.
a. Start with context-setting statements for example
“What are the consequences or benefits if you do as suggested in this content?” At the onset, we provide the value and the “WIIFM” answer. Two things happen in the mind of the worker. First, based on this context, “should I do this now or later?” This sets some motivational drivers for the worker. Second, the worker instantly connects the answer to their experiences. When the context and setting are clearly stated in the front of the answer, they quickly refer the workers to an existing framework in their minds.

Example statements with context at the start of the answer content.
“Exit interview policy..”

[Context statement]
“This policy helps reduce employee turnover. It also promotes high contributions from our employees. On the other hand, if ignored, we might be repeating the same errors in our employee relations practices.”

“The policy requires that you conduct exit interviews. These are the steps …… more.”
b. Provide the “If it does not work, try this” option or “What Ifs” option.
Even before going to the search bar, workers already have their goals in minds. They know what they are looking for, and how to navigate the way to acquire the information. When creating Microlearning content, add the “What If” options. Near, next, adjacent, connected or linked (whatever makes sense to you), position alternative answers for the workers to check out.
For example, “If the bearing 100xd [specifications] does not work or is not sufficient, what if you try the following?”

I. Checking bearing 101xe
II. Check the supplier specifications for new updated versions.
III. Check the logs. The records usefully show the last maintenance records.

The “What Ifs” provide quick alternatives for workers to consider. They already know their goals and can select which of the options make sense to them. The presentations of the “What If’s” may be done with a curator, blogger, or contribution comment by a worker. It may also be configured in your A.I. search engines or other programming methods. I am reminded of Andrew S. Gordon’s theories on using common sense language in A.I. development.

Microlearning is here to stay for good. Search engine algorithms and A.I. will even help add to the value and service. But we can help speed up the search by being aware, placing the context early on, and adding the “What Ifs”.


Carsten Eickhoff1, Jacek Gwizdka2, Claudia Hauff3, and Jiyin “Introduction to the special issue on search as learning”
Andrew S. Gordon
A Formal Theory of Commonsense Psychology: How People Think People Think
Microlearning Tip: “Let Your Fingers Do the Talking”
Embrace Google Method to Improve eLearning Search Experience
Development Tips: Search Engine Optimization—A Beginner’s Guide

Vignettes Learning Workshops

1. Instructional and Experience Design for Workflow Learning
2. The Masterful Virtual Trainer Online Workshop
3. Microlearning for Disruptive Results
4. Hyper Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop
5. Training Frontline Leaders as Learning Accelerators
6. Developing Critical Thinking for Modern Learners
7. HYBRID Remote and Hands-on Training
8. Advanced Skills in Webinars

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”