Why is Microlearning More than Just a Trend?

Microlearning is an up and coming topic in the training industry—especially in the new workplace shaped by COVID. For me, the idea that microlearning is becoming more popular is very exciting.  We have an opportunity to create quick burst programs that are effective, applicable, available, and fun!    

Let’s run down the aspects of a microlearning module.  Typically, a microlearning module consists of content (usually video) that lasts no more than four minutes.  You may have an overarching theme, but each module will have only one objective.  Assume the average attention span of your audience is limited, so content is key.  

Chunking—short-term memory allows individuals to recall information, several seconds to several minutes. Although the capacity of short-term memory is considered to be 7 ± 2 items, this can be increased through a process called chunking (Osaka, 2014).  By grouping relevant information together in short sequences, you are not only providing valuable content, but doing it in a way that promotes retention.

Availability—primarily online, microlearning modules are easily accessible from any device.  For instance, eLearning tools like Articulate (which is very adaptable) have apps to make them effortlessly accessible from any platform.  This means that your employee can review a four minute module at the gym, from their desk, or during their morning ride on the subway (if they prefer).  As the incoming workforce prefers schedules that are less rigid than the 8-5, this is one way to give them flexibility from being tied to a desk.

Applicability—these focused modules do very well in the providing information relating to a specific objective that can be immediately used.  If your company has an internal or private social media site, push out your content through that media and ask for employees to start a discussion.  Create tools that are applicable to your end user so that once it’s gained, it’s also retained.  Don’t forget, 50% of what we learned is lost if we don’t use it within six hours, 90% if it’s not applied within 30 days (Hagendorf, Klix, & Ebbinghaus, 1986).

The challenge to microlearning is the mindset transition from traditional face to face interventions that are the primary tool used in workforce education today.  Blended, online, and social learning is more applicable to the younger and incoming workforce; why not tailor instruction to a medium in which they are proficient? 

By bringing the training to them, we are creating a workforce that is more educated, more informed, more efficient, and more willing to learn.  The results of which can increase productivity and dare say it, a more sustainable learning environment.


Hagendorf, H., Klix, F., Ebbinghaus, H. (1986). Human memory and cognitive capabilities: mechanisms and performances : symposium in memoriam Hermann Ebbinghaus 1885, Berlin Humboldt University 1985. Amsterdam: North-Holland

Osaka, M. (2014). Probability theory predicts that chunking into groups of three or four items increases the short-term memory capacity. Scientific Research, (June), 1474–1484.

Published by Melissa A. Walker, Ph.D.

Training and Development Network believes there is always a positive way to engage, develop, and retain your employees; create a supportive environment for diversity, equity, and inclusion; assess opportunities to build on current knowledge or skills; and facilitate change management for any organization. We believe in engaging, actionable programs that enable your staff and leadership to immediately implement tools for change and growth. TAD offers a variety services for both the individual and the organization. We are here help you navigate career challenges, or achieve your organizational or event goals. Contact us to start your proactive journey today.

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