Making an Impact with Microlearning


The term “microlearning” has received increased buzz over the last year as educators and trainers continue to explore ways to engage students and reduce learning gaps.

Defining Microlearning

Microlearning is an approach which features relatively small learning units. Gaining popularity in the field of corporate training, microlearning uses short-term activities designed for quick delivery of information. Content with a specific focus is presented in easily digestible formats, such as in short videos or infographics to help meet a specific learning objective.

Breaking up content into smaller sections is not new. Educators have long been chunking content into smaller units to break down material and prevent cognitive overload. However, simply separating a module into smaller segments is not necessarily microlearning.

What matters most in effective microlearning is the specific focus of the content in helping to meet the learning goals targeted.

Microlearning, while designed to be shorter than other learning material, continues to rely on proven learning strategies for success. Learning objectives for the material are recommended to ensure learners are achieving stated goals. Assessment opportunities where students can test their knowledge remain important, as does providing opportunities for feedback.

Benefits of Incorporating Microlearning

In corporate settings, microlearning is being used to reinforce learning material and deliver just-in-time knowledge transfer. In place of an hour-long training covering content which may not be applied immediately, people can use material focused on the task they’re currently working on when they need it. Higher education is also taking note of ways microlearning can lead to further retention of content and engagement with material. In online classes, best practice continues to advocate for the use of reinforcement activities and of relevant resources such as instructional videos and articles to supplement lectures or textbook readings. Microlearning material offers an opportunity for self-assessment at the learner’s own pace.

A benefit of microlearning includes the time it takes to produce. As it does not require the same amount of time as it may take to create a comprehensive learning module or full course, microlearning content can be created or updated in less time. Another benefit is the time it takes for students to complete. Its shorter nature can make content appear less intimidating. It can serve as an introduction to a topic, assessment opportunity, or refresher for covered material.

Examples of Microlearning

For fully online classes, adding microlearning material can help enhance the class experience. Here are ways to consider adding microlearning elements to your course:

  • Social Media: Twitter allows for a character limit of 280 characters per tweet. Videos, news articles, and images can be uploaded or retweeted from other users. As an interactive platform, users can reply to others, ask poll questions and receive notifications in real-time. Embed your Twitter feed right on Canvas so students can see new items when they log in.
  • Audio and Videos: Focused videos on a specific topic can help enhance content. Short YouTube and NBC Learn videos can add real-world context to instructional material. Podcasts on a topic covered in class can also be used as supplemental material which students can listen to, pause, and come back to wherever they have a chance to listen to audio.
  • Interactive self-assessments: Tools like Studymate and HP5 can be used to create short interactive material, such as flashcards and study questions.

What Microlearning Does Not Do

It’s important to remember that microlearning strategies and elements can help enhance comprehensive material as a supplement to a full course, for example, but cannot on their own replace the need for learning that scaffolds and builds over time. Shorter learning elements can serve as practice and reinforcing material. As microlearning becomes more popular in different learning environments, remember to focus on content rather than length, modality, or flashiness. As with any learning material, think first of what learners will gain from the information and how it can be applied in a meaningful way.

Interested in More?

Looking for ways to incorporate shorter learning or supplemental material for your online course? Reach out to your instructional designer to discuss.

References and other Resources:

05/01/20 Note

NBC Learn will be discontinued by the end of Summer A 2020. Any of the following resources may serve as valuable alternatives: YouTube videos, PBS videos or LinkedIn Learning videos. You may also elect to coordinate with Sarah Hammil, FIU’s distance learning librarian, for other solutions.

Erika Huezo was a Senior Instructional Designer at FIU Online. She joined FIU Online in 2010 as a Course Developer, helping to create an introduction to online teaching course for faculty and assisted with the department’s implementation of the Quality Matters (QM) program standards. Erika worked closely with faculty to create engaging learning environments and kept current with instructional theories, tools, and trends.

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