5 Reasons to Use Microlearning in Your L&D Programs

Audrey Espey and Jess Alderman

Senior Instructional Designer and Instructional Designer, Udemy for Business

July 24, 2019

Microlearning is the practice of delivering just the right amount of information to help a learner achieve a specific goal. Imagine the last time you needed to quickly answer a question or learn a new skill, whether you were trying to pick up a particular Excel hack or put together a piece of furniture. In recent years, many learning & development (L&D) professionals have turned to microlearning to meet their employees’ learning needs in real-time. 

To help L&D leaders introduce microlearning as part of their menu of learning resources, we’re excited to announce we recently curated three microlearning courses into the Udemy for Business collection. These courses, called Smart Tips, are taught by bestselling Udemy instructors and cover critical professional skills: Excel, Communication, and Productivity. Each Smart Tips course is comprised of 3- to 8-minute lectures that cover one specific topic or tip. As we launch, each course will have 15 tips, but we’ll be continuing to add new tips to every course over the coming weeks.

Here are a few of the benefits of introducing microlearning in the workplace and how Smart Tips can help your employees learn more effectively on the job.  

1. Microlearning mirrors the way we gather knowledge outside work

As we’ve just mentioned, many of us already engage in microlearning outside the workplace when we need to pick up knowledge or skills to solve a particular problem whether it’s watching a “how-to” home improvement video or reading a self-help article. We’re used to pulling out our phones or tablets to access information right when we need it. As the lines between our personal and professional lives become blurred, we expect to have similar experiences when we learn at work. As a recent Training Industry article puts it, “We need to reach learners in a way that is most comfortable and natural for them—with short snippets of information, available through apps and mobile devices, that are ready and accessible when and where the user needs or wants it.” 

Udemy Smart Tips was designed to mirror the experience of learning outside of work with short lessons that are centered around one specific skill. Learners can easily search through a course to find the most relevant topic, watch a quick video, and resume their work—all in a matter of minutes.

2. Microlearning is perfectly suited to our fast-paced and distraction-filled work environment

The modern office is full of noise and distractions. According to the Udemy Workplace Distraction Report, chatty coworkers and office noise are the top workplace distractors, but a significant number of people are distracting themselves by spending time on their smartphones during office hours. More than a third of millennials and Gen Z say they spend two hours or more checking their smartphones during the workday, which adds up to over 10 hours a week.

These distractions take their toll on our focus and concentration. A study carried out by the University of California-Irvine found that employees work on tasks for about 11 minutes before being interrupted by their phone, email, or a coworker. But within that span of 11 minutes, people tend to engage in multiple bursts of short tasks that last about 3 minutes.

Microlearning works within these constraints, delivering exactly the information employees need to achieve a specific goal in a few minutes. Compared to more traditional formats like hour-long courses or day-long workshops, microlearning is much easier to fit into an already hectic workday.

Unlike traditional Udemy courses that follow a scaffolded structure, each Smart Tips lecture is a standalone lesson that can be watched in any order. This new approach means that learners can easily scan course content to find whatever is most relevant to them. 

3. Microlearning maximizes learners’ engagement

Research shows that the brain can only take on a limited “cognitive load” or mental effort. Our brains can only handle so much new information at once. Studies have also shown that within the space of a one-hour university lecture, after an initial period of relatively high levels of attention, students’ performance drops off to a low level after as few as 10–12 minutes. This is why shorter videos can maximize learner engagement and microlearning can be so effective. Smart Tips are designed to be short and succinct—with each lesson in the 3- to 8-minute range and focused on a single topic, they keep learners engaged while minimizing their time away from their other work.  

4. Microlearning makes it easier to remember what we learn

Hermann Ebbinghaus popularized the concept of “spaced learning,” suggesting that learning is more effective when it’s spaced out over time. When we recall or revisit concepts, we help them to become stickier in our minds. According to Training Industry, “The more we repeat and use information, the more likely it is to end up in long-term memory.” 

Microlearning makes it easy to revisit concepts regularly rather than trying to fit everything into a single session. Research published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that 90% of participants’ performance improved when they spaced out their study sessions rather than cramming the night before a test. 

Because microlearning requires only a short amount of time, it’s much easier for employees to engage with microlearning content again and again, helping to cement the knowledge and skills they’re gaining from it. For example, employees using Excel can search the Smart Tips Excel course and spend just a few minutes learning the exact Excel hack they need to solve the problem they’re facing on the job. Learning is seamlessly integrated into the workflow as employees apply what they learn immediately to their project. Learning by doing means employees are less likely to forget what they just learned. 

5. Microlearning is perfectly suited to learning on the job

According to the 70/20/10 learning model, individuals obtain 70% of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal educational events. A Training Industry article explains, “The model’s creators hold that hands-on experience (the 70%) is the most beneficial for employees because it enables them to discover and refine their job-related skills, make decisions, address challenges and interact with influential people such as bosses and mentors within work settings.” The short, “snackable” nature of microlearning fits easily within a busy workday, and it’s what most employees prefer. 58% of employees surveyed by Software Advice say that having online content broken into multiple shorter lessons would make them more likely to use their company’s online learning tools. For example, someone who’s giving an important presentation tomorrow might browse through the Communication Smart Tips course and watch a five-minute lecture on preventing public speaking anxiety or preparing for Q&A to brush up on those skills today. 

The workplace continues to evolve, with increasing demands on employees’ time and performance. Adding microlearning such as Smart Tips from Udemy for Business to your L&D menu can help your employees focus their learning and attention in the moment of need, leading to higher engagement and retention and less distraction in an already busy work environment. 

Request a demo to learn more about Smart Tips courses.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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