Microlearning Definition | Micro-learning

Microlearning Definition | Micro-learning

Microlearning (Definition)

Of the forces shaping online training courses in 2020-2025, including for GMPs, none is more significant than the concept of microlearning (micro learning).  Microlearning definition and concepts: microlearning principles include (a) sequenced depth and breadth of educational resources; (b) smaller amounts of material delivered in any one segment (topic chunking), and (c) nearly-instant applicability of the knowledge to improve retention or change the learner’s behaviours (particularly important when it comes to GMP training).

Foundations of Microlearning

  • Microlearning embraces the theory of just-in-time training delivery.
  • Training is undertaken in small chunks of time, resulting in increased engagement, improved retention and — ideally —  immediate applicability of the topic knowledge.
  • It is often employed in conjunction with experiential learning options (hands-on training) and/or virtual reality training.

Knowledge (Theory) vs Skills Training: How soon after theory should one embark on actual hands-on practice sessions?

  • As with all training delivery methods, theory — the knowledge component — and hands-on practice sessions — should be delivered in close proximity.
  • This enables the learner to put their new knowledge and new skills to use — and reinforces the value of the education content (applied learning).

Microlearning is the golden standard of modern online training options. Here’s the definition of micro-learning.

The definition of microlearning is just as it sounds.

Microlearning (definition): Microlearning means gaining knowledge and skills in short training bursts, or ‘micro-chunks’ of time. This is accomplished by educators/training providers delivering information and skill-building sessions in easily-manageable chunks of time, available across multiple devices.

Key components of micro-learning and online training course designs are:

  • accessibility of the learning resources including:
    • user-friendly platforms
    • learner-friendly training materials that engage the learner (examples include game-theory based designs)
    • ability to be completed discreetly, such as
      • on public transportation, with minimal disruptions to other passengers
      • at the person’s desk, in a cafe or at a library, without disturbing patrons or colleagues
  • logically sequenced information delivery
  • completion timeframes requiring only small chunks of time (from 10 minutes to 30 minutes is ideal, and typically no longer than 45 minutes in duration)
  • repeatability for increased retention
    • access to the learning resources for a set period of time
    • emailed/texted reminders of the course expiration dates
  • online assessments linked with Certificates of Completion to reward the learner’s efforts and accomplishments

The main benefit of microlearning and online training is that it can avoid overwhelming learners when a lot of information is needing to be absorbed.

Delivering well-defined theoretical information in short bursts of time — along with practice sessions via virtual reality or hands-on sessions — is believed to provide theoretical knowledge and practical exercises in a way that benefits learners by improving (a) engagement, (b) retention and (c) specific skillsets.

Microlearning has been a golden standard of e-learning for several years now. The difference we’ll see with microlearning in 2020-2025 is that online courses will be broken down into even smaller segments and time frames.  Additionally, built-in assessments will deliver individually-responsive information — based on knowledge gaps.

This helps avoid repetition of information that learners already understand. These key features will improve individual learning experiences (Ux), by reducing boredom and shortening the training time.

More productive learning experiencers, and higher retention ratios, are expected to result.


Each microlearning online training session will need to include interactive features to enhance completion rates.

  • These include responsive technologies that vary content delivery, based on what the learner already knows.
  • Pre-existing knowledge is assessed through pre-learning surveys OR via built-in knowledge quizzes throughout the session.
  • This prevents re-delivering information the user already knows, and which leads to boredom or disengagement and poor completion rates.

Key features of microlearning are:

  • Information is delivered in brief chunks of time
  • Information is delivered easily online across multiple devices
  • Offers entirely self-paced learning and on-the-go education
    • Easily completed during public transport routes (motivation and convenience)
    • Can be completed during half-hour to 45-minute lunch breaks
    • Multi-media learning experiences include audio, text, images and videos or game-like quizzes
    • Digitally-based theory assessments and Certificates of Completion

Popularity of microlearning

Time constraints have always been a major stumbling block for pursuing higher education and additional industry-based qualifications.

This is especially true for would-be-students who juggle careers, caring for children and/or ageing parents, and fulfilling other daily obligations including staying fit and healthy.  They want to improve their education levels, or gain an advanced qualification — but they feel they can’t find time.

Enter microlearning theory. Because microlearning and online training options are convenient and easy to use, across multiple devices, microlearning options offers convenience benefits for students AND education and training sectors alike. Early adopters for courses not yet available online will win in the game of attracting students, which is one of the key concerns of education sustainability in 2020.

Why microlearning options and online-training are rapidly replacing historical long-form lecture formats

Problems with classroom lectures in Universities (Delivery format problems)

  • Professors have long delivered the same information to numerous students, lecturing for hours at a time
  • Interaction or hands-on activities were also low priorities when class sizes were large, as is common in most modern Universities and TAFE RTOs
  • Lecture-format weaknesses included:
    • not addressing the notable variety in students’ subject interest AND in their pre-existing knowledge
    • distractability and boredom
    • exhaustion and ‘absorption problems when too much information is delivered in one session (‘brain fry’)
    • poor knowledge retention rates after several weeks

Why short-form micro-learning options offer better knowledge retention and engagement

The reason microlearning has become a golden standard for online training courses relates to our ever-increasing dependence on technology — and our ever-decreasing attention spans.

Shorter course durations and micro-learning training programs will be best-practice delivery methods, primarily because we’re already being bombarded with far too much information, on a 24/7 basis.

Microlearning (Definition): Impact on Universities, RTOs, TAFEs and the Education & Training Sector

Given retention rates decline over time, ‘just in time’ training delivery will be the focus of best-practice online training course providers.


  • Course designers will need to adapt training course materials to ensure shorter modules and briefer time frames
  • Responsive technologies (pre-assessments and inbuilt responsiveness) will be added to existing online courses
  • Content curation technologies will be pivotal to ensure only the most relevant information and topics are delivered to the learners
  • Automation, usability, and pricing will need to offer flexibility to meet education goals, as well as to accommodate varying education budgets and industry incentives for learning

How is microlearning helpful in learning GMP requirements?

Regulations governing medical devices, pharmaceuticals, supplements, herbal medicines and veterinary medicines are complex.

Learning good manufacturing practices and principles (GMPs) can readily overwhelm new employees or service contractors.

To improve compliance and retention of good manufacturing practices (GMPs), it’s best to teach GMP in smaller segments rather than all at once. Just be sure you only allow new employees to work in supervised capacities in areas where they have an adequate understanding of GMPs.

  • GMP requires taking consistent measures to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of produced pharmaceuticals, medical devices and veterinary medicines.
  • New employees unfamiliar with GMP can feel overwhelmed by the number of requirements they need to adhere to.
  • By offering contractor and employees online GMP training courses, firms can ensure their new hires have a basic understanding of GMP before they start employment (or in their early orientation days); one GMP resource module at a time.


Read the first article in this series: Top 10 e-Learning Trends impacting the education and training sector in 2020-2025

Journal Articles

Journal References & Articles: Can Microlearning help your business with career development?

International Journal of Science & Technology – Research Article on Microlearning

This page is part of a 2020 e-Learning Trends article series including Top 10 e-Learning Trends impacting the education and training sector in 2020-2025

Author: Connie May MHST – Page last updated on 21 January 2020.