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What is microlearning? In-depth guide for 2024

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Ellie Swain
Published: Jan 03, 2024
Updated: May 03, 2024


What is microlearning?

In a university study published in 2023, 82% of students involved expressed high satisfaction in completing microlearning courses. Additionally, the results showed that the student’s answers were 81% correct, and 87.5% would recommend microlearning to others.

If you're wondering 'What is microlearning?', it's an educational strategy that breaks down complex subjects into easily digestible ‘micro’ chunks. These bite-sized, interactive modules help engage learners and offer incredible flexibility, allowing people to learn at their own pace, wherever and whenever they choose. 

Microlearning offers a convenient and efficient way to broaden and reinforce knowledge without overwhelming learners. It can be used for most kinds of training, from teaching a specific skill like compliance training to onboarding focused on company culture. It's the perfect blend of quick, effective learning and high engagement, often enriched with elements like gamification to make the experience not just educational but genuinely enjoyable. This educational approach aligns particularly well with today’s increasingly digital age, where attention spans are waning, but the need for continual learning is growing. 

We’re here to dive deep into what microlearning is, its science, its benefits and challenges, and much more. You’ll also learn how to create your own microlearning curriculum for your organisation. Keep reading.



The science behind the microlearning concept

Microlearning is a pedagogical learning approach that delivers content in short bursts and segments, usually lasting up to a few minutes each. The method is grounded in cognitive science and leverages the human brain's ability to absorb information in ‘chunks.’ Let’s learn more about the science behind the concept.

The spacing effect

Research on the spacing effect, a psychological principle that suggests learning is more effective when spread out over time, confirms the benefits of microlearning. According to microlearning research, people forget more than 50% of newly learned material 20 minutes after the knowledge is imparted. The learned percentage drops to 40% in nine hours and 24% in 31 days if no reinforcement occurs.

However, the same microlearning research also shows that memories can be retained through repeat exposure. If the knowledge is reinforced in time-spaced intervals, it transitions from short-term to long-term memory. This is how a high-quality microlearning program can work. 

Although microlearning courses are short, the information is often continually reinforced. Plus, as microlearning courses are brief and less time-consuming, repeating them doesn’t feel overwhelming or tedious. That’s how microlearning can help people with a busy schedule learn more.

The Zeigarnik effect

Another key scientific underpinning of microlearning is the Zeigarnik Effect, which suggests that people remember uncompleted tasks better than completed ones. Microlearning modules, characterised by their concise and focused content, typically end with an unfinished element, like a pending question or a gamified challenge. This deliberate design capitalises on the Zeigarnik Effect by leaving a 'cognitive cliffhanger'. As learners are more likely to remember and reflect on these incomplete tasks, this approach enhances retention and keeps the learning material more engaging and memorable.


The dual-coding theory

Using microlearning examples, like short videos and interactive quizzes, also has a scientific basis for improving learning. According to the Dual-Coding Theory, combining verbal and visual information can encourage learning

The effectiveness of microlearning has also been proven in corporate environments. Impressively, a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that companies that have embraced microlearning experienced a 130% increase in both employee engagement and productivity compared to those that haven’t integrated it into their training strategies.

These metrics demonstrate the practical benefits of applying microlearning techniques. However, while the science behind microlearning is robust, it's essential to note that it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Its efficacy can vary depending on the learner's needs, the complexity of the material, and other factors.


The benefits of microlearning

Microlearning offers many benefits for both learners and organisations; here are some of them.

1. Efficiency

Microlearning courses and modules are designed to be consumed in small knowledge nuggets, often as little as 5 to 10 minutes. This allows learners to engage with the material whenever they like, such as during breaks or downtime, making better use of time that might otherwise be wasted. 

This is a game-changer for many people working in fast-paced industries, such as in cleaning, front of house, or healthcare. Many people working in frontline roles like these simply don’t have the time to sit down to read through long courses or watch lengthy training videos, and that’s where microlearning comes in to help.


2. Knowledge retention and the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve

Studies have shown that short, concentrated learning sessions can improve knowledge retention. The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve indicates that learners forget an average of 70% of new information within 24 hours. But, microlearning counteracts this by reinforcing key concepts in a timely manner. 


3. Flexibility

Job aids like eLearning microlearning platforms enable short quizzes and courses to be easily updated or replaced, making it easier for organisations to keep training material current and updated. This is particularly important in high-speed industries where trends, regulations, and technologies change rapidly. 

4. Personalisation

In many cases, with microlearning, people have the freedom to study the topics that are most relevant and interesting to them, increasing engagement and motivation. Some AI algorithms can further tailor training paths, such as incorporating custom storylines and characters, offering courses that are most likely to excite learners and close individual gaps in knowledge.

5. Accessibility

Microlearning is often available via mobile learning platforms, making on-the-go training easier and more accessible for more people than ever. Microlearning apps can increase the likelihood of completion, as learners can engage with content wherever and whenever they have a free moment. That’s whether they’re on their lunch break at work or have a few moments at home.

Likewise, many eLearning platforms, like Lingio, make it easier than ever for organisations to create custom, widely accessible microlearning courses. Using an accessibility standard, such as WCAG, helps. A clean and easy-to-use UX design is also important. 


6. Cost-effectiveness

Developing shorter learning modules generally requires fewer resources than traditional training programs, translating to lower organisational costs. And as mentioned, updating content is easier and quicker than ever with digital learning, saving time and resources. 

Many eLearning platforms, including Lingio, offer microlearning course creation software at a subscription price, which is often quite cost-effective.


7. Just-in-time learning

The brevity and accessibility of microlearning courses make them excellent resources for ‘just-in-time learning’, offering quick refresher courses or problem-solving job aids right when needed. In many cases, creating or updating a bite-sized course online doesn’t take much time at all.


8. Improved engagement

The interactive and multimedia elements commonly used in microlearning cater to varied learning styles, increasing engagement and knowledge retention rates. By catering to different preferences and encouraging active participation, microlearning transforms the learning experience into a gripping, dynamic journey.


9. Scalability

Microlearning is easily scalable, both in terms of adding more modules and reaching more learners. This makes it a flexible and effective training option for organisations of all sizes. 



How to incorporate microlearning in employee upskilling programs

Identifying the core competencies required for an organisation’s growth makes it possible to design microlearning courses that directly address these areas, ensuring relevance and immediate applicability. Let’s learn how best to incorporate microlearning in your next training and upskilling program.


1. Define if microlearning is a good fit 

Before implementing microlearning, assessing if the approach aligns with the organisation's training needs and goals is essential. Microlearning is ideal for delivering concise, focused content and reinforcing key concepts. It works best for skills training that can be broken down into smaller, manageable parts. 
Organisations should consider the complexity of the material, the learning objectives, and the learners' profiles. Microlearning could be an excellent fit if the workforce is highly mobile, frequently pressed for time, or needs regular, bite-sized knowledge refreshers.


2. Break down material into bite-sized modules

Incorporating microlearning into staff upskilling programs first involves breaking down educational material into bite-sized learning modules. This segmentation makes it easier for teams to digest and retain information without feeling overwhelmed. 


3. Deliver content through engaging and interactive formats

As content is segmented and developed, plan to deliver it through engaging and interactive formats. Some microlearning examples include storylines, interactive quizzes, and points scoring.


4. Consider reworking or reusing existing content and courses 

Leverage existing training material by transforming or reworking it into microlearning courses. Long-form content, such as comprehensive training manuals or lengthy e-learning courses, can be broken down into short bursts and segments. This not only saves time and resources but also breathes new life into existing content. Key points from webinars, workshops, and longer courses can be converted into training nuggets, such as interactive quizzes, five-minute microlearning videos, or quick-read infographics.


5. Add recurring content 

To reinforce learning and help with knowledge retention, it's beneficial to introduce recurring microlearning content. Such recurrence helps keep the knowledge fresh in the learners' minds and encourages applying skills in their daily tasks.


6. Choose an eLearning platform for delivery

The use of technology for microlearning is essential. Using mobile learning platforms or microlearning apps makes it easy to create courses that can seamlessly integrate into employees' daily lives without disruption. eLearning platforms like Lingio allow for training that doesn’t interrupt people’s productivity flow but complements it. 


7. Provide access anytime, on any device 

Accessibility is essential for effective microlearning. Ensure the microlearning content is optimised for various devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Use cloud-based platforms where learners can access content anytime and anywhere, whether they’re taking a break between work shifts or travelling somewhere on the train.


8. Track performance

Organisations should track courses' engagement and performance metrics to ensure microlearning's effectiveness. This data can offer insights into which approaches are most effective and which need improvement. Soliciting regular employee feedback also helps keep the content relevant and aligned with their needs. 


9. Create a microlearning culture

Finally, embedding microlearning into the organisation's culture by recognising and rewarding progress in training and upskilling can reinforce its value. When employees see their efforts in engaging with microlearning are acknowledged and appreciated, it boosts morale and proves the organisation's commitment to personal and professional growth. 

When integrated thoughtfully, microlearning can be a powerful tool in an organisation's upskilling and training strategy. It aligns with modern work patterns, caters to immediate and long-term learning needs, and supports the continuous development of the workforce.


The challenges of microlearning

Microlearning, while offering many advantages, isn’t without its challenges. As organisations increasingly adopt this learning method, it's crucial to understand the potential pitfalls to navigate them effectively. 

Below are some key challenges associated with microlearning. 


1. Over-simplification

Given the brevity of microlearning modules, there can be a risk of oversimplifying complex topics. In some cases, this can lead to superficial understanding and may not adequately prepare learners for real-world applications. It’s essential to ensure that complicated topics are still thoroughly covered, even when delivered in a microlearning format.


2. Lack of depth

Similarly, microlearning focuses on bite-sized chunks of information, which can sometimes mean sacrificing in-depth exploration of a subject. This can be problematic for topics that require deep dives or extensive contextual understanding. 

However, if you need to create an extensive course, it'll help the learner if you divide it into several parts or individual modules. After all, if the learner can see the high mountain at the beginning of the journey, it might seem too overwhelming, and they might hesitate to take the first step.

3. Fragmented learning experience

Microlearning often includes gamified elements, such as storylines involving characters and interactive quizzes. However, some learners might experience a fragmented learning journey without a cohesive structure or clear pathway. This can lead to gaps in knowledge or an inability to see the bigger picture. 

To address this issue, ensure that each microlearning module follows a clear, logical pathway, building upon previous content to maintain continuity. Additionally, you can provide supplementary resources to offer broader context, helping people connect individual learning nuggets with the overall training objectives. Short summaries and contextual information boxes can help with this.


4. Over-reliance on technology

Microlearning typically uses digital platforms for delivery. While this has many benefits, including enhanced accessibility, it can also create barriers for those lacking technical proficiency or access to necessary devices and connectivity. Fortunately, over 90% of people globally own a mobile phone, meaning most people can access mobile learning.


5. Quality control

The ease of creating content means that many microlearning courses are available. While this is predominantly positive, it may raise concerns about the information's quality and accuracy. However, many eLearning companies that allow users to create microlearning content have considered this. 

At Lingio, our AI software uses only the most reliable sources to create microlearning training courses, extracting information from trusted databases like Wikipedia or personally uploaded documents. Furthermore, users can further verify and refine their AI-generated questions and answers during the microlearning course creation process to ensure their accuracy before publishing.



6. Learner accountability

In some cases, the self-directed nature of microlearning places much of the responsibility for learning on the individual. Some people may not fully engage with the content without proper motivation or discipline. 

But with Lingio, our eLearning platform comes with a coaching portal. There, employers can coach, track, and follow up with their staff’s microlearning course results. Employers can also send automatically generated text messages to encourage learners to keep studying.



7. Missed social interaction

Traditional learning often involves group interactions, discussions, and collaborative projects. Microlearning alone might lack these interactive elements, potentially leading to a sense of isolation among learners. 

To address the lack of social interaction in microlearning, you can integrate interactive elements that facilitate collaboration and discussion, such as a coaching portal. Additionally, organising virtual meetups or webinars can simulate a classroom environment, allowing for real-time interaction and the growth of a learning community. These strategies help ease any feelings of isolation and promote a more engaging and collaborative learning experience.

While microlearning presents these challenges, they can all be easily overcome. With careful planning, a balanced approach, and continual feedback loops, organisations can harness microlearning's power while reducing drawbacks.


The future of microlearning in staff training

Microlearning in staff training is poised to be a significant driver of workplace learning and development. In 2018, microlearning was implemented for 60.7% of all e-learning. And in 2020, microlearning adoption grew by 40% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As technology develops faster and faster, the need for adaptive, quick, and effective training methods becomes more pronounced. With its compact, focused training method, microlearning fits perfectly into this evolving landscape. Let’s see how it is set to develop in the coming years.


1. Tailoring to modern workforces

Modern workforces are increasingly diverse and dynamic, with a greater emphasis on remote work and flexible schedules. Microlearning caters to these trends by offering bite-sized learning that fits various lifestyles and work patterns. The ability to access training anytime and anywhere via smartphones and other devices is likely to drive higher engagement and completion rates. 


2. Integration with AI

Advancements in technology, such as AI and machine learning, will further refine microlearning. AI can help tailor learning content to custom needs, identify knowledge gaps, and recommend personalised micro-courses. This adaptive learning approach ensures that training is relevant and efficient, maximising the return on time invested in learning. 


3. Expanding scope beyond traditional learning

Microlearning is set to expand beyond traditional learning. Soft skills training, which is increasingly vital in today's collaborative work environments, can also be taught effectively through microlearning. Emotional intelligence, communication skills, and teamwork can be broken down into micro-sessions, allowing for gradual and practical learning. 


4. Enhanced interactivity and gamification 

Engagement is key in microlearning, and we’ll see even more interactive and gamified content in the future. Gamification elements like badges, storylines, and rewards make learning more engaging and enjoyable, increasing motivation. Interactive content, including simulations and scenario-based learning, can provide practical, real-world experience in a controlled, risk-free environment. 


5. Continuous learning and performance support 

Microlearning will become an integral part of continuous learning and performance support systems. It serves as a skill acquisition tool and on-the-job aid, providing just-in-time information that enhances performance and productivity. 


6. Measuring impact and ROI

As microlearning becomes more prevalent, measuring its impact on performance and ROI will become crucial. Analytics and data-driven insights will play a more significant role in shaping and justifying microlearning strategies.


Choose Lingio as your microlearning platform

The future of microlearning in staff training is bright and full of potential. Its adaptability, alignment with technological trends, and effectiveness in meeting the diverse needs of modern learners make it an essential component of future training programs. As organisations seek more efficient, engaging, and flexible ways to develop their workforce, microlearning will undoubtedly be at the forefront of this transformation.

If you're keen to introduce this innovative learning style into your organisation, Lingio is your go-to platform. With our user-friendly AI eLearning courses and interactive coaching portal, we don't just make training easier; we make it a joy for learners. Welcome Lingio to help with your training needs and watch as your team exceeds expectations with their newfound knowledge and enthusiasm. Try our comprehensive eLearning platform for free today.



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    2. Yuan X. (2022). Evidence of the Spacing Effect and Influences on Perceptions of Learning and Science Curricula. Cureus, 14(1), e21201.
    3. Shail M. S. (2019). Using Micro-learning on Mobile Applications to Increase Knowledge Retention and Work Performance: A Review of Literature. Cureus, 11(8), e5307.
    4. Kodden, B. (2020). The Art of Sustainable Performance: The Zeigarnik Effect. In: The Art of Sustainable Performance. SpringerBriefs in Business. Springer, Cham.
    5. Mayer, R. E. (2001). Dual-Coding Theory. In International Encyclopedia of Education (3rd ed.)
    6. David G. Allen, Ph.D., SPHR. (2008=. Retaining talent: A guide to analyzing and managing employee turnover. Society for Human Resource Management.
    7. Wittman, J. The Forgetting Curve. California State University, Stanislaus.
    8. Turner, A. How many smartphones are in the world? Bank My Cell
    9. Corbeil, R., & Corbeil, M. E. (2023). Microlearning: The “OG” or Hot New Trend? EDUCAUSE Review.


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Image of Ellie Swain
Ellie Swain
Ellie is a full-time writer from London and has been working with Lingio since the end of 2022. She loves contributing to a company that makes learning and development easier and more accessible for people. In her spare time, she loves travelling, watching live music, and trying new restaurants.

Table of contents

What is microlearning?

The science behind the microlearning concept

The benefits of microlearning

How to incorporate microlearning in employee upskilling programs

The challenges of microlearning

The future of microlearning in staff training

Choose Lingio as your microlearning platform


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