by Danielle Greening, GP Strategies

Micro-learning: Main course or appetizer?

Whilst our attention spans are slowly shrinking, so are our methods of learning. This wave of bite-sized learning chunks, otherwise known as micro-learning, has taken the L&D world by storm in recent years, and is definitely here to stay. Our busy, on-the-go lifestyles called for a quicker, more flexible approach to learning so that courses could mould themselves into the users working schedules. We bid farewell to users endlessly staring at a computer screen, and instead welcomed more compact, concise learning courses whereby users can complete L&D courses in a timely manner. And with our attention spans on average lasting between 3-6 minutes, this was only ever going to be a worthy move.

L-plate on car - microlearning

The self-paced nature of micro-learning is what draws many users in to actually wanting to participate. And this is relevant at all ages. Personally, I first experienced micro-learning whilst I was learning to drive. Mobile learning apps became an integral part of my journey to pass my theory test, and I found myself opening the app several times a day. From my commute to work on the train, to lunchtime breaks, and even lounging around, I would learn through short, focused sessions throughout the day. Because I was in control of what I was doing, I could set my own pace, my own deadlines, my own goals to work towards which subsequently made my learning experience a more enjoyable one.


Micro-Learning - Not just for Millennials

Millennials like myself on average prefer micro-learning as opposed to any other method of learning. Why? Well (and here comes the bombshell), we get distracted quite easily. Drop a tonne of training courses and a mountain of information on our heads and an overwhelming feeling of dread would rise within us. Sprinkle nuggets of information through 5-7 minute long courses, however, and we are good to go. This also helps with our retention rate too, meaning we won’t forget things so quickly.

So what about older generations? How do they bear with micro-learning? Generation Y were the first to grow up with technology as an integral part of their lives, so the mobile element of learning is undoubtedly something they’re accustomed to. Retention rates, accessibility, convenience; these elements of micro-learning apply to all generations.

Learning menu text with fork, spoon, knife & spatula

But is micro-learning enough as a stand-alone learning tool, or does it act purely as a starter? Quite often, micro-learning is used to introduce new concepts, however, we can sometimes be overwhelmed with the amount that is on offer.

If we take a look at the Learning Menu infographic we can see that there are many flaws with micro-learning.

It simply isn’t enough on its own to create an effective training programme, and ultimately needs additional ‘main course’ elements such as Blended Learning, or VILT alongside it to create a worthwhile learner journey.


Take my theory test for instance. Along with the mobile app I used everyday, I also had a revision DVD which would go through elements in detail with videos and mini-games which would challenge me personally based on scores I had received in past challenges. As a stand-alone, the mobile app probably wouldn’t have gotten me a first time pass. However, once I added other learning tools to the mix, I was well on the way to success. 

Whilst micro-learning is indeed a worthy tool for the L&D world, it would be naïve to think of it as a ‘main course’. Add it as an appertizer alongside main courses like Instructor-Led Training courses, however, and then we have a substantial meal on our hands.  So, are you ready to order?