So what is microlearning?
Microlearning is defined as a strategy of independent learning of short, clearly defined content with a view to acquiring specific knowledge and competencies in relation to the set learning objective. The main characteristics of microlearning are:
Short learning content – the first step towards microlearning
The most obvious characteristic of microlearning is its length, which generally does not exceed 10 minutes. This in turn also limits the scope of learning content provided through microlearning. Learning short segments of learning content is not a novelty in pedagogical theory and practice. The advantages of learning with small content units have been recognised in pedagogical theory for a long time.
The foundations have been set by the psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the late 19th century. His forgetting curve provided empirical evidence that learners forget approximately 50% of the newly learned material within twenty minutes of learning it and 80% within one month, provided that there are no interventions aimed at preventing the process of forgetting and no circumstances or events that would facilitate this process (Shail, 2019). Ebbinghaus has also shown through empirical experiments that the process of forgetting can be mitigated or even stopped by learners repeating the material in short lessons or chunks and at regular intervals.
Microlearning enables much more than the learning of short learning content focused on memory retention. Remembering is only the first level on the path to acquiring knowledge and competencies and ranks the lowest on Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills. With appropriate instructional design and reasonable technological support, microlearning offers a wide range of implementation options to achieve learning objectives of higher cognitive levels.*
What is the potential of microlearning for more efficient and effective learning and training of employees?
With regard to the achievement of learning objectives, the potential of microlearning can be divided into two groups:
Firstly, microlearning, coupled with mobile learning, makes it possible to achieve the primary objective that applies to short learning content, i.e. more efficient and effective retention of what was learned than with the traditional approach of repeat learning. The learning process of microlearning using mobile devices is much more adapted and tailored to the individual, as they can revise and consolidate the learning material at any time, anywhere, and as often as they like.
Secondly, the tools and applications that are installed, uploaded or added to (smart) mobile devices significantly expand the potential of microlearning beyond achieving the primary objective of remembering and enable effective and successful realisation of learning objectives that rank higher on Bloom’s taxonomy. These are mainly objectives that are associated with applying the acquired knowledge, evaluating possible solutions, and encouraging creativity in the workplace**.
The wealth of technological options available on mobile devices provides a wide range of microlearning formats, ranging from technologically simple to more advanced (e.g. videos, interactive videos, animations, infographics, quizzes, gamifications and simulations, augmented and virtual reality).
The choice of the microlearning format depends primarily on the learning objective. The design of the microlearning unit and the preparation of microlearning material should, in addition to this main principle, take into account the characteristics of the target group or individual, the nature of the learning content, the available resources, technological limitations, and similar.
Advantages of microlearning for the employees
The flexibility in the design of microlearning makes it useful practically for all segments and levels of education and training; however, its benefits are most obvious for people receiving training in the workplace or studying part-time.
The advantages of microlearning for the learning and training of employees include:
Advantages of microlearning for the organisation
Microlearning is also a good choice for the organisation which trains and educates its employees this way, as compared to traditional forms (such as workshops, seminars, learning from printed materials), microlearning exhibits obvious advantages:
Limitations of microlearning
Of course, the opportunities for individuals and the organisation that arise from microlearning are not fully realised in every case of microlearning. This depends on the microlearning format, its place in the learning process, the learning content, the characteristics of the learner and organisation, and other factors.
In practice, microlearning is often misunderstood and there are misconceptions about the simplicity of its preparation. Microlearning is thus often perceived as a very attractive form of learning due to low costs and as something for anyone who is able to fragment learning content and bring these fragments (chunks) into an electronic format accessible with mobile devices. However, in order to design a quality microlearning unit and microlearning materials, at least a basic knowledge of the issue of e-education programme design and planning is required as well as basic mastery of digital tools for the creation of digital microlearning materials.
This is also confirmed by the experience with the pilot introduction of microlearning into the postgraduate course on Trends in Innovative Education. Students learned about microlearning not only passively, as a useful learning resource, but also actively on the basis of their own experience in preparing the team assignment. The final objective of the team assignment was for students to independently create multimedia open learning materials following the principles of microlearning, which would cover the learning content of the study programme in Innovation Management in Social and Education Sector, whereby all characteristics and steps in the preparation of the team assignment had to be professionally justified and described.
Microlearning is also not a universally applicable learning strategy. Microlearning is definitively not suitable for complex and more complicated learning content that cannot be presented in a few minutes. Microlearning is also not a good learning strategy to address new and unfamiliar topics.
Considerable caution should be used when using microlearning in cases when a part of the content has been taken from the whole context and there is a risk that learners will not recognise the interconnectedness and interdependencies of the different parts of the learning content. In such a case, we need to ensure that learners have access to other learning content that is associated with the covered topic.
Bregar, L., Zagmasjter M., Radovan M. (2020). E-izobraževanje za digitalno družbo. Andragoški center Slovenije. https://www.acs.si/digitalna-bralnica/e-izobrazevanje-za-digitalno-druzbo/ [retrieved on 1 September 2021]
Shail M S (2 August 2019) Using Micro-learning on Mobile Applications to Increase Knowledge Retention and Work Performance: A Review of Literature. Cureus 11(8): e5307. DOI 10.7759/cureus.5307 [retrieved on 15 June 2019]
* Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive learning objectives covers six cognitive process dimensions, ranked from the lowest to the highest: remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001, in Bregar et al., p. 131).