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Confused About Micro-Learning v E-learning v LMS? Let Us Break it Down For You!

Whenever something new comes to town, particularly when it’s a disruptor to traditional systems and processes, it’s reasonable to expect some confusion around what it is, how it works, and what it offers that makes it better. Never has there been so much confusion around the newest member of the L&D family - micro-learning. In the absence of facts or understanding, the general perception is somewhere between e-learning and an LMS, of which micro-learning is neither.

So let’s get into some serious corporate myth busting and get to the bottom of what micro-learning is, what it isn’t, and why it’s so hot in the market right now. First things first, let's take a quick look at some important stats. Did you know?

  • 80% of traditional learning is forgotten after 30 days.

  • If there is no repetition, 90% of content is forgotten after 6 days.

  • Learning in short bursts drives over 20% more information retention that long-form training, makes the transfer of learning from the classroom to the desk 17% more efficient, and creates 50% more engagement.

  • Learning in stretches of 3-7 minutes matches the working memory capacity and attention span of humans.

  • Mobile, online, short-form learning reduces development costs by 50% and increases speed of development by 300%.

  • Smart phone ownership currently sits around 88% in Australia.

  • 60% of Australians watch internet videos daily and 23% of internet users watch online videos to learn something new.

That’s a pretty good case for mobile based, short-form learning formats. Three big ticks for some of the biggest challenges faced by traditional learning methodologies - engagement, retention and cost.

So what is micro-learning? Well in a nutshell it’s:

  • Learning delivered in short bursts (typically 3 – 7 minutes).

  • User centric and engaging – incorporates a mix of visual and text elements as well as gamification.

  • Designed to reduce cognitive load and improve retention and workplace application.

  • Can be done anywhere, anytime on a hand-held, mobile device.

  • Delivers just-in-time training to multiple employees in multiple locations.

  • Offers real time, drill down training metrics and L&D data at the touch of a button.

Ok, so we get that. But what’s the difference between micro-learning, e-learning and an LMS? This is where the detail seems to get lost, so let’s break it down.


E-learning is any form of training content that has been converted to a digital format. Often the content is extensive (hours versus minutes of learning at a time) and must be completed in block sittings. While e-learning may be accessed via a mobile device, it is not typically developed with the mobile user in mind from an engagement perspective.

Micro-learning is specifically designed to deliver content in short, bite-sized bursts to better facilitate retention and application, and is accessible anywhere, anytime from a mobile device. It is also super easy to navigate and to complete learning modules within a purely mobile format.

Bottom line: it’s not a content dump from face-to-face to digital or online. It's a well thought out breakdown of key learning concepts developed in a way to maximize learner engagement and facilitate content retention.

LMS - Learning Management System

An LMS is designed to administer, manage and track employees through an organisation and may offer e-learning programs. An LMS is typically system or operationally driven versus end user driven.

Micro-learning is focused on the nature of the training itself and the end user experience. It’s about the learning experience being fun and engaging.

Bottom line: While micro-learning offers the ability to track user progress with real-time dashboards and reporting, it is user centric versus system centric. It’s not a system designed to facilitate employees through the employee life cycle. It's a platform to monitor knowledge retention and application. That being said, micro-learning platforms can be seamlessly integrated with an existing LMS. They don’t necessarily need to replace an LMS, but can be a very handy addition from both a learning delivery and reporting point of view.

And while we’re at it, there are a couple of other micro-learning myths to debunk.

1. Micro-learning is the only learning solution you will ever need. Well, in an ideal world that would be lovely. But the reality is that like other business functions, sometimes there will be more than one best way. Micro-learning is not designed to replace every other type of learning in an organisation. Some topics are too complex and elaborate to be explained in a ’micro’ format. To that end, micro-learning is the perfect addition to other L&D strategies, offering reinforcement and support of both technical and soft skills training. It’s a robust partner as well as an effective stand alone solution. Basically, it depends what you are training and who your audience is.

2. Micro-learning is simply ‘chunked down’ content. ‘Chunking’ means breaking down extensive and often complicated learning content into more manageable pieces i.e. ‘eating the elephant’. Chunking can apply to broader learning concepts like leadership development or customer service skills. While micro-learning can indeed achieve this outcome, it is equally effective for delivering smaller, stand alone content pieces focused on a specific topic. For example a single product features and benefits topic. This ensures that users remain attentive and content remains transparent.

3. Micro-learning is just video content. Micro-learning is not the same as You Tube. It combines a number of visual and content elements, as well as gamification and quizzes to promote user engagement and knowledge retention.You can create the perfect learner experience by utilising a number of different content assets to transfer knowledge in a fun and creative way.

So, that’s a wrap! Micro-learning is not the same as e-learning, nor is it an LMS. What it offers is a new and unique way to get critical information to employees in a timely, cost effective and engaging manner. It’s bottom line and user friendly, can be complementary or stand alone, and easily integrates with existing employee platforms and systems.

If you want to know more about how micro-learning can work for you, contact us for s a confidential chat.


Numbers Don’t Lie: Why Microlearning is Better for Your Learners (and You too) September 2018)

The Consumer Barometer with Google

Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2017

Ebbinghaus Studies - The Forgetting Curve

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