What Is Microlearning, and How Can It Benefit You?
Online education – often called remote learning, online learning, or eLearning – has been around since the mid-1990s, and the last decade has seen significant growth in this educational method. The pandemic forcing so many classes and workplaces to shift online for several years has caused eLearning offerings to spike, and now there are more options available than ever before.
Many colleges and universities now provide individual courses, and in some cases entire degree programs, entirely online and remote. Many businesses have also shifted their employee training and professional development to online courses. But not every student is suited for fully-online education, and not every type of program or course is suited for eLearning.
A style of online learning called “microlearning” has emerged as a practical and well-suited option for many topics.
The key to microlearning is in the name: short, focused segments that teach a single concept or idea. Microlearning modules are also different from traditional eLearning because they can incorporate formats other than text, video, and quizzes, such as games, interactive activities, images, and audio. Lessons are quick to complete, usually only taking 10 or 15 minutes, and can be often be done through an app on your smartphone, as well as regular computer or browser-based access.
In order to get the most out of microlearning opportunities, it’s important to understand both the advantages and disadvantages of this style of online education.
Advantages of Microlearning
- Fast and Flexible. The short time commitment of microlearning means that it is easy to complete modules in small chunks, whenever it is convenient. This makes microlearning ideal for people with busy schedules, limited free time, or unusual work hours.
- Highly Engaging. Between the flexibility and the wider options for the style of the learning content, microlearning is often more engaging for the student. Traditional text-heavy eLearning can be difficult to focus on for the long periods of time needed to get through the material. In contrast, microlearning’s incorporation of multimedia elements and “fun” content makes the material easier to digest, and easier to retain what you’ve learned.
- Our digital devices are more sophisticated than ever, which means that many microlearning opportunities can be accessed on-the-go via your smartphone or tablet, typically through an app or through a browser-based platform. This has opened microlearning up to many people who may not own or have access to a computer.
Disadvantages of Microlearning
- Low Long-Term Commitment. The thing that makes microlearning unique – short, focused lessons – can also make it difficult for some learners to stay dedicated to completing the full course. Having many small lessons means it can be easy to fall behind if you’re not staying on top of completing them, or to procrastinate until you eventually simply never finish.
- Lack of Complexity and Depth. Microlearning isn’t well suited to topics that are complex or which require a deep analysis and understanding of the material, since the small and quick nature of a microlearning lesson simply does not provide enough time to explain with the necessary detail. Instead, microlearning is best suited for presenting factual information, or reviewing fundamentals that are already familiar to the learning and only require a refresh.
If you are assigned microlearning modules as part of workplace training, chances are they aren’t optional and you don’t get to choose them yourself. But if you decided to explore microlearning opportunities for your own personal or professional development, keep the above pros and cons in mind as you choose which courses to take, to make sure you’ll get the most out of the educational experience.