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Mighty Encyclopedia


What is microlearning?

Microlearning is the practice of educating through short lessons geared towards clear learning objectives, whether delivered in-person or online. It takes information and turns it into bite-sized chunks that can be consumed quickly. Usually, components of these lessons are repeated at different times throughout the course of study to make sure the information sticks.

Why microlearning is great

Microlearning doesn’t require a large amount of time or energy, and it’s perfect for anyone–even people who didn’t traditionally have time to upskill or pursue education. It takes the most important components of education in a certain skill or competence and boils it down to its essential parts.

Microlearning fits with how our brains work, too. The minute we learn things, we start to forget. In a traditional lecture setting, this means that students begin forgetting information the minute they leave the classroom–and likely won’t remember again unless it’s on the exam. When learning is spaced out and repeated, even short lessons are much more effective than long lectures. By focusing more on the repetition of key information and short bursts that are easy to digest, it works with our psychology rather than against us. (Remember struggling to pay attention in an hour-long lesson?)

Companies are spending a lot of time and money on microlearning too since it’s an opportunity to upskill their workforce. And it’s efficient. Microlearning forces the instructional designer to focus on goal-oriented learning, teaching what’s important rather than a full spectrum of knowledge (like a traditional college course).

Although it’s existed in theory for decades, microlearning has come into its own with an explosion of literature on the topic and recognition as a teaching strategy. The digital space has also made it really easy to implement microlearning. It’s perfect for mobile learning apps (think flashcards or short exercises), and the learning experience can be gamified to keep users engaged and give them notifications when it’s time to study.

Microlearning vs. traditional learning

Traditional education is based on the idea that knowledge and skills are acquired over long periods of time and intense study. Microlearning turns this on its head by teaching key things over short periods of time or short lessons over a long period of time.

For example, people used to take courses for language acquisition, studying a language for years. Duolingo changed this by providing short, engaging lessons, showing that even 5-10 minutes a day can help with learning a language.

Microlearning works best with concepts that don’t need to be understood in great depth, or specific skills or competencies that can be acquired through short lessons. It is not a replacement for the type of broad-based, deep learning that is necessary to gain certain knowledge. For example, microlearning might be great for learning safe driving practices, but it wouldn’t give you the scale of knowledge required to be an engineer who builds roads.

For these reasons, even in traditional learning settings, microlearning can also be implemented to boost what the students are learning rather than to replace the traditional classroom completely.

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