Guest post: What is nano-learning?

This post is provided by guest blogger, N. Heidi Hess, current student in the MS Training and Development program

Earlier this year I was introduced to the idea of nano-learning. One of the biggest challenges we face in learning is simply time. How do we find time or even make time for learning? How do we sell stakeholders on investing time into training? Nano-learning may offer some solutions.

While most training modules start at about fifteen minutes in length, nano-learning refers to shortening training to about two minutes. An expert in adult learning, Malcolm Knowles explained “the perfect teachable moment as the intersection of a small question with a great small answer” (Masie, 2006). In these moments, we are ready to learn and be receptive to that learning. These moments need not be buried in hours of tedious highly technical training, but very simple, short, and direct to the point training that can be delivered electronically when the learners are ready to receive it. Training of this sort might be in the form of a power point, an infographic, a white paper, a printable job aid, a youtube video, or an interactive activity. Two minutes may not be enough time, but it seems quite reasonable to ask retail employees to spend five minutes reviewing a quick course to help improve performance. Ideally, employees would even be able to learn on a computer on the sales floor between customers so that the training may immediately be put into use.

While any minimalists reading this may be celebrating, the rest of us may be struggling. How can we possibly fit complex information into short bursts? If we look at training in a modular format and focus on one learning objective per module, the idea becomes more achievable. We can still train complex topics by focusing in on one idea at a time. A more complex topic will just require more modules versus a less complex topic that may require something as simple as an infographic. Look for the greatest small answer you can find.


Masie, E. (2006, January). Nano-learning: Miniaturization of design. Chief Learning Officer, 5(1), 17.