Small steps to big knowledge: How to embrace microlearning in a contemporary learning environment

December 11, 2023 By Sonya Trivedi

In an age where information is abundant and attention spans are constantly shortening, microlearning has emerged as a critical tool in creating effective learning programs in both educational institutions and organisations. This innovative approach breaks down complex topics into small, manageable units, making learning more accessible and engaging. In this article, we will review the concept of microlearning, explore its benefits both in the workplace and classroom environment, and suggest best practices for designing effective microlearning online modules.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning is an educational approach that offers learning content in small, bite-sized units. These concise modules, typically ranging from 3 to 7 minutes in length, focus on a single specific learning objective. 

The goal of microlearning is to break down complex topics into digestible pieces, making them easier to understand, retain, and apply in real-world situations. Unlike traditional learning methods that often involve lengthy lectures or dense text-based materials, microlearning caters to the modern learner’s preference for quick, actionable information. It aligns with the way we consume content in today’s digital age, where we are constantly exposed to short bursts of information from social media posts, news articles, and videos.

Microlearning offers several advantages over traditional learning approaches, from increased engagement to improved learning outcomes, offering flexibility and adaptability and allowing learners to access relevant information when they need it most. This approach is particularly effective in combating cognitive overload, a common issue in traditional learning methods.

Microlearning in the workplace

Microlearning is rapidly becoming an essential tool in workplace learning and development, offering multiple advantages. One of its primary benefits is an increased return on investment (ROI). In particular, microlearning supports upskilling or reskilling teams and increases the number of employees who actively participate in microlearning sessions. 

In contrast, traditional or longer course-based online teaching methods often struggle to achieve retention and completion. Moreover, the succinct and modular design of microlearning content makes it more cost-effective and efficient to produce. These smaller, easily updated modules, similar to “Lego-like” blocks, facilitate rapid content development, reducing costs and tripling development speed.

In addition, microlearning excels in accessibility and adaptability. Its compact modules are simpler to distribute, requiring less bandwidth for cloud uploads and downloads by employing the concept of Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs). These self-contained, versatile elements can be reused in various contexts, streamlining the development process and minimising redundancy. 

Last but not least, microlearning caters to a diverse range of learning preferences and needs. By utilising various mediums such as videos, audio clips, interactive quizzes, and visual infographics, microlearning enables the presentation of content in bite-sized chunks. This approach allows learners to engage with the format that resonates most effectively with their individual learning preferences, ensuring a more personalised and impactful educational experience. Its flexibility extends to different learning environments as well, from in-office to remote settings, making microlearning a universally adaptable learning tool. 

While beneficial in enhancing workplace learning, microlearning presents some challenges. Its concise nature is less effective for comprehensive or complex training, which is a drawback in sectors like healthcare that require extensive knowledge and skill development. Additionally, the short format may result in reduced learner engagement and a fragmented learning experience if the content lacks depth or coherence. Furthermore, developing microlearning content demands significant effort and time from instructional designers, as it involves transforming existing materials into engaging, short formats. These challenges demand the necessity of careful planning and strategic implementation to leverage microlearning’s potential fully.

Microlearning in education

Microlearning has evolved into a significant educational trend, with its roots tracing back to ancient methods of knowledge sharing. Today, it’s integrated into educational systems globally. The adoption of microlearning in schools and colleges is marked by its effective use during the COVID-19 pandemic, where it saw a 40% increase in usage

Furthermore, it can effectively augment traditional teaching methods, and it is especially useful in the context of EdTech, where tools like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) enhance the learning experience. 

This approach has significant applications in educational settings, particularly in the context of the decreasing attention spans of young learners. Recent research highlights that the average attention span has declined, particularly among young people who are constantly exposed to digital stimulation. This overload from social media and technology leads to a habit of skimming rather than deep reading or concentration, impacting their ability to retain information and understand complex concepts​​​.

Microlearning not only caters to their reduced attention spans but also allows students to control their time and learning experience, making education more engaging and effective​​. The Pomodoro technique, which involves breaking work into intervals (traditionally 25 minutes in length) separated by short breaks, complements microlearning’s format. Students can focus on concise learning activities for a set period and then take a break, which aligns with their natural attention spans and learning rhythms.

Lastly, microlearning creates more opportunities to reward learners upon completion of tasks. This reward system can significantly boost motivation and engagement, making learning a more positive and goal-oriented experience. As learners complete these short learning modules, their sense of accomplishment and progress is reinforced, encouraging continued engagement and learning. It’s particularly beneficial for adult learners who juggle education with other commitments. 

Presenting effective microlearning content

Presenting effective microlearning content requires a strategic approach that centres on presenting concise, skill-based, and just-in-time knowledge. Key principles to guide this process include ensuring the content is short timeframe and focused on a single topic or skill. Interactivity is crucial to engage learners, as is flexibility in delivery to suit various learning environments. Moreover, incorporating a variety of learning methods and materials can maintain learner interest and enhance retention. These principles are fundamental to creating microlearning content that is both engaging and effective.

Instructional design strategies

In terms of instructional design strategies, it is essential to start with a clear vision and defined goals. This involves identifying the necessary knowledge areas, understanding the target audience, and setting specific learning objectives. Another important aspect is selecting appropriate content, which is vital for producing the right microlearning modules, as not all material is suited for microlearning. Diverse media formats like infographics, videos, and podcasts cater to different learning preferences, enhancing the overall impact of the learning content. Adding gamification and socialisation elements can further boost engagement and learning effectiveness. Adopting a lean approach to design, focusing on the learners’ needs and constraints, ensures that the microlearning modules are both relevant and accessible.

Effective assessment

Assessing the impact of the microlearning content is crucial in both educational and workplace settings. Effective assessment can be achieved through various metrics, such as evaluating knowledge application in real-world scenarios, improvements in efficiency and work quality, qualitative feedback from various stakeholders, monitoring error rates, and measuring the achievement of organisational outcomes. These metrics help in determining whether the microlearning modules are meeting their intended goals and where improvements may be necessary. A well-assessed microlearning program should demonstrate a noticeable positive effect on employee performance and align with the broader objectives of the organisation.

Offering effective microlearning experiences with Moodle

Using a flexible and adaptable learning management system like Moodle LMS or Moodle Workplace is key for offering effective microlearning experiences. 

Organisations can use the platform to serve as a repository, combining specialist content generated in-house with links to external resources elsewhere on the web, which have been evaluated to ensure they support particular learning goals. 

Whether in education or workplace settings, Moodle stands out for its ability to accommodate a diverse range of engaging and accessible activities and content, including text, images, videos, and audio, specifically designed for different learning preferences and quick comprehension.

The platform further enhances microlearning by incorporating interactive activities such as quizzes, games, and forums, facilitating learner interaction and collaboration. It can also employ conditional learning paths to tailor the learning experience based on individual performance. Conditional learning involves creating several potential routes for each learner through the available content. So, once a piece of microlearning has been completed, such as a short quiz, the individual learner is directed to the next option based on their performance. 

To ensure consistent learner engagement, Moodle’s notification system plays a crucial role in promoting regular interaction with the learning materials. The LMS has robust tracking and reporting features, providing invaluable insights into learner progress and the effectiveness of the microlearning strategy, which is essential for continuous improvement. This comprehensive and adaptable approach positions Moodle as an ideal platform for implementing a successful microlearning strategy, effectively meeting the evolving needs of modern students and learners.


Microlearning is more than just a fleeting trend; it’s an essential approach in the contemporary landscape of education and workplace training. By delivering tailored, concise, and engaging content, the approach not only enhances knowledge retention but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and development. 

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