Less Can Be More with Microlearning
calendar icon July 13th, 2021
author icon Marla Wolfe
Less Can Be More with Microlearning

When hungry and on the go, people gravitate towards quick fixes like a slice of pizza or a smoothie versus a large meal with all the fixings. The same can be said about learning. In a perfect world, we’d have the time to dig into lengthy, detailed training every time we approached a topic. Microlearning presents a learning option that is bite-sized and easier to consume in a shorter amount of time.


Not surprisingly, when choosing based on need, the smaller bite-sized portion is what most people will select. Learners generally look for the quickest and most direct route to the knowledge they seek. Microlearning is learning content that's delivered in short bursts that participants can access at their convenience. These 2–7-minute bursts match the modern learner’s attention span and the brain’s working memory, where the information being retained increases by 20% over other training formats. Microlearning resources are any content that can deliver messaging in 5 minutes or less including: eLearning, blogs, newsletters, infographics and videos along with useful links and quizzes.


Microlearning is an effective approach as the modern learner often has minimal time during the workweek to focus on training. A study has shown that 1% of a typical work week seems to be all the time workers have available to focus on training and development. That generally equals 25 minutes a week (Grovo). Being brief is appealing to today’s busy and distracted learner who prefers to learn at their own pace in new and engaging ways. Despite its name, microlearning is a big step forward and plays a large role towards meeting today’s dynamic training needs.


Smaller learning bursts can drive bigger results. Less can be more when it comes to microlearning.


Microlearning has a number of benefits:

  • Accessible. Microlearning is mobile-friendly and designed for multi-device delivery. This is key: as of 2020, the number of smartphone users in Canada stood at nearly 30 million. (Statista.com)
  • High Impact. This learning method delivers the how-to right away and competes favorably with distractions.
  • Easier Comprehension. Content is delivered in smaller, focused bite-size chunks. (Less is more.)
  • Better Retention. Learners feel more inclined to retain information when in short bursts. Microlearning drives over 20% more information retention than traditional training formats. (Less lasts more.)
  • Engaging. Typically, using a rich-media format presented in short bursts rather than longer format training (which also tends to be more challenging to complete in a limited timeframe) is better to keep the learner from getting distracted and retain more information.
  • Cost-Effective. Due to the short nature of microlearning, there is a reduction in development and training time as well as traditional costs associated with training, such as travel, facilitator, and location fees.
  • Just-in-Time. Training is delivered as the need arises.


Microlearning is best used with material that is familiar to the learner. It may not be good for material that is new, complicated, and needs in-depth coverage, but is an excellent supplement or reinforcement of primary/formal training, extending formal learning through performance support and prompting behavioral changes.


It lends itself to being revisited by the learner. This contributes to greater retention, and we know that every time training material gets revisited, the rate of retention increases.


Microlearning means more than just small. It is not only compact, but also focused and offers just the right amount of information necessary to help a learner achieve a specific, actionable objective. This makes microlearning a valuable component of workplace training.


Take for example ResilientMe. This microlearning resource was born out of the good work PSHSA had done in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada on the Occupational Stress Injury Resiliency Index (OSIR). OSIR is a non-diagnostic screening tool that assesses occupational stress injury risks among first responders and frontline healthcare workers in Canada. The task was to develop tools that could work for all workers across all sectors at mitigating the risk of occupational stress injury. We took an approach that wasn’t too preachy or clichéd with resources that would be fast and easy to digest, highly interactive, and accessible.


ResilientME helps learners to recognize factors that contribute to resiliency as well as how to cope better, overcome stress and gain more balance in their lives. There are 6 learning sections that take approximately 5 minutes each to complete. The program is engaging and interactive – there are buttons to click, checklists and infographics to download, instructions, flashcards, recipes, useful external links to visit, and a short video to view. It offers immediate access to essential skills and knowledge.


French philosopher Blaise Pascal once said: "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I haven't had time to make it shorter". It takes expert, instructional design to develop a curriculum plan that includes effective micro resources. Learn more about how PSHSA can help your organization design and develop creative digital learning solutions, including microlearning at pshsa.ca/designandbuild.


Marla Wolfe

Product Services Specialist, PSHSA

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