Education Educational Formats

The Death of Microlearning

In 2009 Jay-Z released a single titled, D.O.A., capitalizing on the double entendre of the medical acronym for “dead on arrival,” to announce the demise of the frequently-employed Auto-Tune feature. Auto-Tune, introduced in 1997 by AntaTechnologies res Audio, was originally a sound processing feature meant to correct the pitch of studio recordings. By the mid-2010s, the technology was being used as a sound effect to distort voices in almost every popular song. Jay-Z’s D.O.A., or Death of Auto-Tune, was designed to spark a movement in the music industry to move away from the pitch-correction technology as a primary method for producing vocals. Just slightly over a decade later, I find myself empathic to Jay Z’s plight. I don’t have a catchy tune to announce my general ill wishes toward the continued existence of microlearning, but this article is the first shot I’m firing in my campaign to kill it, or at the least the term.

The Rise of Video-Based Learning

The eventual emergence of microlearning can be traced back to the meteoric rise of video as an educational tool. Video has always been a supplemental learning resource, as most of us can recall the days of having to watch the movie version of popular required readings in English class. It was only a matter of making it to the Friday after we finished The Outsiders before I could sit back and enjoy Francis Ford Coppola’s take on gang violence in rural Oklahoma. While those days were fun, watching a movie was never considered the primary learning method in H.S., and it wasn’t until the financial success of a couple of key organizations that video was crowned the “savior of education,” changing the narrative around the format.

In 1995,  Lynda Weinman, a special effects animator and multimedia professor, founded a digital arts school. Eventually, she and her husband would begin offering video versions of their classes through their website, would eventually be acquired by LinkedIn, which was subsequently acquired by Microsoft, resulting in the integrated version of the service we see today. The initial price tag associated with the sale of was reported as a whopping 1.5 billion dollars. That’s enough money to make anyone take up an interest in online education.

In 2006, Salman “Sal” Khan began privately tutoring one of his family members using digital tools, before eventually making the tutoring sessions public on YouTube. By 2014, Khan’s video-based service was receiving attention from major investors, culminating in the launch of Khan Academy. Khan Academy, a non-profit organization, would go on to acquire major donations from AT&T, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Elon Musk. Sal Khan’s personal net worth is estimated to be 1.5 million dollars, not too shabby for a guy who used to teach math on YouTube.

Instructional Material vs. Reference Material

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

After the widely advertised success of the aforementioned organizations, there was an increased focus on video as a primary learning tool. The increased focus on the format eventually became laser, and resulted in the production of the smallest increments possible, also known as “microlearning.” As a derivative of long-form video, the concept was solid, the goal being to retain the successful learning outcomes of long-form videos, but lower the requirements for attention span and duration for the average learner. Much like Auto-Tune, microlearning had humble and well-intentioned beginnings, but its adoption would come with a number of unforeseen downsides.

In the case of microlearning, the switch to short form, from long-form, inadvertently changed the category of learning material from instructional, to reference. Throughout modern learning’s history, educators have always drawn a line between instructional and reference material, understanding one was always used to support the other. The books we use in school are instructional material, providing the core informational resources we require to teach a new subject.   

“Instructional Materials, also known as Teaching/Learning Materials (TLM),[1] are any collection of materials including animate and inanimate objects and human and non-human resources that a teacher may use in teaching and learning situations to help achieve desired learning objectives.”


Learning materials tend to be in long-form, in contrast to reference materials, which tend to be less substantive. Reference materials provide background information and offer reinforcement of primary learning. Most of us are familiar with this use case through writing reports. All of the theories we spewed in writing assignments were useless to teachers without citations of our background information. The practice of reference citations is something that is now more important than ever, as it has become apparent we can’t trust everything we read on the internet.

When the world decided to switch video-based learning to a microformat, we also switched its material type, from learning, to reference. It should come as no surprise, but we probably shouldn’t be touting ourselves as a plumber after watching a 3-minute video on unclogging a toilet.

Not Learning at All

If anything, we aren’t learning at all by leveraging microlearning. Without foundational knowledge, the odds of us retaining the information we witnessed is low, as evidenced by the absurd number of hits those videos receive on platforms. If there is one aspect that truly classifies microlearning as reference material, it is the frequency at which we need to access it because we haven’t learned it.

In contrast, learning through instructional materials is something we don’t normally forget, as proven by the number of times we reference elementary math books to remember how to add. I would argue that when people Google and YouTube something that they’re not learning at all, and if you been following along to this point, I’m imaging you feel the same.

I’m not saying reference material doesn’t have its place in the learning process, because I made that point obviously clear, I’m just saying maybe it would be in our best interest not to coin the term “microlearning” for something that’s not learning at all.

Feel free to comment on this article in the section below. For more information on RTR Digital’s learning services, visit our home page here. RTR Digital is a professional and management development company specializing in interactive digital content. We create digital workforce development programs that support organizations through the entirety of their employees’ lifecycle and offer educational services to assist our clients with building their own digital learning infrastructures.

Advertising Branding Business Digital Marketing WordPress

A Website? You Ain’t Ready!

As a professional website developer, I would say 90% of people I meet are not ready for a basic website, maybe a splash page, but definitely not a full site. Regardless of that fact, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “it’s just a simple informational website,” and that statement proves to be untrue. Nothing is as simple as it seems, and no one is ever truly ready, so how can developers and clients know where to start? 

Not as Far Along as You Think

Figuring out a starting point for web designs is probably a bit simpler than you would imagine. There are three factors that determine individuals’ and organizations‘ readiness for a website, and they all have to do with understanding the basics of a marketing funnel. It’s not enough to simply understand the funnel, it’s about having realistic expectations about where an entity is within it. Whenever someone approaches me about a website they always imagine themselves ready to complete online transactions, generate leads, or even build the next Facebook, but those actions happen at the bottom of a marketing funnel, not the top. 

Marketing Funnel Diagram
A realistic list of webpages corresponding to the marketing funnel

The top of a funnel is all about building awareness, and that alone has implications on the amount and type of content that gets posted online. A developer or business owner constructing a website is usually at the top of the funnel and only needs to focus on a few things.

  1. Clearly identifying the industry in which they operate business i.e., product, service, or research.
  2. Stating product/service category the business falls within.
  3. Listing the proper products or services within the business’s sub-categories.

Most of these requirements can easily be met if developers and clients are adhering to business plans, but honestly, that’s rarely ever the case. So for the sake of discussion, I’m going to imagine you skipped a couple of steps and start from the beginning, explaining the easiest way to start building an outline for a website. Yes, just like you’re English teacher explained, every document starts with an outline, and websites are documents too.

Outline Basics

Websites follow rigid formatting rules, and creating a basic outline makes it easier for clients and developers to adhere to those rules. Only after creating an outline can developers add images, move items on-screen, and integrate animations to make visitors forget they’re still merely reading a brochure for a business. But before we can metaphorically build out a full brochure, we need to start with a flyer, and in developer lingo that’s a “splash” or landing page. Yeah, I know you’re disappointed. You were expecting to build a five-to-six page site, but now I’m telling you the objective of this article is to get you to simply start with a landing page. You can try it your way if you want to, but for the best chance of success, keep reading.

A website’s outline follows the same structure as a typical capability statement, so you may have to make some organizational decisions that I’m not sure you have already considered. If you’re unfamiliar with Capabilities Statements, they are like resumes for a business, providing an overview of what a company has to offer. By completing this outline, business owners can kill two birds with one stone if need be, writing a Capability Statement and a website outline at the same time.

The start of the outline should always contain a title. Something simple like, “My Company’s Website Outline,” will suffice for a task like this. The body of the outline follows some basic guidelines, with the company’s industry title at the top, following by a breakdown of service categories, and there should be a list of the products and services, each one with a brief description. If you don’t have all of this information handy, the easiest way to find it is by using the data associated with your North American Industry Classification System code, or NAICS (pronounced NAKES) code. By using the proper NAICS code, both the client and developer have a clear guide to understanding the business, and the products or services they offer.


If a business is classified with the proper NAICS code, the description leaves absolutely no doubt they are describing [this business], and the supplemental information in the system will also provide a list of products and services as well. For example, our NAICS code is 611430 and reads as follows:

“This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in offering an array of short duration courses and seminars for management and professional development. Training for career development may be provided directly to individuals or through employers’ training programs, and courses may be customized or modified to meet the special needs of customers. Instruction may be provided in diverse settings, such as the establishment’s or client’s training facilities, educational institutions, the workplace, or the home, and through diverse means, such as correspondence, television, the Internet, or other electronic and distance-learning methods. The training provided by these establishments may include the use of simulators and simulation methods.” 

-NAICS Code 611430

Yeah, that’s us.

If you need assistance finding a NAICS code for a business you can click here and it will open a new search window. If you’ve already selected code, but you’re having difficulty writing clear marketing material, it might be a good time to revisit this step. The video below will provide the required step in less than 10 minutes.

Successfully completing this part of the process provides all the information clients and developers require to complete the site’s outline. 

Never Enough Content

Even after you’ve completed an outline, that’s still not enough to build a landing page, that’s just the basic wording for the site. The good news is that modern websites rely on less text than ever before, the bad news is that you probably don’t have the right quantity, or quality, of images to complete the project. It’s never easy to explain to anyone that some, or all, of the images they’ve provided for their website, aren’t useful, but try to be gentle.

Developers shouldn’t have expectations for clients to know the difference between image formats and resolutions, but it’s an important part of the development process, and it affects the price of the final product. Expanding everyone’s education level on aspects like transparent backgrounds, vector vs. raster, and how certain images crop on mobile devices will result in a better experience for everyone involved.

Sadly, whenever developers have to secure more images for a project the expectations for development time always change in step, resulting in higher costs relative to the price initially set. As with any other type of contracting work, a conversation about a change in price will always cause friction, with either or both sides feeling a bit blindsided by the outcome.

The best way to avoid these confrontations is to educate everyone as much as possible, something we’re trying to do with this article. Regardless of the amount of preparation going into any project, there will always unforeseen complications, and getting past these friction points always involves trust and cooperation.

The Starting Line

After the completion of the initial client/developer meeting, the outline, and the procurement of the right images, you’ll have enough to build a landing page. From here, it will only get easier.

Landing pages provide the developer and client the opportunity to work with each other on a smaller project before deciding if they want to collaborate on building the entire site. If there is good rapport during this stage of the funnel, both parties will feel more comfortable building a site that delivers the entire customer experience.

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Business Digital Marketing SEO

Google Lends a Hand in Saving Black-Owned Businesses

It’s a pretty rare occasion Google hands out a search results advantage to a particular demographic, but it’s happening for “black-owned” businesses, and that’s a good thing. If you haven’t been keeping up with the status of minority businesses during the pandemic, you might have missed the fact that 74% of them are in danger of permanent closure. With that said, Google has decided to extend an olive branch to black-owned businesses, along with other classifications, that enables owners to identify themselves online in the hopes they can garner additional support.

If you already have a Google My Business (GMB) listing, you can probably skip all of this reading and jump straight to the YouTube video outlining the steps to add the “black-owned” attribute to the listing. If you haven’t created a listing yet, you’ll probably need to read through the entirety of this article before jumping online to make any changes.

The Importance of Google My Business

SEO is increasingly more important for small businesses to survive, and without a highly paid expert on your side, there are very few things you can accomplish on your own that will have as significant of an impact as creating an online listing through Google. The easiest way to explain the importance of a listing is by referencing the analog method it’s replacing. Do you remember phone books?

Back in the prehistoric paper days, one of the most important advertising methods for businesses was making sure they were listed in the phonebook. It’s highly unlikely potential customers would ever contact a business without seeing at least a one-line listing, a simple name, and phone number, while flipping through the yellow pages (actual yellow pages), so it should come as no surprises that businesses without a GMB listing would suffer the same fate.

A Look at the Process

The steps required to add the attribute to an existing listing are short and sweet, so I’ll guide you through them as quickly as possible.

  1. Log into your account at
    Google My Business Login Page
  2. Look for the “Celebrating Black-owned Businesses” widget on the Dashboard.
    Google My Business Black Owned Widget
  3. Add the “black-owned” attribute from the list of available options.
    Google My Business Attributes
  4. Confirm the listing changes have been saved in the Info section of the listing.
    Google My Business Info

SEO Basics on a Budget

Google My Business listings are an example of basic SEO techniques of which all minority-owned businesses should be made aware. If you need some additional insight into these tactics, you can download our SEO beginners guide with the button below.