The Pros and Cons of Microlearning: Delivering Training in Bite-Sized Chunks

Thanks to our ever-shortening attention spans, things just keep getting smaller, shorter and broken into pieces. Music isn’t consumed by the album anymore; it’s downloaded song-by-song. Rather than reading a newspaper cover-to-cover, we use news aggregation apps and social media sites like Twitter to quickly scan headlines. Magazines are consumed article-by-article more than issue-by-issue. And we might be doing two or more of these things at once, on our smartphone in line at the grocery store or coffee shop.

Without question, we are a people on the go facing a never-ending barrage of information.

Learning, too, has been impacted by the mincing of content into smaller and smaller pieces. It started when full-day, instructor-led training classes were repackaged into an eLearning course that could be completed in an hour or two.

Now, microlearning is taking eLearning even further.

Microlearning Supports Continuous Training and Development

We all agree that continuous learning is a good thing, right? Any individual can take responsibility for his or her own continuous learning through books, articles and webinars. But as a company, you need to add structure to make sure employees are getting the training they need to do their jobs well.

Microlearning is a way to overcome the attention-span deficit and increase training effectiveness by making learning part of a regular routine. Companies are finding that rather than sit someone in a chair for two days, one day or even just an hour, peppering them with complex information, it helps to break content into pieces to be consumed and digested a little bit at a time.

Microlearning supports continuous learning through the delivery of training and knowledge items at regular intervals. When done right, it can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from any device.

As with most training methodologies, there are pros and cons to consider before launching a microlearning campaign.

Six Reasons to Try Microlearning at Your Organization

  • Microlearning puts more power and control in the hands of the learners. It lets them choose when, where and what device, so they can learn over lunch at a cafe using their smartphone, or on the computer at their desk when they first arrive in the morning.
  • Delivering training in small chunks is a great way to adapt to common behaviors of today’s audiences, which has yielded a lot of multitasking and short attention spans.
  • Focusing on granular topics one at a time can reduce confusion or information overload. It allows the learner to focus solely on one topic, absorb it and digest it before diving into the next topic.
  • Information inevitably changes, and it’s incredibly easy to update segmented microlearning modules and redistribute them as needed. No need to take an entire eLearning course over again just because one piece of information has changed.
  • As learners quickly move through each brief module, there’s a sense of accomplishment as modules are completed and they are able to immediately apply what they’re learning.
  • Microlearning makes repeating lessons incredibly easy. Content can be revisited as needed.

Microlearning May Not Be For Everyone

If you were reading the Microlearning pros above and nodding enthusiastically, that’s great! But there are a few considerations that are important to consider before diving in head first.

  • In order for microlearning to work, it has to be done well. Production quality must be high. It must be engaging and, ideally, device-agnostic.
  • Technical demands could be higher than you’re used to, especially if you want to develop for mobile. Discuss internal resources and capabilities before proceeding. You may need to outsource some of the development work.
  • If it’s important that a series of microlearning “bursts” need to be understood in context with each other, plan each module and its timing carefully. You want to make sure learners are grasping each concept but also connecting the dots to create the bigger picture.