7 modern myths about microlearning in the workplace

Posted on Mar 29, 2018


Measurement & reinforcement

Michael Quann puts the record straight and tackles the most prevalent misconceptions about microlearning.

Some organisations just don’t ‘get’ microlearning or how it works – and the misconceptions are preventing them from using it where it’s most appropriate.

Misuse of microlearning in the workplace is being aided and abetted by a whole host of microlearning myths, being spread by word of mouth. Unless corrected, the misuse will continue and businesses won’t see the benefits of microlearning.

No-one puts this argument better than workplace learning guru Patti Shank. She states clearly how some organisations have fallen into the trap of using microlearning where it doesn’t fit best. In these cases, she says, what L&D teams believe about microlearning, doesn’t match what research tells us.

To get to grips with what microlearning is, you first need to understand what it’s not.

Why is this so important now? Because microlearning is the top workforce trend for 2018, according to LinkedIn – so if you are about to introduce or increase microlearning, it’s best to get it right!

The 7 biggest microlearning myths

Microlearning is all shiny and new

The cognitive science behind microlearning goes back many years. For example, the German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, discovered the spacing effect principle in 1885 when he was studying memory. What is new is how microlearning is now packaged and labelled.

It’s called microlearning because it’s always short

The point about microlearning isn’t the length, it’s the focus. Microlearning is 100% relevant and targeted to needs and goals.  There’s no ‘padding’ and no unnecessary or distracting information. The learning is then repeated over intervals to achieve retention.

Microlearning is all about video

Microlearning is all about the learning, not the content, hence a variety of content formats are used. For example, quizzes, user-generated shared content, assessments and games are often in the mix.  In her piece, Patti Shank refers to the definition of microlearning by learning technology expert Clark Quinn, in which he describes it as “complete learning experiences”. Another respected learning researcher, Will Thalheimer, defines it as “learning-related activities” involving “any combination of content presentation”.

Microlearning can’t handle difficult topics

Microlearning can be used for any topic, whatever the degree of difficulty. It’s a case of using it correctly and at the right time. Whether it’s customer satisfaction, sales, compliance or safety, microlearning is solving some of the most challenging issues in the workplace today.

Microlearning replaces other types of learning

You should regard microlearning as part of your overall training strategy, one of the tools in your tool box that all work in harness together. When and how these tools are used will depend on the needs. The bottom line is that there’s no one single answer to training needs.

Microlearning must be self-directed learning

Sure, microlearning can be self-directed, but it doesn’t have to be just self-directed. In fact, microlearning is most effective when it combines compulsory content and additional knowledge that learners choose to access themselves as and when they need it. What makes it so valuable, is that they have the means to keep on learning.

Microlearning can only ever work for millennials

Age doesn’t matter – for a very simple reason. Because microlearning is personalised and adaptive, it meets the specific needs of each learner. It renders age and ability irrelevant and gives everyone the chance to master the subject effectively, in the way that suits them.


When people understand microlearning and use it in the right way, in the right circumstances, it can be truly effective.  Get in touch to learn how the Axonify Microlearning Platform is improving business outcomes for a range of companies.

The key to microlearning success? Use it where it fits, and design for business outcomes.


Thanks to our partner, Axonify for their whitepaper, Everything you need to know about microlearning, on which this post is based.  

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Michael Quann - Head of Microlearning Solutions at Sponge

Michael works with our extensive list of multi-national clients to ensure all the advantages of our digital learning capabilities are reinforced using science-based techniques over time.

He specialises in helping clients use analytical capabilities to identify areas and individuals who need further assistance including mentoring and coaching.

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