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 the actual definition, how this all got started, and where it’s heading in the future.

Defining microlearning

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, this style of learning 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 the learning is being delivered, such as 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’s 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 it’s often a combination of the above modalities.

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.

The past

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.

The future

The concept of microlearning hasn’t really changed over the last fifteen years, but thanks to technology, it’s 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.

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