Micro learning: the Wave of the Future? Impact on Course Design

Microleaning the wave of the future is here. Students working on science project
Micro learning the wave of the future is hers. Students working on science project.

A recent post I ran across touted the benefits of micro learning. It suggested that micro learning is the wave of the future.  Micro learning is an emergent learning strategy.  It can quickly close skill and knowledge gaps. It’s an ideal teaching approach for many situations because:

  • Information changes quickly
  • People find it difficult to keep up with change
  • People learn best in in short chunks

In this article, I describe what micro learning is and its benefit and impacts on learning course development. I also examine the impacts of micro learning in special needs education.

What is Micro Learning? 

Micro learning presents information in short chunks of learning. The chunks last three to five minutes. Our compressed workplaces and, rapid technological change demand that people learn new skills and come up to speed quickly. The time it takes to go through a micro learning lesson is about the average attention span of today’s millennials. These young multi-tasking individuals are not just the 20-25 year-olds in the workplace. This trend also includes today’s K-12 students. The Centers for Disease Control noted that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Dsorder (ADHD) has risen at a rate of about 2-4% per year. Today ADHD accounts for about 15-25% of the learning challenges of all students in the U.S. public school systems. Next, the impact of micro learning on today’s learning styles.

Today’s Learning Styles and ADHD

This agrees with the dominant learning styles of many such learners. These learners learn best by seeing and doing. A trip to your local public school’s Special Education Department mild/moderate disabilities class is revealing. Students diagnosed with ADHD and/or processing issues require content presented in shorter chunks. The chunks require structured sequencing and spaced review to ensure mastery. What this essentially means is you have very short (< 5 minutes) attention spans. Add information processing challenges and you have a mixture presenting unique training challenges. These educational needs make a strong case for micro learning curricula. Micro learning is the wave of the future. That future is already here!

The challenge is breaking a typical six-month training program of courses into a series of perhaps several hundred micro learning experiences. Some highly successful examples of micro learning  appeared in the form of free or low-cost online programs. This software development courses developed by FreeCode Camp, Khan Academy, and CodeCademy, to name a few, are highly successful in using a micro learning paradigm to deliver high-quality training. Some examples of micro learning implementation follow. Next, how to implement micro learning with examples of prominent course providers.

Implementing Micro Learning 

Typically these courses use a scenario to teach skills. Each micro learning chunk, or frame, presents a narrative the learner hears or reads. The narrative includes a problem they can solve on-screen. Solving the problem demonstrates mastery of what they just learned. Initial modules are fairly simple. However, as the course progresses problems rely on previously covered material. Many of these curricula also use a spirally-developed approach. This builds in review in each lesson while building on new concepts. Dr. Max Kramer pioneered spirally-developed curricula pioneered in the early to mid-1970s at San Jose State University to improve retention of mathematics knowledge in public school and university students. The curricula of many disciplines have benefited from the use of spiral-development, including those found in technical training venues.

Want some help or advice on developing your next training project using a micro learning design approach, a reputable instructional designer can help make your training a highly successful reality.


Free Code Camp

Kahn Academy


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