What is MicroLearning

Micro Learning is the process of acquiring Knowledge through the consumption of Micro Content in a very short time span.

Types of Micro Content

When discussing types of Micro Content (also called Learning Nuggets) it is important to distinguish between the Knowledge which needs to be disseminated and the Delivery Mechanism used to accomplish this.

Here are some examples of Delivery Mechanisms:

  1. A Memo or an Email or a PDF
  2. An SMS
  3. A Blog Post
  4. A Podcast
  5. A Classroom Training session
  6. A Web Based Training
  7. An eLearning Video

This means that in many, if not most, cases the same Knowledge can be converted into Micro Content by choosing the appropriate Delivery Mechanism.

Instructional Design for MicroLearning

The design and development of Micro Content to enable MicroLearning faces special Instructional Design challenges.

Typically when a piece of Knowledge is chosen for delivery as Micro Content, the complexity or volume of the Knowledge is rarely reduced and it is expected that the Knowledge in its entirety is covered by the Micro Content. Only then does MicroLearning retain its parity as a feasible learning alternative to traditional learning methods which it aims to replace.

This forces the Instructional Designer to devise Micro Content consumption mechanisms which leverage every available Sensory Channel available – Visual, Spatial, Aural, Verbal, Tactile – to enable the successful transfer of the Knowledge.



MicroLearning and Semantics

MicroLearning, Working Memory and Cognitive Load

Working Memory is a theoretical construct for the temporary storage and processing of newly acquired information. The Working Memory plays a key role in cognitive tasks like comprehension reasoning and learning but is capable of holding only a few of objects in it.

Cognitive Load refers to the effort the working memory is subjected to while storing and processing the objects it holds. The goal in most training modules is to limit, minimize or at least optimize the Cognitive Load on the learner.

MicroLearning is counter-intuitive to this objective.

For Micro Learning to be effective a certain amount of Cognitive Overload is essential to exert the necessary pressure on the learner to absorb the knowledge embedded in the Micro Content in the shortest possible time span. As a result the Instructional Design of a MicroLearning module deliberately adds to the Cognitive Load of the learner.



MicroLearning and Learning Paths

One the best advantages of MicroLearning is that it allows the learner significant flexibility in building his or her own Learning Path.

With traditional learning, which can last for anywhere between 30 minutes and several hours, the learner is generally required to consume all of the learning content regardless of whether all of it is useful or not.

With MicroLearning the learner can choose from a “buffet” of Micro Content and build a personalized learning path to achieve his or her learning goals. Less time is lost in learning topics which might not be relevant or useful and the learning experience is more efficient and valuable.