Microlearning Explained

Posted by Natalie Donalds,

February 10, 2016

When you look at any definition of microlearning, you will see phrases like "bite-sized chunks" used frequently. In simple terms this is correct, as microlearning is about learning skills or gaining knowledge through a series of frequent, small, and quick-to-complete segments. This could be a module that takes 20 minutes to complete, or it could be a 60 second video.

Therefore, microlearning is very different than traditional methods of learning such as lectures and training courses that would run for a day or a week. Best of all, microlearning is proving to be more effective – the Wall Street Journal reporting 90 per cent of new skills are lost within a year compared to the four to five learned takeaways per microlearning session (Learning Solutions Magazine, 2014 ). Microlearning aims to achieve the same learning objectives as the traditional methods, but it does it by delivering content that is much smaller and shorter. Time is the crucial element here, as microlearning has evolved as an educational concept because of the way that we now use technology, particularly mobile devices.

Brevity is beautiful on mobile devices.

As a result, many microlearning courses are delivered on mobile devices.

Is It Really As Simple As That?

Unfortunately, to properly deliver microlearning and reap the benefits, it is not as simple as splitting up your existing content into shorter segments. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Microlearning is about building up a person's skill over time, so it needs to be granular, but it should also have a clearly defined path to the ultimate goal. It should be possible to start at the bottom and gradually build up your knowledge layer by layer.
  • Each individual segment should be able to stand on its own. This facilitates one of the major benefits of micro-learning, namely the ability for users to seamlessly jump into an overall course at a point that suits their knowledge and ability. In other words, they don't necessarily need to start at the beginning.
  • In traditional learning sessions there is a lot of wasted time and content - introductions, recaps, continuity links between sessions, etc. None of that is needed in a micro-learning scenario. In fact, it is contradictory to the main of objective of microlearning, which is to have short, sharp, and focussed content delivered succinctly.

8 Benefits of Micro-Learning

Micro-learning has real benefits to learners, trainers, and organizations. Here are the main ones:

  1. It suits people because it is compatible with the way that they live and use technology.
  2. It allows for just-in-time learning, which is important because people will be more attentive and willing to learn if they need to use the skill or knowledge right away.
  3. It is flexible, so people can complete a segment on the commute to work or over breakfast in the morning.
  4. It is effective, as people retain more information and pick up new skills more quickly.
  5. People can learn only what they need.
  6. It is faster to produce and create the content and segments.
  7. It is easy to distribute the content.
  8. It is easy to change the content as technology, circumstances, or events change.

These benefits are centred on one crucial point - micro-learning makes it more likely that the person taking the course will become proficient in the subject matter or skill.