What is microlearning?

Dec 21, 2017Insights

Microlearning is talked about all over the corporate learning world and is not fundamentally anything new – we all Google something to find a quick how-to article when we need to do something new or refresh our memory of it. Microlearning takes this same idea into the corporate learning world.

So what exactly is microlearning?

Whilst microlearning does not really have a firm definition, it typically refers to foccused learning modules which are below 5-10 minutes duration (most people would argue that when learning objects take over 10 minutes to complete they become too long to be classified as microlearning). Microlearning modules can take many forms – digital interactive courses with activities and practice questions, animations & infographics to name just a few. These microlearning modules can be strung together to create longer structured learning programmes tailored to each job role or simply used as a library from which the user can select the courses on demand. It is this flexibility that makes microlearning so useful to businesses and a versatile learning tool for all companies.

Some of the benefits of microlearning

Each microlearning module is focussed on a specific objective

Since each microlearning module is focussed on a specific objective it is quick to access as a refresher or revision for employees who don’t want to and don’t have the time to flick through hundreds of pages of manuals or policies to find the answer they are looking for. Having focussed objectives, though, also makes microlearning modules incredibly useful for new learners. Specific modules can be strung together to create courses which can be tailored with the correct objectives for each job role or even each staff member ensuring just the right amount of learning for each staff member – not overwhelming them with excessive and superfluous information, but providing them with the exact amount required to successfully and effectively undertake their job role.

Employee feels in control of their learning and professional growth

Most people know that putting employees in control of their own learning and professional development is an effective way to improve employee morale and foster a positive learning culture within the organisation (which has positive effects on employee retention amongst other things). But until now, it has been difficult to put employees in control of their learning as company systems didn’t have the functionality or capability to do it. Adopting microlearning changes this as employees can learn about what they need to on demand, as well as the usual mandated compliance learning. There is no keeping up with other staff as the learning can be done at their own pace and each employee can focus their learning on areas they know require improvement with less time spent on areas they are already competent in. Plugging performance gaps when they arise as opposed to waiting weeks for a training course leads to more effective employee learning with a better ROI.

Improve memory retention

By having the learning and questions available to the employee at any time they can easily track which areas they have forgotten and quickly access modules to refresh their knoweldge. In addition, after day courses employees can easily access supplementary microlearning material to ensure maximal retention of knowledge and skills and a better ROI on employee learning.

Content is faster to update

Microlearning content is faster to update (and hence more cost effective) than traditional, longer e-learning courses. This means that changes in legislation or new methods and techniques can quickly be updated in relevant courses so you will always be at the forefront of corporate learning.

So is there a need for traditional longer (macrolearning) e-learning courses?

Traditional e-learning courses are not yet ‘dead’, as some people have proclaimed. They still (for now at least) have a use, particularly for longer training courses and compliance requirements. However, microlearning is fast becoming the mainstay in modern corporate learning and should be viewed as here to stay.


Microlearning is an incredibly effective way of structuring employee learning programmes. It gives employees the flexibility to refresh knowledge and learn  when they need to (‘on demand’) and results in many benefits to employees and employers including better ROI, easy access to training materials and a positive workplace culture.

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