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Can’t-Miss Ultimate Guide to Microlearning in 2023!

Microlearning packs a punch in a time when we have busy schedules and are more distracted than ever.

Did you know the average adult attention span is only eight seconds?

That’s a second less than a goldfish.

In the 2022 digital landscape, we have five times more information to consume than we did back in the good ol’ eighties.

Information saturation has led us to detect the fastest path to the answers we need. The modern learner is searching for quick bites of information so they can experience, consume, implement, and move on.

This is where microlearning joins the party.

What Is Microlearning?

Microlearning involves short online courses, hyper-focused on the essential parts of the training.

It’s a tailored approach to learning, delivering theoretical concepts in bite-sized chunks or “learning nuggets”.

Microlearning is perfect for learners who need to maximize their knowledge retention in a short time frame.

But, the knowledge must be practical, hands-on, and relevant to the learner’s daily tasks.

Each module must be free of unnecessary information, be highly focused, and target a single learning objective.

Therefore, it will only take the student 3-7 minutes to consume.

Microlearning is perfect for use in corporate training in a 21st-century workplace.

Organizations can empower employees with on-demand access to the information they need.

Get it right, and you’ll drive results.

The Theory Behind Microlearning

The microlearning theory is based on German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

In the late 19th century, Ebbinghaus created a scientific approach to studying and classifying memory.

He conducted trials, testing subjects on their memory of sets of insignificant, erroneous sounds.

He discovered that the average learner forgets 50% of new knowledge within one day. That plummets to about 80% by the end of the month.

Our knowledge retention degrades over time if the information we learn doesn’t apply to the tasks at hand.

Microlearning is the antidote to the destructive Forgetting Curve.

The Benefits of Microlearning

Don't miss out on a phenomenal opportunity to build fast-paced, engaging training content your employees want.

Microlearning helps learners achieve a specific, actionable performance objective.

It meets the needs of today's learners, is informal in style, and is available on demand.  And it's highly suited to the digital natives of today’s workforce—the Millennial and Gen Z learners.

Let’s look at some more benefits of microlearning to power up your corporate training.

1. Less time consuming

Most employees don’t engage in workplace learning simply because they can’t spare the time.

Microlearning research by Josh Bersin for Deloitte found that employees spend 1% of their workweek on learning activities.

However, microlearning is quick—at the most, ten minutes!

This allows employees to up-skill without taking precious time away from their daily duties.

Less time consuming

Microlearning modules are much shorter than traditional eLearning courses. So, learners can complete multiple courses each week.

2. Saves money

Let's compare the development costs of microlearning with long-form training.

Through microlearning, organizations more than halve their costs, which also means up to a 300% decrease in production time.

Plus, there’s no need to pay for instructors, travel, or classroom space. Resulting in an impressive return on investment.

3. Engages your learners

Most of us are wired to engage with new information for short periods. Even if learners have excellent attention spans, remaining engaged in long learning sessions can be challenging.

The good news is, 58% of employees stated they would use eLearning tools more often if the content was broken up into more digestible pieces.

4. Increases knowledge retention

Microlearning reduces mental fatigue as the learner focuses on learning one thing quickly and then takes a break.

A repeated pattern of spaced learning helps transfer new knowledge into short- and long-term memory.

And this is the key to growing knowledge.

5. Ideal for mobile learning

Ideal for mobile learning

Microlearning and mobile learning go hand in hand because they eliminate any limitations imposed by time and space.

Employees can learn on the go, encouraging anywhere-anytime learning.

And, as microlearning courses are small, employees can download them and take them with them when they’re offline.

6. Promotes self-paced learning

Everyone has different learning styles.

The methods used in formal or higher education often don’t consider the inherent needs and nuances of the modern adult learner.

Many people work full-time jobs while juggling a myriad of priorities.

But microlearning adapts to the psychology of the adult learner, allowing them to enjoy casual learning in a way that works for them.

And, because microlearning fosters learner autonomy, employees can learn at their own pace.

Furthermore, employees can personalize their training experience. Which makes it more likely they’ll apply that knowledge to their job.

And potentially seek out further training.

7. Facilitates customized learning

Microlearning has a targeted focus on one learning outcome at a time.

This allows trainers to construct courses containing short, informative pieces minus extraneous information.

Let’s say your organization has a 90-minute video course on workplace health and safety. And an employee wishes to brush up on hazardous substance control measures.

Rather than have them sift through the whole video, create a logically arranged library of micro-lessons.

For example, label one module “Workplace Hazards” to provide immediate access to the microlearning content without disrupting their daily workflow.

This way, learners can quickly close any knowledge or skill gaps.

The Downside of Microlearning

Unfortunately, a microlearning solution isn’t suitable for every learning need.

Let’s look at some of the downsides of microlearning to help you decide how much—or whether—to include it in your corporate training strategy.

1. Not great for in-depth training or complex concepts

Not great for in-depth training or complex concepts

Does your training include large amounts of broad, foundational knowledge and complex concepts?

Then, perhaps microlearning isn’t the best modality.

By definition, microlearning focuses on solving one problem or answering one question at a time. And it’s useless if on-demand information isn’t found at the point of need.

Additionally, microlearning isn’t suited for learning analytical skills or cause-and-effect relationships.

For example, you can use microlearning to learn conversational French but not to study French literature.

2. Takes time and resources on the back end

Building a microlearning course can take time, resources, and plenty of effort to maintain.

Especially if you’re building your learning module from scratch.

You may have existing training materials. But, you will still need to spend time planning your microlearning module and ensuring it's relevant for the employees using them.

Plus, you will need to periodically update your content when technology and business procedures change.

3. Personalized content can be challenging

How many employees do you have in your organization? If you consider personalizing millions of pieces of content, that could become exceptionally tedious.

So, instructional designers will need to strategize.

How will you organize the information?

And how will you direct the relevant information to the right people?

4. Time can still be a problem

Ultimately, some employees are in high demand and incredibly short on time, no matter what.

Likely, they can’t find the extra time to independently research even small tasks that would make their jobs easier.

Let alone find time to take part in mandated courses.

Types of Microlearning

Your organization can take advantage of microlearning for:

1. Onboarding


Does your business experience a high employee turnover?

Effective onboarding using a bite-sized learning approach can get new hires up to speed quick-smart.

And they’ll have access to the right information when they need it.

Microlearning can help new hires with:

  • Learning their way around the facility
  • Software tutorials,
  • Answers to FAQs, and
  • Discovering the company’s history.

2. Product knowledge training

Microlearning provides employees with product knowledge training that works.

Especially if your business releases new products regularly.

An interactive tutorial can provide workers with quick and easy product training that they can also use as a learning resource on the job.

3. Compliance training

For organizations in highly regulated industries, compliance training can be time-consuming and ultra-tedious.

However, use microlearning to introduce or review rules, regulations, and policies.

It’s a great way to boost user engagement and retention rates.

Examples of Microlearning

Microlearning assets include videos, infographics, eBooks, apps, games, social media, and podcasts.

They can be used as a standalone asset offering a specific learning takeaway. Or you can include them as a component of a longer learning path or objective.

Microlearning examples include:

1. Microcopy

Short, targeted, highly contextual messages or hints to help users learn.

For example:

  • Error messages
  • Contact form explainers
  • eCommerce hints

2. Videos

Videos are a popular tool for story-telling and help to maximize learner engagement.

As microlearning videos are short, it allows learners’ brains to rest while still processing information.

This prevents overloading learners’ working memory, also known as “cognitive overload”.

But is microlearning effective?

Oh yes, in so many ways!

Bite-sized learning content caters to most learner types—visual, aural, and verbal.

Adding visuals to words can improve the transfer of learning by 89%.

Some video examples include:

  • Interactive videos
  • Tutorials
  • TikTok Explainers
  • Micro-lectures
  • Whiteboard animation

3. Mobile apps

Mobile apps

With more access to information, we’ve got more information to access.

Mobile apps deliver the most relevant content, helping spur a microlearning lesson on the go.

Learners can build their skills in their own time. And, they can refer to their microlearning courses anytime, anywhere.

Mobile app examples include:

  • YouTube
  • HeadSpace
  • TED Talks

4. Micro-challenges and games

Tap into your employees’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation with micro-challenges and review games.

By utilizing gamification elements in formal training sessions, you’ll help learners recall key concepts.

Some gamification techniques include:

  • Multiple choice quizzes
  • Polls
  • Flashcards
  • Q & A
  • Simulations

5. Infographics


Infographics translate data and into visual representations, so learners get the picture. Fast.

For example, infographics can include:

  • Statistics
  • Information
  • Timelines
  • Processes
  • Geographics
  • Comparisons
  • Hierarchies
  • Lists

6. Social media

Smartphones and high-speed internet help us stay organized, entertained, and connected.

And social media is a wickedly popular way to turn learners’ mobile devices into microlearning machines.

But, you don’t need to panic about creating customs apps. Simply push out chunks of information through existing networks.

For example, you could:

  1. Create a small introduction to skill training
  2. Make a short video, blog post, or infographic on the subject
  3. Use a social media activity for practice
  4. Use social media to assess learning

Microlearning Best Practices

The best way to access microlearning is through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Some examples of microlearning platforms include:

However, you could also make your learning module available through:

  • Microlearning software,
  • A knowledge management database,
  • Your corporate intranet, or
  • Other internal systems.

Let’s take a look at microlearning principles for best practices:

1. Make sure the subject matter fits

As you begin to plan your microlearning modules, your chief consideration should be your target audience.

Make sure the subject matter fits

And, while microlearning is a great learning tool, it’s not always suited to every subject matter.

Plus, some instructional design elements are complex and can’t be squeezed into a short video.

How long is a microlearning video?

Ideally, you want your content to be no longer than ten minutes.

Shorter videos can create a deeper impact on learners. This is because you’re capturing their full attention with simple, direct, and specific chunks of information.

2. Repurpose existing content

Has your organization been using online training for some time?

Then, you're likely to have a stack of valuable eLearning material that you can repurpose for microlearning.

Reuse your existing content by splitting it up into smaller, more digestible microlearning segments.

However, microlearning isn’t about slicing and dicing your content into smaller courses.

You’ll need a proper instructional design strategy. Analyze your content and choose the right asset to deliver the information.

3. Use gamification

Use gamification

Gamification is a not-so-secret engagement weapon of regular eLearning.

Microlearning statistics reveal that 100% of employees say they’ll willingly undergo training if a game is involved.

And if that game is mobile-friendly, employees can play during their commute, lunch break, or downtime.

Gamification in corporate training is as essential in microlearning as it is in general eLearning.

An interactive learning experience keeps employees engaged and focused on learning.

4. Be visual and interactive

How do you create effective eLearning content? Be sure to include attention-grabbing elements such as videos, images, and animations.

Videos, interactive PDFs, and whiteboard animations unite our visual and auditory senses.

And grabs greater attention from viewers.

The shorter and more visual your content is, the more engaging and memorable it will be.

5. Reinforce key concepts

Don’t let the Forgetting Curve strike and wreak havoc on your virtual training efforts.

Help employees battle frustrating memory lapses and improve knowledge retention with microlearning sessions.

Combine your modules with other formats for a more engaging and holistic experience.

For example:

  • Pre-training: Use videos to introduce basic concepts and case studies before the training session.
  • During Training: Include microlearning videos and infographics to demonstrate complex procedures and processes.
  • Post-training: Build micro FAQ modules to offer support at the point of need. Turn conventional quick reference guides into a “how-to” micro demo, explainer video, or interactive PDF.

6. Any time, any place

As microlearning is mobile-friendly, employees can learn on the go.

Design activities or mini-games with responsive designs and a mobile-first approach.

Bite-sized learning allows people to take their learning in their pockets when they leave the office.

7. Emphasize social and collaborative learning

Social and collaborative learning can be your greatest allies in a microlearning strategy.

What is social learning?

This type of learning focuses on people observing the positive behaviors of others and attempting to replicate them.

And collaborative learning?

This centers more on brainstorming with colleagues, noting their views, and learning as a result.

Combining these learning styles works.


Because it fosters interaction, facilitates continual learning, and makes learning more personal.

Open up the opportunity for employees to discuss your microlearning modules to engage and motivate them.

It may even alert you to any knowledge gaps that need attention.

8. Optimize for mobile

Optimize for mobile

Microlearning suits the way we learn as it doesn’t require us to be chained to our desks.

Create lessons using a mobile-friendly platform designed to support mobile learning.

Ensure employees have around-the-clock access to resources if they choose to learn outside office hours.

9. Avoid formal language

Keep in mind that you’re writing a script for learners.

You’re not writing a term paper.

Ensure your text is short, sweet, and to the point.

You want it to look and sound like a conversation, not something stiff or overly formal.

Final Thoughts

Brains love microlearning.

It’s effective, engaging, and appealing to learners, making it a great approach to modern workplace learning.

Small nuggets of information may seem insignificant compared to a content-heavy training approach.

But for the brain, bigger isn’t always better.

Microlearning might be the smallest tool in your training arsenal.

And given our fast-paced culture, it might also be one of the most effective.

Kirsty Wilson is a Smart Blogger-certified content marketer and self-taught margarita aficionado. With a passion for Digital Marketing and a knack for crafting captivating Landing Page Copy, she sprinkles her Aussie charm and cheeky humour across lifestyle, travel, and marketing blogs. Currently adventuring through Mexico, she documents her solo travels to inspire fellow Gen-X gals to #SeizeTheDay!