What is Microlearning?

There is a lot of buzz around microlearning these days. From corporate leaders trying to figure out how to best implement it to Grovo trademarking the term Microlearning® (What? That actually happened?! Yep. Read the full story).

It can be a bit confusing to weed through the noise, so we’re here to give you a quick synopsis of what microlearning actually is, how it started, where it’s heading and the hype it’s causing.

Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts. The learners are in control of what and when they’re learning.

Microlearning can occur in a variety of different formats depending on what an organization’s learning needs are. As outlined in Theo Hug’s, Microlearning: A New Pedagogical Challenge, microlearning can occur in several modalities, but common types include:

  • Time – The time can be measured based on time of consumption, measurable time or the time of effort it takes.
  • Content – This refers to the size of content being delivered whether in small units, narrow topics or simple issues.
  • Form – The method in which microlearning is being delivered. For example: short videos, mini assessments, click-and-reveal etc.
  • Learning Type – This refers to whether the learning is conscious, unconscious, corporate, action learning, skill learning etc. It is the core of what you are trying to transfer to your learners.

There are a few other dimensions that microlearning can take place across, but microlearning is often a combination of the above modalities.

What’s a common example of microlearning? Duolingo. Everyone’s favorite language learning app. Duolingo allows learners to learn a new language anywhere, anytime in bite-sized, continual learning modules. Never used Duolingo? We highly encourage you to give it a try! You will have a solid first hand experience of microlearning.

History of Microlearning

While microlearning may seem like a new learning concept, it’s been around for more than a decade and is based on “microteaching” that took place in the sixties.

Microteaching was first implemented in the education industry as a way to optimize training for new teachers by scaling back on size, time, and content. This laid the groundwork for what we know microlearning as today.

In 2005, the first-ever conference on microlearning was held in Innsbruck, Austria and organized by the Research Studio eLearning Environments and the Institute of Educational Sciences at the University of Innsbruck. The conference sought to bring together the concepts and ground work of microteaching and what was being used in higher education and corporate training. The results? What we know microlearning as today.

Microlearning in the News

Microlearning has made a name for itself in the news over the last month and a half. Grovo, a learning platform vendor, received final approval from the US Patent and Trademark Office to trademark Microlearning.

Grovo said they wanted to trademark microlearning in order to open a dialogue around the definition of the word. They feel the it has become an industry buzzword with little meaning or actual understanding.

The news of the trademark has sparked lively and engaging conversations throughout the eLearning industry and across social media.

So what does this mean for the industry as whole? Only time will tell, but so far many feel it’s just the “flavor of the month” from one vendor in the industry.

Where is Microlearning Heading?

The concept of microlearning hasn’t really changed over the last twelve years, but thanks to technology it is getting an exponential boost in its applications and day-to-day uses.

What began as a way to transfer knowledge quicker to those in academia, has entered the corporate world in full force to aid in quicker onboarding, skill development and knowledge retention.

So where do we see microlearning heading? More and more mobile applications with individualized learning paths, consumer grade design and robust metric and data tracking for administrators. And with the rise of millennials entering the workforce, the demand for microlearning is only going to increase as they crave on-demand learning at their fingertips.

Whether you are new to the world of microlearning or are a seasoned professional who’s been using it for years, everyone can benefit from using it. With the advances we see in technology daily, the applications for microlearning are only going to get better and continue to grow at scale.

Want to find out if microlearning is right for your team?

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