MicroLearning: Is Byte Size the Right Size?

This month at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference I’m presenting a session on folding microLearning into association education strategies.

But is byte size the right size? Grovo says it is. I say, it depends.

A micro history

MicroLearning is an emergent format in learning design. We’ve been talking about “chunking” content for quite some time in instructional design circles, but technology is now offering us a new play space for developing micro-perspective learning environments. Technology is also an impetus driving the exploration of this new territory as learners are creating, consuming and sharing social media micro content. In fact, peer-to-peer microLearning assets can be accessed all over cyberspace – like your favorite YouTube demo and SnapGuide how-to’s.

But because the effective and intentional application of this form of learning is still unfolding, there isn’t yet one unified definition or consistent use of the term.

What some are saying

Some voices in the learning design industry define and some describe – all are searching for terms that can envelop this trend:

  • “The process of learning through short, digestible, well-planned units.” Alex Khurgin, Grovo
  • “Learning in short, digestible, bite-sized units – the next generation training for a workforce ready to consume it the way it does everything else: fast, small, and our way. Easily accessible via devices in varied formats.” Jeff Fernandez, Grovo
  • “A way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts. The learners are in control of what and when they are learning.” John Eades, LearnLoft
  • “MicroLearning enables the restructuring of curriculum in building blocks personalized to learner needs.” Ron Zamir, Allen Communication
  • “The characteristics of microLearning are brevity, granularity, and variety.” Connie Malamed, The eLearning Coach
  • “MicroLearning is an enigma in its fast evolving and technological dependent state and so it is near impossible at present to neatly distill it into a one sentence definition. It’s just-in-time learning. It’s next-gen-preferred learning. It’s jig-saw learning.” Peter Baskerville, Teacher & Edupreneur

What it for sure is / isn’t

It’s NOT mLearning. That “m” refers to mobile. MicroLearning can be delivered to mobile devices, but they are not one and the same.

It IS brief and focused.

It’s NOT just interesting info. That’s micro content — not necessarily microLearning.

It DOES serve a broader learning objective and knowledge structure. That’s what differentiates microLearning assets from micro content.

It’s NOT useful for acquiring complex skills, processes, or behaviors.

It IS best utilized for readiness, elaboration, and practice activities.

Adoption on the rise

Even though we are still settling on a definition, microLearning utilization is on the rise. In the recent Association Learning & Technology report, Tagoras notes that while adoption of microLearning as a format is presently offered by only 18% of respondents, a full third of respondents report they have plans for developing microLearning in the coming year. Jeff Cobb, founder of Tagoras, shares the pros and cons of microLearning in this quick video as associations consider how best to implement this format.

What do you think?

How do you define microLearning? Is it a format your organization is exploring? What role do you think microLearning can play in continuing education?

Comment here or join us at Great Ideas to continue this conversation.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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