A few days ago, CLO Magazine published a provocative article describing how elearning provider Grovo has tried to patent the word “microlearning,” applying for registration in October, 2016. The article, and the comments, are a fascinating read.
This is very interesting, and a bad play by Grovo. Many of us in the learning industry have used the term “microlearning” and I’ll bet that a great many are irked by Grovo’s shameless attempt to restrict its use for their commercial benefit.
Here is evidence to put a dagger in any claim that “microlearning” is a specific product attributable to Grovo. On April 9th, 2015 (Long before Grovo’s original application for a patent), numerous people in the learning industry met in a Twitter chat and discussed their perceptions of what microlearning is (my synopsis of the results is available here, along with a link to the actual tweets: https://www.worklearning.com/2015/04/10/twitter-chat-on-microlearning/). Interestingly, Grovo’s name was NEVER mentioned. This was one and a half years before Grovo applied for a patent.
Here is an even earlier communication in 2015 about microlearning on a blog post from Tom Spiglanin, again with no mention of Grovo.
Here is an even earlier blog post from 2014 on microlearning by Learnnovators, again with no mention of Grovo.
Here is another piece of data that shows that Grovo considered microlearning as a general concept, not as proprietary to them: An article written by their top learning professional, Alex Khurgin, published on August 25, 2015, clearly shows what Grovo thought of microlearning. “The broadest and most useful definition of microlearning is ‘learning, and applying what one has learned, in small, focused steps.'” This is more than one year before Grovo applied for a patent.
Full disclosure: I have authored my own definition of microlearning (https://www.worklearning.com/2017/01/13/definition-of-microlearning/). Several years ago, Grovo paid me for a couple hours of consulting. Grovo management and I once talked about me working for them. I have referred to Grovo previously on my subscription learning blog (here and here).
Let me add that others are more than welcome to use my definition of microlearning, modify it, or ignore it.