From elearningmind

Simon Casuto


We’ve long expounded on the virtues of microlearning for a bevy of reasons: It’s super-efficient, effective, and learners love it. But what’s really happening to your learners’ brains when they experience bite-sized pieces of information?

Even the most sophisticated onboarding system in the world is bound to leave a few things out. Microlearning makes space for some of those smaller, need-to-know bits of information, whether it’s a quick product refresher or in-the-moment compliance training. Reading Tweets; watching a Facebook video; checking out a quick article: It’s all microlearning.

By understanding how the brain responds to information based on context, topic, and yes, even length, the value of microlearning becomes clear. It’s not just an accessory to eLearning, but can become an integral part of a blendedeLearning strategy.

Just Keep Swimming

Thanks in part to the rise of social media, humans are less focused in general. In fact, the average human attention span (the time for which a human can focus on non-changing stimulus) is only eight seconds. That’s one full second less than goldfish.

Consider this: The average office worker checks his email 30 times every hour, and the average mobile phone user checks his iPhone 150 times per day. Sound like a lot? It is. But humans are able to participate in those tasks literally hundreds of times every day because they’re quick: A precursory glance at a few updates is all that’s required for the brain to process email alerts or a new like on Instagram.

Reading tweets, watching Vines, and hyper-absorbing media has made it so that humans are trained to look for the fastest path to the answers they need. While attention span has steadily declined over the years, the brain’s capacity to consume and process information has actually increased. Therefore, if your information doesn’t really merit paragraphs of text, or even long videos, microlearning can frame that info in the way your learners are already trained and comfortable using. Anything longer, and you could get a goldfish-blank stare – what were you talking about again?

Staying Alert

Interestingly enough, the timeline for alertness is a little longer. Humans can stay alert and engaged on a topic (with the right stimulus) for about 20 minutes, after which neurons require a two- to three-minute break to recover. It’s possible to utilize traditionally lengthier methods of delivery, so long as they aren’t too long – and there’s plenty of time for breaks in between.

Still, it’s microlearning that has the largest capacity for changing the eLearning game. By respecting the neuroscience behind learning, information consumption, and attention span, it’s possible to design an eLearning curriculum that takes different learning styles into consideration. Size matters: Delivering smaller bites of information allows the learner to experience, absorb, and move onto the next task before losing interest.


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