Nanolearning – changing the paradigms

“Learning is detection and correction of error, where an error means any mismatch between our intentions and what actually happens” – Chris Argyris, Harvard Business School psychologist.


Air, water, food and learning are the essential elements, in the same order, that support life on Earth. Learning is an intrinsic machine fitted in our cells, and therefore, as long as there is a body, there will be learning too.

With the advancement in science and technology, learning has significantly evolved. Not only have companies kept pace with scientific and technological advancement and embraced contemporary learning forms, they have also innovated programmes to flatter Gen-Next. Microlearning has given way to nanolearning.

How is nanolearning different from microlearning?


Micro means very small and learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, and preferences. Thus, microlearning refers to short programmes, usually ranging from three to five minutes, which help employees learn on the job, on the go, using their preferred digital platform. Flexibility makes microlearning different from other traditional learning methods.

Nanolearning: Innovation in learning – ‘less is more’

There are times when you need to know a very specific piece of information, say how to set up a pivot table, or save a template, and so on. Nanolearning is learning that takes a minute or two – or even less. It’s about the immediate requirement for training — right now and in the moment of need— to solve a specific problem, such as creating a pivot table in Microsoft Excel. When learners learn from little nuggets of information to enhance their skill in a specific topic, it comes under the purview of nanolearning. The e-learning mode allows the learner to select a precise field for upskilling and the time taken for the entire process is not more than two minutes.

Features of nanolearning
• Electronic mode of learning with text, pictures, audio and video
• Very short learning programmes from 20 seconds to two minutes, for instant learning
• Learners can choose any specific topic on which they would like to upskill
• Goal-oriented learning implies immediate benefit from the learning
• ‘Anywhere’ learning model allows flexibility to learners

As the L&D community continues to idealize best practices for resource development and consumption, the industry still faces a lag from learner participation. Read this whitepaper on The Future of Learning is in the Reflexes to learn how best-in-class companies are using consumer UX practices to increase engagement from their learners.

Why should we shift to nanolearning?

Quick and frequent learning

Technology has changed the way a business is run; certain practices and cultures are becoming redundant as we speak. Shifts are happening so rapidly that it is imperative that employees go through frequent learning programmes to be able to cope with changes and modify task execution. This has created a need for nano-size modules, that can be adopted quickly and frequently.

Very specific topic

Nanolearning allows upskilling in a very specific topic. This helps the learners choose the content precisely so that they can fulfil their learning goals. They don’t waste time going through topics in which they don’t require learning. Nanolearning eliminates subjective and comprehensive material, which can be time consuming.

This can be explained by an example: If the topic to learn is the size of a pie, nanolearning breaks it into four parts and offers each part as a separate unit. This way, the learner can precisely choose the exact part he wants to learn — when, how and why.

Learning modes

The digital transformation in learning modes has augmented the growth of nanolearning. Previously, learning was restricted to text but now with multimedia it has become easier to provide the learner with different platforms to enhance skills. Text-rich modules take longer to comprehend, learn and memorise; it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This form of learning incorporates images, audio and video that help the learners achieve their learning goals quickly.

New generation workforce

With the presence of GenY and GenZ in the workforce, the need for nanolearning has increased, as they learn differently. They are the first cohort of workers that grew up with the Internet from day one. They have always been guided by digital information, insights and recommendations to form decisions and create experiences. Against that backdrop, it should be no surprise that nearly half (43 per cent) of GenZ learners reported a preference for fully self-directed and independent learning. Nanolearning modules have helped companies extend tailor-made programmes to stimulate the young masters of tomorrow.

Exciting and innovative

Pages and pages of words, graphs and charts are converted into nugget-size punch in the form of nanolearning. This is precisely the reason why Twitter has become so popular. The digital interruption in learning has helped to create modules that are exciting for the user with tools, such as animation, interactive learning, catchy slogans and music.

80/20 principle

Nanolearning also aligns with the 80/20 principle from the popular book by Richard Koch. This principle explains that 20 per cent effort leads to 80 per cent output. For instance, in a company, 20 per cent people are responsible for 80 per cent productivity. Nanolearning, with very short learning modules, achieves greater output and skill development in comparison to traditional lengthy training programmes.

Nanolearning improves productivity

The business environment requires all jobs to use digital technology. Nanolearning helps to increase employees’ productivity and collaboration skills. Using this model of learning, the employees will enjoy tremendous gains in terms of innovation, work quality, and agility.

The goal of any professional education programme is to improve job performance, and nanolearning is no exception. Besides improving learning outcomes, a robust nanolearning library can help differentiate the firm in its recruiting efforts.

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