Four Steps to Designing Micro Learning Interactions

Article by Bucky J. Dodd, Ph.D. –

When designing learning experiences, many educators tend to focus on designing overall formal learning environments such as a courses, seminars, or workshops. Within these formal learning processes, there are often many dynamic opportunities to support learning based on the unique needs and experiences that learners encounter. Responding to learners’ needs is something that great educators do every day. These opportunities may include helping learners remediate on a particular topic, or expand and challenge learners to stretch beyond the formal goals of a course. These “micro learning interactions” are the spontaneous design skills that great educators use to help students get back on track, extend their learning, and reinforce learning skills.

In short, micro learning interactions give educators a tool for responding and adapting to learners needs while still supporting the overall goals and intent of a formal learning environment. In this article, I explore four steps to designing “micro learning interactions” that are intended to help support and augment learning experiences.


What are Micro Learning Interactions?

The concept of micro interactions emerge from the study of user experiences. Micro user experiences interactions are made up of triggers, rules, feedback and loops and modes.

This article uses the discussion of micro interactions as inspiration to explore how educators might leverage small, focused, and planned experiences to support learning. For the purpose of this article, micro learning interactions are planned learning experiences that occur dynamically within a broader formal learning environment.

Let’s assume a learner in a math course is struggling with a particular procedure or concept. Often, mastery of a certain skill is needed before other skills can be developed. Instead of reviewing an entire module, an educator may use dynamic micro learning interactions to help learners address inaccurate understanding of the concepts in order to get back on track.

These micro interactions provide an essential tool for educators in advancing transformative learning. Often the start of a micro learning interaction is a misunderstanding, challenge, or dilemma. By using micro learning interactions, an educator can help learners engage in transformative learning experiences in ways that are personalized and driven by the interests and experiences of the learner. In other words, this tool helps build a learner-centered environment.

The next sections of this article outline four steps educators can use to design and facilitate micro learning interactions that support transformative learning experiences.


Step 1: Determine the learning goal.

The first step to designing any micro learning interaction is determining the desired result. This is often more specific than a pre-determined course goal. For example, if a learner is trying to develop a specific presentation skill but is struggling with consistency performing the skill, the learning goal may be focused on building consistency of performance. An alternative learning goal may focus on mastering the first step in a process consistently before practicing the next step.

Determining the learning goal needs to be connected to an overall formal learning goal, but may be a smaller step towards that result.

The following diagram illustrates the relationship between a micro learning goal and the evidence that the learner will need to demonstrate.

This diagram illustrates the relationship between a micro learning goal and the evidence that the learner will need to demonstrate.


Step 2: Measure current progress towards learning goal.

The next step in designing micro learning interactions is to determine the specific knowledge, skill, or attitude gaps between a learner’s current abilities and the intended micro learning goal. For example, if the goal for the micro interaction is for the learner to experience a new culture or see a problem from a different perspective, understanding their current perspectives is important to determining what would be a meaningful learning experience.

Consider the following questions when measuring a person’s current learning progress.

  • Does the person have the ability to accurately talk about the knowledge or skill?
  • Can they demonstrate the knowledge or skill consistently?
  • What is the person’s overall attitude towards learning the skill?
  • Why would learning this skill be important to the person?

These questions help in measuring the gap between the learning goal and the learner’s current abilities. This can be framed as simple interview questions or through more formal data collection methods.


Step 3: Plan micro experience to bridge the gap between goal and current state.

Step 3 focuses on planning the micro experience to bring the gap between the goal and the learner’s current abilities. Keep in mind, this design is only focused on the gap, not reviewing the complete learning sequence. The reason for this is the micro interaction is intended to focus on solving a specific learning opportunity.

In the example below, the learning goal and evidence is identified along with a simple sequence of learning resources and activities aimed at nudging the learner towards the desired learning outcome.

In this micro learning diagram, the learning goal and evidence is identified along with a simple sequence of learning resources and activities aimed at nudging the learner towards the desired learning outcome.


Step 4: Recalibrate and launch future learning experiences.

Once the micro learning experience is complete, it is important to assess the success of the intervention and recalibrate the model as needed. Ideally, micro learning interactions launch future learning experiences because they are used to address embedded learning barriers.

Each micro interaction will likely be slightly different between learners; however, over time a library of micro learning interaction patterns can be created to help address common learning needs.



Micro learning interactions give educators a tool for responding to the needs of learners and to help people achieve success towards a learning goal. This article explored four steps to designing and facilitating micro learning interactions and offered several examples for how this method can help educators dynamically respond to the needs of learners. Where have you seen micro learning interactions in your classroom and/or where could you take steps to integrate this approach?

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