Microlearning – How to Change Learning into Knowledge

Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts, also referred to in training as “bite-sized” learning. Microlearning is more than small pieces of digestible content; it involves a methodology for the delivery of need to know information to increase long-term retention. The learners are in control of what and when they’re learning, having access to key knowledge when it is needed.

Microlearning is learner-driven, supports learning at the time of need and increases overall retention.

Mobile technology and the internet have influenced the learner’s expectation of how information should be accessed and used; further impact of this dynamic is a reduction in the attention span of each user. With the accelerated pace of business and persistent new information, a higher demand is placed on employees to keep up. Traditional learning approaches are not sufficient for employees to gain the knowledge and level of retention needed to be top performers.


Microlearning benefits just-in-time performance support by providing access to the right information at the moment it needs to be applied. The ability to deliver focused, “must-knows” in an engaging format increases the likelihood for repetition, therefore overall retention is achieved. Such a situation might include a nurse needing to recall the specific use issues of a device when administering a product, or a medical science liaison quickly reviewing therapy guidelines in the form of a three-to-five-minute presentation of key points in advance of engaging with a key opinion leader. Microlearning will enable your learning organization to focus on learner competency, not completion.

Impactful Microlearning requires standardized design and instructional-based elements.

1. Be Brief and Targeted
Microlearning content should be delivered in the form of two-to-five-minute, self-contained learning concepts that are targeted and relevant to the individual learner. Targeted content is more appropriate particularly for clinical or science-based information that is complex. Additionally, learning in small chunks matches how the human brain works and the learning is more likely to be repeated and therefore retained.

2. Identify Specific Knowledge to Sustain
Focus on only one learning objective at a time, but provide a methodology to relate a series of topics to one another for complete context. A major challenge in learning science is the complexity of the principles and processes. The more complex concepts are better understood once foundational


knowledge of basic principles is in place. Microlearning has its place in the learning continuum to improve the application and retention of new knowledge once this foundational learning is mastered.

3. Provide Intuitive Access
Although microlearning is best supported through mobile technology, desktop access is equally important. Access has two primary goals; make the information digestible (quick and to the point) as well as intuitive to find and use and available when needed. Learning resources in place at most companies – cumbersome learning management systems, Sharepoint sites, e-newsletters and lengthy classroom training – focus on learning at a specific point in time (such as on-boarding) and materials are not easily available when needed. Providing access via the cloud in an easy to access and searchable format is one solution.

4. Deliver in Flexible Formats
Providing learning content in appropriate multimedia formats will address multiple adult learning styles and ensure it is effortlessly adapted to multiple learning initiatives, is easily updated and therefore consumed more often. This can be especially useful for a global initiative and ease of localization.

Microlearning is flexible and cost-effective because it is reusable.
The demand for more informal, targeted and less-linear learning will significantly impact how training is created, delivered and supported. Many companies are now examining how training can be produced and delivered faster and cheaper, but are still not employing methodologies that focus on building learning content in modular, discoverable formats that allow for ease of re-use. This ability for reuse is particularly relevant for adapting and extending core materials that are topics based in science across product life cycles, thus reducing time to delivery and overall costs.

User demand for more informal, targeted and less linear learning will significantly impact how training is created, delivered and supported. Integrating microlearning as part of your organization’s learning methodology can help employees build, sustain and apply knowledge continually and keep them more productive and engaged.

Michelle Youngers is president of ScienceMedia, Inc. Contact Michelle at Myoungers@sciencemedia.com.

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