One of the growing trends in learning and development is the use of microlearning. So in this article we look at what this is and how to make best use of it to improve business performance.

Microlearning (sometimes written as micro learning or micro-learning) is a way of teaching and delivering educational content to employees in small, very specific bursts via websites, email and other remote learning platforms.

Microlearning content can take many forms, but recorded presentations (written and verbal), games and videos are commonly used.

Whatever the format, all microlearning has the following two features:

  • Whilst there is no defined maximum duration that qualifies a learning event as microlearning, all microlearning events are designed to be as short as possible, typically less than an hour and sometimes as short as a few minutes.
  • Because of its brevity, a microlearning event can only focus on a single, narrow topic, concept or idea.

Some organisations expect their employees to undertake microlearning in an informal way, through self-directed learning, Other organisations use microlearning as part of a structured and planned approach to employee development by, for example, using compliance based online training courses as part of their induction process.

Organisations want to use microlearning in the workplace as it is seen as a way to empower employees by putting them in control of when (and sometimes what) they are learning. It is also being used as it is perceived to help in situations where information changes quickly so employees find it difficult to keep up with things. It is also often seen as a cheaper alternative to classroom based training.

Like any type of learning intervention, using microlearning has advantages and disadvantages. Let us take a look at these.

We will start with the advantages.

The first advantage is that microlearning can help to close a small knowledge gap quickly. As such it can create quick results.

Because the learner controls the when and the pace of learning, they are more likely to be receptive to the content as they can fit it around their busy schedule.

Also, because the topic covered is very small, learners find it easier to remember the information presented.

The ability to quickly and easily distribute the learning using online tools (websites, email etc) makes it administratively friendly.

There are, however, some disadvantages of using microlearning which should be considered when deciding on the most effective strategy to use to improve business performance.

The first disadvantage is that whilst it can be used to meet an immediate learning need, most experts agree that it is unlikely to be effective for achieving longer-term learning goals.

Because the learning is fragmented into small single topics, there is a real danger that employees do not gain the depth of understanding required and that their learning ends up as content fragments that are not tied together.

Even with tracking and testing, you cannot be certain that the learner has really absorbed and understood all of the important points. Also, if they do not understand they are often “on their own” as there is no or little human support immediately available.

Because of these advantages and disadvantages Microlearning is not suited to meeting every training need. it will work best in situations where:

  • The training is simply about increasing knowledge and understanding (e.g. business processes and procedures)
  • The skills are those that can be learned by watching and copying exactly (e.g computer skills)
  • Or where it is used to support other training interventions

Spearhead offers a range of online courses which use the microlearning approach:

Soft Skills courses
Health & Safety compliance training courses
Business Protection training courses