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When NOT to Use Microlearning as a Corporate Training Solution

Microlearning has proven itself as a learning intervention that’s capable of driving learner engagement, perhaps more than any other form of training. When your employees need quick help performing a specific task, microlearning is the right solution as it enables learners to achieve one specific learning objective in a short span. But, can microlearning provide a solution for all kinds of training needs? Practically, no, you can not use microlearning everywhere you want, and this blog will help you understand where it shouldn’t be used.

When to Say NO to Microlearning?

1. As a Replacement for eLearning

We never seem to have enough time to learn and when we do, we seem to remember less of what we learn. There’s enough research to confirm that we learn better in short bursts. So, is it even necessary to have eLearning courses? While it may be tempting to replace eLearning with microlearning, you know that learning interventions are categorized into two types, macro and micro learning. And, both these types can be used in different stages during employee training.

Consider an example of new hire training. When training new hires, you understand they would require detailed explanation. There’s quite a lot of information, covering different aspects of the workplace that new hires would need to know. In this case, microlearning cannot be used as a standalone training solution. An onboarding program that blends classroom training and rapid eLearning might serve your purpose well. You can of course use microlearning to supplement your existing training, be it classroom training, eLearning, or blended learning.

Microlearning can work well for formal and informal training programs but it CAN’T be considered as a replacement for eLearning courses. Here are a few other instructional design strategies you can use for creating impactful eLearning courses.

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2. To Train on Complex Content

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, when you want learners to understand complex content, in-depth explanation is required and microlearning isn’t designed for this. Let’s say, you want to train new hires on how to safely operate a machine, in less than 5 minutes. Microlearning is not going to work in this case as this is not something that can be taught quickly. The nature of the content requires that an in-depth explanation be provided if it has to be of value to learners.

Does this mean microlearning cannot be used to teach complex content? It can be used, but the purpose it serves will have to be reinforcement of learning. For instance, in the case of employees who are already familiar with operating the machine, safety instructions can be provided as microlearning to reinforce what they already know.

When your training program deals with complex content or content that’s highly technical in nature, DON’T look at microlearning as a standalone solution.

→ Download eBook Now: Microlearning 101

3. To Gain Mastery Over a Topic

Gaining mastery requires in-depth study and practice, and it does take time. For example, if you want learners to be able to use new software or build leadership skills, it cannot happen overnight. It requires opportunities to practice, which is why watching a 5-minute microlearning video or listening to a podcast is not sufficient. If learners are to be proficient in a topic, they need to dive deep into the learning material. The more in-depth the learning required, the less appropriate microlearning is

Also, when you have to gain mastery, the learning objective is quite complex, thus making it essential to have a macro learning intervention such as classroom training or blended learning in place. Microlearning was born out of the need to provide just-in-time learning. It addresses the NOW and is NOT enough to turn learners into subject matter experts.

4. To Present Content that Cannot be Fragmented

Microlearning design requires that the learning experience be holistic. In other words, microlearning should be a self-contained solution that includes activities related to the learning experience. But when you’re dealing with content that cannot be fragmented, designing microlearning by chopping content is going to make the training look disjointed.

Consider the example of a process training that includes multiple steps. Assume that each step is related to the next one and the learning objective is complete only when the learner goes through all the steps. In such cases, rapid eLearning works well. You can always supplement it with a microlearning infographic that lists all the steps in the process. Learners could use it as a ready-reckoner. Here’s a short video to help you explore a few pitfalls to avoid in rapid eLearning.


Microlearning is NOT a solution for content that needs to be taught in a continuous flow. Now, you might wonder if microlearning can be used when each step in the process helps the learner complete one task, thus helping them complete a single performance-based objective. In such cases, microlearning can definitely be used but it makes sense to design a microlearning curriculum so that learners can move on to the next step after they complete the first one.

5. As a Solution to Slice and Dice Content

Microlearning uses short bursts of information to teach learners. That’s why it is said to reduce cognitive load among learners. When you have a lengthy training program, you can convert it into multiple microlearning modules, provided each module is self-contained and covers a single learning objective. But, simply slicing and dicing content is NOT going to make it microlearning.

Here’s an example to elaborate this further. Now let’s say you have safety training for biochemical engineers (new hires) on handling hazardous waste. Can you teach them these safety procedures in a couple of minutes? Highly unlikely! So, will chunking the content into multiple modules make it microlearning? No, it won’t. So, microlearning cannot be used as a solution to chunk content.

Parting Thoughts!

Just like how training cannot provide a solution for every employee performance problem, microlearning may not be the solution for all your corporate training challenges. But, it is definitely optimized to function around the way the human brain stores information. When used in conjunction with other learning strategies, it is ideal for spaced learning, helps learners fight the forgetting curve and can be used BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER a formal training program. Our eBook ‘Where Does Microlearning Fit in Your Learning Strategy?’ can help you get started with implementing microlearning in organizational training.

Note - This blog was published in 2019 but it has been edited for comprehensiveness in Dec 2023.

Where Does Microlearning Fit in Your Learning Strategy?