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Microlearning: Much more than a buzzword

Microlearning: Much more than a buzzword

What is microlearning?

I'm a big fan of microlearning both personally - I enjoy using it myself, and professionally - I really believe it's a great way of supporting staff and partners. So what is it? Think of microlearning as the delivery of bite-sized training or performance support nuggets made available to people in a readily accessible form.

Microlearning is a lot more than just chunked content served from a Learning Management System (LMS). It's all about delivering content in short bursts, typically 1-5 minutes in duration, but in a way that adapts continuously to an individual's training needs based on their current level of knowledge in a given subject.

You've probably already spotted that this form of learning is well suited to the mobile world and takes advantage of our love affair with the mobile phone. Pretty much everyone has a mobile phone and they usually tend to keep it with them.

So microlearning delivered out to mobile phones is inherently very applicable for just-in-time training delivery and performance support. But, it can also be applied to long term learning programmes, with a key advantage. By delivering a programme of content (a “micro-curriculum” if you like) in small chunks, drip feeding it over a period of days, weeks and months and by using proven memory-building techniques such as spaced repetition and repeated retrieval through the use of quizzes and knowledge checks, you can help to ensure people retain information in the long term.

Contrast this to the commonplace approach of providing standalone learning interventions either via 30-60 minute online eLearning courses or classroom based training, which sees lots of material presented in a single hit over a short time period and is very prone to the forgetting curve i.e. it's in one ear, and very rapidly out of the other and forgotten in a very short period of time. So microlearning can really help with the effectiveness of your training and support programmes. 

What is microlearning?

Why are people talking about microlearning?

The approach that underpins microlearning can shake up traditional, corporate training and education models, many of which were established long ago in a bygone era. Microlearning offers a versatile approach that will play its part in driving future learning management product innovation due to its focus on skills development and performance improvement. 

It's a significant approach for a number of reasons:

  1. It addresses the needs of the busy corporate worker who has less and less time for training, yet has more and more business change, regulations, policies, new products, new systems and so on to contend with.
  2. It addresses the learning style of the millennial generation, who by 2020 will represent 50% of the corporate population and who by 2025 will take up 75% of the workforce.
  3. It represents a strategy that can keep pace with the ever increasing rate of change in the modern business world. Microlearning is quick to create and quick to update.
  4. It can positively impact workforce performance yielding tangible business benefits while at the same time requiring less time away from the "day job".

What are the benefits of microlearning?

What are the benefits of microlearning?

The microlearning approach offers many benefits to both businesses and individuals who need to be trained or need information at their fingertips in order to perform their roles effectively and efficiently.

Benefits to the business:

  • Cheaper to build (particularly if you can produce micro-assets by using a production-line process)
  • Shorter development cycles i.e. quicker to deploy
  • Easier to update, keep current and keep pace with ever changing business needs and priorities
  • Wider application i.e. can be applied informally or formally e.g. through dedicated programmes, just-in-time training, performance support, or as a technique to compliment formal training
  • More closely meets the expectations of the new generation entering the workplace
  • Can improve workforce productivity, efficiency and performance

Benefits to the learner:

  • Much more appealing than standard, click-through eLearning
  • Can increase voluntary participation in learning, even more so when combined with gamification
  • Accessible anywhere i.e. available on all device types
  • Consumes less time
  • Supports on the job training and results in less time away from work
  • Available at the time of the learning need (just-in-time)
  • Better retention of learning through the use of rich media formats
  • Personalised and made relevant for maximum benefit
  • Avoids wasting people's time by telling them what they already know


Microlearning is the term used to represent bite-sized pieces of relevant, personalised content disseminated daily or weekly and also made available on demand. Being concise and available across devices makes microlearning assets an ideal fit for just-in-time training, performance support and to augment other types of formal training to help address the forgetting curve and to ensure long term knowledge retention. Microlearning gives people the opportunity to build their knowledge at a time most convenient for them.

While the concept of modularising content is not a new one, demand for mobile learning solutions, the popularity of video-based training, a lower tolerance for boredom, reduced concentration spans, and the expectation for information to be available on demand, are all combining to all but guarantee that microlearning has a key part to play in the future of corporate learning.

Tim Buff
Author: Tim Buff

This article was published by Tim Buff on 09.02.2017. Tim is CEO and Chief Learning Strategist at Agylia. Tim's role is to help people and companies design and implement digital learning strategies - this often involves pushing boundaries to develop innovative and creative solutions.

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