Microlearning: One CLO’s Solution to Creating the Best eLearning!

Microlearning is the building blocks of eLearning

Learning organizations are staring down a revolution in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, learning leaders find themselves having to find new, remote and socially distanced ways to reach their goals. Could microlearning be the solution to many of these problems? Is eLearning the answer?
Despite everything, learning and development (L&D) needs have not gone away. In fact, some research points to L&D being more important to an organization’s success than ever before.

Joe Ilvento, Chief Learning Officer (CLO) and Worldwide Director of Talent Development for Commvault’s award winning learning organization, joined us on the TrainingPros Learning Insights Radio show. Ilvento’s career success story is uniquely his own. From salesman to CLO of a global brand. It isn’t one you’ll hear often.

At the heart of his success is his organization’s innovative use of microlearning and how they use it to meet the needs of a multicultural workforce.

A Multicultural Learning Challenge

As CLO, Ilvento acknowledges his role is “a big challenge” primarily due to Commvault’s decidedly multicultural workforce. With teams around the world, decisions regarding what training techniques will be most effective often require a great deal of global perspective.

According to Ilvento, building effective learning for different cultures starts with a focus on 3 key business drivers:

  1. What various organizations are trying to achieve
  2. What their overall objectives are
  3. How learning teams can meet those needs

This type of approach means his team may need to assume a number of different roles – consulting, coaching, change management – as they go about setting the strategy and selecting the best delivery methods.

“Sometimes, we’ll put on our consultant hat and work with creating vision statements,” he explains. “Identifying the big rocks, the goals, and the objectives for the tier or the region…what that looks like for the next 30, 60, 90 days,” or longer.

“In other instances, we’ll be working with our managers and our leaders. We have a variety of programs from a transitioning into management program to a Commvault manager program.”

“Along the way microlearning opportunities will be mixed in to reinforce topics,” Ilvento continued. “Right now, we have a lot of emphasis on coaching, and coaching others, and also around change, leading change and change management.”

Learning in Bursts: The Microlearning Solution

Microlearning enables the consumption of learning in small bursts. It is the art of developing short, focused, highly engaging instructional content. While the methodology behind microlearning has proven to be highly effective, many L&D organizations have been slow to adopt the concept.

Ray Jimenez, Ph.D., Chief Learning Architect at Vignettes.com, and author of the book 3-minute eLearning, defines microlearning more succinctly as learning which is:

  • Easily created, requiring minimal effort to build
  • Searchable and utilizes the quickest, most effective medium
  • Succinct, delivering only the most essential information or steps
  • Immediately usable and always updated

Learn More: Microlearning Design and Development

While Commvault utilizes a blended learning approach overall, at every step of the way a variety of different microlearning opportunities are offered. For example, “we’ll offer up eLearning, we’ll offer up virtual training, either as pre-learning or post-learning” resources.

Ilvento sees microlearning as an integral part of Commvault’s learning strategy. As you might expect he has a clear understanding of what it is and how best to utilize it in support of the company’s multicultural learners.

One of the major accomplishments under Ilvento’s direction is in the crafting of a digital university. Through the Learning at Commvault website, topic-specific microlearning sessions are available on-demand for immediate consumption.

The site offers more than 1,500 microlearning solutions. Utilizing a mix of in-house created resources and off-the-shelf content in a variety of eLearning-based formats.

“(We offer) a lot of videos, a lot of audio, a lot of engaging type content,” he said. “An end-user, a learner, can go in and type in a particular topic of interest, whether it’s communication skills, or project management, or whatever it might be, and see what’s out there,” Ilvento explained.

“We love microlearning. We love short videos. So, we will look for opportunities to capture our leaders’ perspectives in short small videos.”

“We love microlearning. We love short videos. So, we will look for opportunities to capture our leaders’ perspectives in short small videos. We’ll look for ways to tee it up live in the classroom, or we’ll use subject matter experts in just getting some feedback, whether it’s anecdotes, or case studies, or examples that the folks facilitating the other programs can leverage.”

He is a firm believer in the success of microlearning content within his business. “I think the small chunks really do help. It allows people to craft a learning path that works for them. So, you’ve heard of the ‘Just in time, just enough, just wait,’ kind of model associated with bite-size learning or microlearning” Ilvento asked rhetorically.

“What it does is it allows people to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, all in a very short time frame,” he explained. “They can decide, based on the time available, how much they want to invest in a particular topic, or honing a particular skill, or possibly just prior to a meeting.”

eLearning Vs. Microlearning

While Ilvento has fully championed the concept of microlearning within his organization, he hasn’t totally abandoned traditional eLearning either. Instead, he prefers to have the best of both worlds.

Another “option that we’ve done is we’ve actually created a curriculum…we’ve curated multiple learning modules, these small microlearning, into a learning path that can sometimes exceed 60 or 90 minutes. But it’s a series of modules.”

The parts remain available and consumable on-demand, while the more detailed, longer-term learning plans allow for a more robust option. A sizable benefit of this approach is additional development hours aren’t required. The microlearning chunks are assembled like building blocks in the larger curriculum.

“A module might consist of four or five of these three-minute type programs, and a curriculum might have three or four modules associated with it. So, all in, it might be a 60 or 90-minute program.”

Faced with a decision between eLearning and microlearning, the verdict is clear. Why choose? Have both.

Evaluating Microlearning’s Effectiveness

One of the biggest concerns L&D leaders have voiced regarding microlearning has been around how to evaluate its effectiveness. However, Ilvento doesn’t see this as an issue for Commvault. He believes they have a solution that can mine multiple levels of data – enough to truly gauge their microlearning’s effectiveness.

One of the most widely used methods of evaluation is Donald Kirkpatrick’s model, first developed in 1959, consisting of 4 distinct levels of learning evaluation: reaction, learning, behavior, and results.

Watch: Microlearning: How It’s Done Webinar


At Commvault, microlearning doesn’t just affect content, Ilvento points out. Assessments are affected as well. “The microlearning that we leverage has a built-in kind of knowledge test, knowledge quiz, knowledge transfer option at the end,” he said.

“We can, in some instances, do a pre-test and post-test. So, we’re able to get some Level 2 data. (For) all of our eLearning modules that we craft in-house, we have a Level 1 follow-up that’s built-in. Then, in some instances, we’ll actually look for some anecdotal Level 3 type application of the content.”

As for gauging the success and effectiveness of his organization’s microlearning efforts, Ilvento says “ultimately, we use the business to be our gauge and our guide…we look at our usage and our learners coming back for more to be our primary driver as to whether we’ve been successful or not.”

The 70-20-10 Rule Still Applies

Another familiar learning theory is the 70-20-10 model for Learning and Development. 70-20-10 encapsulates all of the different ways people learn. Organizations often use this model to adjust their focus and resources in order to create a more effective, holistic approach to workforce development.

Maximizing the impact of learning through experience, socialization, and formal training methods enables businesses to create and support high-performing workforces. While microlearning might be the road to get where we want, the 70-20-10 rule is the actual roadmap.

Originally developed in the 1980s by Morgan McCall and the Center for Creative Leadership. McCall’s research determined, as learners, 90% of our knowledge is informal. In fact, only 10% of our knowledge comes from learning which is developed, packaged, and delivered as formal training.

His theory posits 100% of our knowledge gained is done in one of 3 ways:

70% = Experiential Learning

The vast majority of what we know comes from experiential learning forms, including hands-on practice, the tasks we do each day, and solving challenges.

20% = Social Learning

Social Learning is the practice of fostering relationships through which we gain knowledge by sharing it, observing and mentoring.

10% = Formal Learning

While only consisting of 10% of what we know, it is nonetheless a critical piece. It is the foundation we build our knowledge on. Without formal learning, almost everything we learn would essentially be a byproduct of trial and error.

70-20-10 L&Amp;D Theory
Read More: 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development

“70-20-10 is a way of looking at learning that if you think about what you’ve learned in the past, and everything you’ve learned to date, probably 70% of it falls into on-the-job experiential type exercises. What we refer to sometimes as stretch assignments or on-the-job assignments, we’re learning in the role itself,” said Ilvento.

“The 20 is the coaching and the feedback. It’s the mistakes. It’s the feedback loops that you get as to learning how not to do something or how to improve on something based on feedback,” he continues.

“Then, the 10% is the structure of learning. It’s classroom learning. It’s the Learning at Commvault website type structured learning or eLearning that you might take or book learning. And so, when you think about that mix, it creates a hybrid learning environment where 70%, 20% and 10% of that, when put together, creates your ideal learning atmosphere.”

Managing the 90%

“If you think about that model, the manager owns about 90% of that person’s success from a development perspective. Oftentimes, what happens is the manager will say: What training do you have to fix this issue or fix this person?”

“We’ll often go into that 70-20-10 kind of model, and talk to them, and say: We can certainly provide training, but understand that 90% really rests in your environment and what you can bring to the table as a leader.”

According to Ilvento, before making any decisions, it is important to ask the right questions. “As you are thinking about delegating assignments, as you think about the work that has to be done, and in the function, look across your team and say to yourself: Who would benefit most from those types of stretch assignments? Who would benefit most from, maybe, cross-functional assignments?”

Based on the answers you come up with, you might realize the best outcome is not to assign the person who has always done a particular role in the past. Instead, “look for opportunities to cross-train or to provide new opportunities and stretch opportunities for other members of your team,” Ilvento challenged.

Future Blueprint

In a post-pandemic world, adapting and conquering challenges remotely is a new reality. It doesn’t matter if your organization is facing mountains or molehills. Ilvento has drafted a simple blueprint for success. Nothing radical or even futuristic. In fact, when you break it down, the approach is more a repackaging of tools and concepts already familiar to most learning leaders.

Starting with a focus on understanding internal organizations’ goals and objectives – the business drivers. From there the focus switches to meeting those needs. For example, crafting microlearning chunks in a variety of mediums.

Finally, the micro chunks of content can be assembled in a more traditional course and module structure.

The ability to search and consume the smallest bits of learning content 24/7 is what sets Ilvento’s solution apart. This flexibility has enabled Commvault to successfully meet the needs of a wide variety of learners across cultures and time zones.

In the end, Ilvento didn’t recreate the wheel, he helped creatively reimagine it. So what do you call on-demand microlearning, disguised as traditional eLearning modules and wrapped in a nice neat learning path?

The future!

Patrick Owens

Patrick Owens

Patrick Owens has over 30 years of experience in the adult learning and technical communication space. His favorite day of the week is Tuesday and has deemed it a special time for tacos. Always looking for adventure Patrick uses his downtime to explore and create. In addition to being the father of 5 year old twin boys, he is currently the Digital Solutions Architect for TrainingPros.
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Patrick Owens has over 30 years of experience in the adult learning and technical communication space. His favorite day of the week is Tuesday and has deemed it a special time for tacos. Always looking for adventure Patrick uses his downtime to explore and create. In addition to being the father of 5 year old twin boys, he is currently the Digital Solutions Architect for TrainingPros.

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