Go micro! Microlearning benefits and drawbacks

Microlearning is a different approach from traditional long-form e-learning courses, with their endless streams of written information. These longer e-learning courses are beginning to lose popularity as Generation Z steps into the workforce. Microlearning offers a solution with a bite-sized approach to e-learning, which suits our shortening attention spans. While often useful, this new style has drawbacks and won’t be suitable for every topic you may want to teach.

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Table of contents 

  1. Microlearning definition
  2. What are the benefits of microlearning?
  3. What are the drawbacks of microlearning?
  4. Working with a microlearning platform

Microlearning definition

The concept of microlearning is commonly associated with the term ‘bite-sized’. What does microlearning entail? It incorporates the following characteristics [1]:

  • Brief
  • Stand-alone chunks of information
  • Designed for quick consumption

Long-form e-learning courses are becoming outdated. With information constantly in a state of change, courses like these don’t cater to our modern ways of consuming new content. Unlike traditional e-learning courses, microlearning is split into microlessons: clear information delivered in 3-10 minute chunks. Microlearning is designed for immediate learner consumption, in which the information is available when and where it is needed. Microlessons are often in video form but can also be an infographic, fact sheet, or game, but it’s got to be digital [2]!

What are the benefits of microlearning?

Most of us are used to consuming information in little chunks. You only have to look at smartphones and apps like Instagram and TikTok which are full of short videos, only demanding seconds of our attention. Trends are constantly evolving on these platforms, just like the information we have to learn at work. However, the benefits of microlearning go beyond our shortening attention spans; they also include the following:

  • Reduces cognitive overload
  • Flexible learning for busy lives
  • Improved memory retention
  • Cost-effectiveness

Reduces cognitive overload

The benefit of not having to absorb large amounts of information is that the brain is less likely to become overwhelmed. While traditional e-learning courses might have a page including a video, text, images, and animation, a microlesson will typically impart information through a short video or infographic. This makes it easier to focus because learners are less likely to be overstimulated [3].

Flexible learning for busy lives

Generation Z (aged 12-25) are fantastic multitaskers. Growing up in the digital age where technology is always available, their superabsorbent brains rarely focus on one thing at once. It’s therefore essential to adapt e-learning to the next generation of employees. Microlessons are not only helpful for this emerging group of learners. Millennials (aged 26-41), who are more likely to have families and more life responsibilities, need learning to fit their busy schedules. This makes microlessons ideal for all kinds of demographics!

Improved memory retention

Designing microlessons rather than traditional e-learning courses is also scientifically sound. Microlessons are created to be engaging, by being short and varied; when we enjoy learning something we are more likely to remember it. According to George Miller, a psychologist, our brains can only submit five to nine facts to long-term memory in one go [4].

When we enjoy learning something we are more likely to remember it.


Did you know that a microcourse can take up to 300% less time to develop than a traditional e-learning course? Learning expert Ray Jimenez reached this conclusion in his book ‘3-Minute E-Learning’. This also means that costs are lowered on the creation end while learners are put in the driver’s seat, able to tackle courses when and where they want to [5].

What are the drawbacks of microlearning?

While microlearning is an excellent approach to creating content that keeps your learners engaged and excited, it isn’t always the right path. There are several drawbacks to consider when deciding if microlearning fits your topic [6]:

  • It doesn’t suit complex topics
  • Risk of information fragmentation
  • It’s time-consuming for creators
  • Microlessons don’t build on existing knowledge

It doesn’t suit complex topics

The whole point of ‘micro’ is that it’s quick and great for simple concepts that need to be learned efficiently. Some topics require more of a deep dive. For example, microlearning might not be the right choice if your employees need to gain a specific certification. This can demand learning many different facets of knowledge and skills. That doesn’t mean microlearning is entirely obsolete, though; try incorporating it to reinforce the key takeaways of a subject.

Risk of information fragmentation

As microlearning focuses on condensing material, it’s easy for information to become fragmented. Think, for example, about creating a quick video on the office code of conduct; it’s likely to be challenging to include all the relevant material in a 3-10 minute time frame. In that case, you might leave a few important details out and employee learning will be impacted. One way to avoid this trap is to be clear about the learning objectives for the microlesson topic before you start forming content.

It’s time-consuming for creators

While microlearning can take 300% less time to develop than traditional e-learning, don’t underestimate the time it will take to do well. Creating a short video or game to explain a concept might seem easy, but there’s a lot of work behind a streamlined end product. It could be tempting to write up the material in a traditional e-learning course format. However, stick with making a microlesson but pick and choose which topics are most suited to it. Another time-consuming aspect of microlessons is all the material you need to sift through to pick out the most important bits!

Microlessons don’t build on existing knowledge

A drawback of condensed material is that it’s less easy to incorporate previous knowledge. This can negatively impact your employees because a key element of effective learning is repetition and reflection. You’ve got to get smart about incorporating real-world scenarios in your bite-sized information, which can remind learners of previous knowledge on the subject. Storytelling is a great tool for this as you can refer to the past tense (previous knowledge) in your story and move through a ‘plot’ towards a knowledge goal.

Working with a microlearning platform

Maybe all the information up until now has convinced you to give microlearning a go! It’s a good idea to use an LMS to create microlessons because the whole process is simplified with a built-in system for designing your content. Microlearning platforms can be integrated with LMS software and bring portable and quick learning elements into the existing product.

Easy LMS is a tool that lets you take total control of how you want to impart knowledge to your company. You can make courses of any length and include lots of different elements to make learning energizing for your employees. We also make short videos explaining our LMS in more detail, check out what we’re all about here. At Easy LMS we take the learner experience seriously, which is why we’ve created such a diverse tool that can be used for all your company’s learning needs.

Easy LMS is a tool that lets you take total control of how you want to impart knowledge to your company.

The benefit of using Easy LMS is the ability to create all your company content in one system. This means that microcourses can be easily built alongside longer e-learning courses for a total learning experience. You get the best of both worlds!

Microlearning is a great way to condense knowledge and focus on what really matters. This approach to learning is designed to be engaging, but it’s not without drawbacks! It can be time-consuming to create microlessons and some subjects just aren’t suited to it.

Useful resources 

  1. Surge9
  2. YouTube
  3. PulseLearning
  4. e-Learning Industry
  5. Arist
  6. yarno

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is microlearning?
    Microlearning is a style of learning which condenses information in bite-sized chunks, often in videos, games, or infographics.
  • Why should I include microlessons in my online course?
    It’s a good idea to use microlessons for concrete pieces of information that employees need to get to grips with quickly. Microlearning is best suited to this as it doesn’t have the same distraction levels as traditional e-learning courses which can cause cognitive overload.
  • Are there drawbacks to microlearning?
    Yes. One of the most common is that microlearning isn’t suitable for all topics. More complex concepts need in-depth e-learning courses. If microlessons are made about the wrong subjects, employee learning is negatively impacted.

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