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How widespread is microlearning?


May 8, 2020



how widespread is microlearning

The face of teaching and learning has changed dramatically over the years, fueled by access to handheld devices, more sophisticated technologies, and research in effective learning techniques. Learning used to be associated with brick and mortar classrooms, with a professor reciting course material and sending students home to memorize additional concepts on their own time. But that age-old understanding of what ‘learning’ is no longer applies.

Microlearning is one of the new phenomena disrupting conventional training and learning spheres. As the name implies, microlearning is when complicated information is broken down into bite-sized chunks. These ‘chunks’ are highly-targeted lessons that are easier to digest and therefore, easier to retain and remember later. Not everything is designed to be taught using the microlearning method, but it is well-suited for training and other snippets of knowledge. It can even be combined with gamification, spaced repetition, and mobile learning.

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Human memory is notoriously fickle. Just try to remember what you had for breakfast last weekend. Harder than it seems, right? Microlearning circumvents our brain’s tendency to overwrite memories by focusing on the key elements of any subject area. This makes it much more effective. By focusing on fewer topics, this knowledge has a greater likelihood of being retained and stored in the brain’s long-term memory. Early experiments in microlearning saw increased knowledge retention, more engagement and better outcomes than traditional desktop-based eLearning and transmissive learning.

Microlearning is a subset of eLearning, however, it has gained more recognition with the advent of smartphone technology. In 2019, the global microlearning market was worth 1,5 billion USD. That number is expected to increase to 2.7 billion USD by 2024. This increase can be attributed to an increase in remote workers (also referred to as ‘deskless’) across various industries, which means that companies have needed to adjust their learning and training policies in order to reach an increasingly mobile workforce.

Courses that incorporate microlearning can sometimes see their completion rates rise from as low as 15 per cent all the way up to 90 per cent. Mobile learning, in particular, has the added benefit of allowing for push notifications, cloud distribution and translation. Plus, the courses remain easily accessible and available to participants on a device that’s already used frequently.

Right now, most of the microlearning market share is in North America, where people generally have a smartphone, tablet or other handheld device that facilitates the use of microlearning tools. The corporate sector has been a major adopter of the practice, as it can help facilitate training for employees spread across a vast geographical region and cut down on cost. As it stands, the most frequent users and adopters of microlearning are those invested in learning. This means schools and corporate training settings.   

Microlearning opportunities for the future

Though the microlearning market is already valued in the billions, there are many untapped markets for this teaching strategy. For one, North America has the monopoly of users, which leaves the whole rest of the global market to tap into. Considering the global eLearning market was worth 107 billion dollars in 2015, it leaves a lot of room for microlearning to make a splash.

Following North America, Europe is expected to be the second-largest market for microlearning, due to extended use of handheld devices, which mirrors the situation in the U.S. Asia-pacific is also expected to be a fast-growing market for the technology, as there is a growing need for skill-based, and result-oriented training. A common thread across each of these markets is the growth in remote teams and increased reliance on mobile, deskless employees that have handheld devices.

Though microlearning has mainly been tapped in the education and corporate training fields, there has been progress made in other industries that could see real growth in the next few years. Just as corporations use microlearning to help train their employees, hospitals have begun to implement it as well. In the healthcare industry, doctors, lab techs and researchers need to make sure their skills stay sharp and that they are always in the know for any new pharmaceutical products or medical devices. The demand for Microlearning and other eLearning templates will just increase as more and more services are offered online or virtually.

Microlearning in education

The demographics of students have changed over the years. It used to be that high school students enrolled in higher education, stayed there for the extent of their studies, graduated and found jobs.

That model no longer reflects reality, and the notion of what a student is has changed dramatically. Nowadays, some students are pursuing their second degrees, have families of their own, study part-time while working full-time or are in their mid-30s or older. As the face of students has changed, so has the method of teaching, and the reliance of online learning has skyrocketed.

In 2017, 87 per cent of higher education institutions in Canada and the U.S. reported using some form of eLearning platform. Though eLearning has become a mainstay in higher education, microlearning is still gaining a foothold in tertiary education.

Microlearning in a corporate setting

In the United States, 77 per cent of companies have already used online learning to train their workforce. This means that the average corporation is open to the possibility of training their employees with new tools and new methods. As it stands, the global eLearning market is expected to reach USD 25 billion by 2025.

So far, the largest pockets of adoption for microlearning are in the retail, manufacturing and financial sectors, where most workers are deskless and mobile.

Many corporations are taking advantage of microlearning to train their employees and, in the same sweep, boost revenue. Pandora, for example, had some difficulty trying to find economically viable and efficient ways to train their worldwide workforce and found their run-of-the-mill eLearning module to be too static. The SC Training (formerly EdApp) microlearning module helped make their completion rates soar to nearly 90 per cent, while also engaging employees with the content.

Interested in implementing microlearning into your training platform? Contact SC Training (formerly EdApp) today to see how they can help. SC Training (formerly EdApp)’s multi-award-winning mobile app is the new standard in eLearning.


Tiffany Lafleur Guest Author

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