The Science of Microlearning
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Executive Summary

Microlearning as an idea has been around for a while. Now that the term has been made popular, vendors are falling over each other to convince companies that they have the best microlearning. But few vendors actually understand the science justifying the use of microlearning, let alone how it bears on instructional design. We present some of that objective research here, making the argument that microlearning is extremely effective, if it is done correctly.

So, the title here is a little misleading. By asking whether microlearning is a trend or a fad, the question implicitly assumes that, either way, microlearning is a recent thing. If that were really the case, it would be natural to ask if it’s here to stay, or just a flashy fad that is likely to go away. The truth is that microlearning has been around for a long time. From short pamphlets printed on a press to TED talks, the idea of using bite-sized bits of standalone content that people can remember and immediately use has been around for hundreds of years.

So, Why the Recent Interest?

What changed is that this short-form content has been given the name “microlearning.” When something gets a short, clever label, it becomes easier to talk about— and measure. That measurement has lead to a growing stream of research showing that microlearning really is a more effective way to engage employees, make the most of their divided attention, and guarantee that the information gained is retained and used.

Before jumping on the bandwagon, though, it helps to get clear on the actual science. Make yourself aware of what objective, scientific findings have had to say about it. If you do so, you’ll discover not only that microlearning is effective, but learn how to do it correctly so that you can actually achieve your learning outcomes.

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