The Science Behind MicroLearning

Adjoa Kittoe
Marketing Manager
April 3, 2022

As technology advances, the ability to retain educational material in a sit-down setting has become increasingly difficult. Our world today is fast-paced and full of stimulation. Today’s employee is re-learning how to absorb information. The key to learning is brevity. An effective strategy for today's employees is microlearning.

What is MicroLearning?

Although there is no universal definition of microlearning, there are similarities among them. Microlearning consists of focused and condensed learning units, usually lasting about 10-13 minutes per unit [1]. However, training directors and content creators need not focus on the length of the lessons, but rather focus on providing only the essentials. Employees should walk away from their sessions with the confidence to carry out newly learned skills.

These micro lessons are digitalized and generally accompanied by interactive multimedia, making the experience relatable, attainable, and accessible. Some examples of microlearning content are short videos, short audio snippets, tests and quizzes, games, short text phrases, and photos. Through short bursts of content, microlearning enhances the learning experience in an efficient manner.

How Memory Affects Learning

People are innately curious. The desire to learn has and will always be a part of us. Yet, what is causing the decline in information retention? The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve can shed some light. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve states that employees forget 90% of what they’ve learned within the first month if their learning isn’t properly reinforced [2]. At the time of any learning, memory retention is at 100%. This drops down to 40% within the first few days of learning new information.

Although the definition of memory is complicated, researcher Larry Squire states, “memory is not a single faculty of the mind but rather is formed of many systems that have various operating principles. [3] Memory is created “by the shape, pattern, and allocation of neurons in different clusters within the brain” and having an emotional link can enhance memory retention, according to research done by Xavier University School of Medicine [4].

The Benefits of MicroLearning

With microlearning, there are fewer things to write, therefore having shorter delivery times. Content developers and training directors can build several courses in a shorter amount of time. As microlearning requires fewer resources, it is a more affordable strategy.

The delivery of training on mobile devices are more engaging and less “serious” in comparison to traditional styles of training on desktop computers and in classrooms. As found in the research from Xavier University School of Medicine, repeated styles of study help the learner retain the information, combating the Forgetting Curve.

Microlearning is a multi-platform teaching tool that can be applied to educate almost any employee.  Microlearning helps move learned material from short-term to long-term memory. It has been shown to increase retention by having employees re-visit content.  Because microlearning generally lives on mobile devices, employees are able to complete their lessons quickly. Employees keep high engagement levels through micro-learning, as the different forms of media keep them captivated.