It’s Monday morning at the office, and you’ve just logged in to your computer (with your strong passphrase, of course). You take a deep breath and reach for your coffee as you simultaneously glance at the flip-calendar on your desk. Before you can even take your first sip, it quickly dawns on you that it’s that time of year: it’s time to create or update your employee security awareness training program.

Commence Rapid Coffee Intake

(Apologies if reading this is already making your palms perspire. If that’s the case, you’re not alone.) 

Creating or updating your organization's cyber security awareness training program can be an enormous lift, even for the most skilled instructional designers. There is a plethora of factors to undertake, including how to divide your content into the most approachable and digestible format in order to maximize learning, engagement, and accessibility. 

I’d like to unpack a strategy called micro-learning.

Very broadly speaking, micro-learning can be thought of as small pieces of training that focus on teaching a narrow scope of knowledge or skills. For example, a short YouTube video on how to prepare instant ramen could qualify as micro-learning, whereas an entire semester-long course on cuisine for college students would not be considered micro-learning. Some might take a more stringent approach in defining micro-learning, defining it as learning content that takes less than 5 minutes to complete or content that focuses on a single learning objective. However, for other organizations, employing micro-learning might just mean shaving an hour off of a 2-hour training presentation. 

However you define it, employing micro-learning principles can have several benefits for you and your learners. Below are 5 micro-learning benefits for your security awareness training program.

Micro-learning is Approachable

Your learners’ time is incredibly valuable, and they will surely remind you of that fact if they’re assigned to complete a 3-hour-long security awareness training module. Dividing your content into smaller chunks can give your security awareness training a public relations boost. Micro-learning helps to enable your learners to complete training at their own pace and on their own schedule. A dozen 3-minute modules can be completed over the course of a week during coffee or tea breaks, giving them digestible, manageable information.

ARCS Model
Micro-learning can Help Learners Stay Motivated

Let’s face it, motivating learners to complete security awareness training, or any training for that matter, can be a challenge -- learning science to the rescue! John Keller’s ARCS Model is a systematic motivational design process that provides instructional designers with an approach to fomenting and sustaining learner motivation.

ARCS stands for:



Given its chunked design, micro-learning can help learners feel more confident in their ability to complete the training, thus increasing their motivation to do so. The model also posits that learners are more motivated when they experience satisfaction from participating in the learning process. Completion elicits a sense of achievement, and if your micro-learning is designed well, your learners will be completing more with much less cognitive effort!

Micro-learning can Lead to Better Retention

In addition to making your training more approachable and marketable to your learners, properly breaking your content into shorter modules can be flat-out more effective than structuring your training as one uninterrupted steam of information. 


Breaking down information into manageable units, such as micro-learning modules, reduces the effort required to process the information, helping your learners to more effectively retain and apply the desired knowledge and skills. Rather than creating one long training module, consider creating individual modules for topics such as passwords, email and messaging, and browsing. 

Micro-learning Enables Access to Relevant Content 

In addition to being leveraged as part of a formal training program, micro-learning modules can function as effective performance support systems for just-in-time applications. Shorter, modular training means learners can revisit content for a refresher without having to waste time sifting through mounds of unrelated content to find what they’re looking for. 

Micro-learning can Simplify Training Updates

Security awareness best practices can change rapidly with the arrival of new vulnerabilities and threats popping up constantly. By creating a more modular training design, updating your content can be much simpler and much less unwieldy than it would be with longer, all-inclusive modules. Need to add in a new guideline for password creation? With micro-learning, changes don’t cause unwanted ripple effects. No other menus, slide numbers, assessments, branching, etc. will be affected. 

Micro-learning for security awareness training provides a more digestible, accessible, and nimble approach for you and your learners. Reduce cognitive load, increase completion and behavior change, while also making your program more adaptable to the fluidity of security threats and recommended best practices.  

How will you use micro-learning in your security awareness training program?