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You may have heard about “microlearning” before, but do you know how it can help your healthcare organization? We’ve got the surprising benefits of this cognitive science strategy and how it helps your staff training program.

Back it up: what’s microlearning?

Microlearning means “small but complete learning experiences,” according to the organizational learning guru Clark Quinn. If that doesn’t mean much to you, totally ok. Let’s break it down…

A microlearning lesson is all of this:

  • Short lessons (typically 3-12 minutes)
  • Highly informational
  • Focuses on 1 or 2 main learning objectives
  • Tests knowledge or gives opportunity to try it


While you may be most familiar with microlearning as a concept for online training, it doesn’t have to be digital. You’ve certainly had plenty of micro-learning experiences, like when a colleague shows you how to make a double-sided copy on the copy machine. You might have watched how it’s done, then tested your knowledge by trying it yourself. That’s micro-learning!

In short, it’s concise, super-concentrated education created to meet a particular learning outcome. A microlearning course will typically consist of rich media such as videos, quizzes, and other interactive elements.

Why does it work?

Cognitive science research shows that breaking information into small pieces can reduce the potential for overload, improve focus, and make it easier to remember what’s taught. It’s especially beneficial if you already have a base level of knowledge in the subject area and are trying to add onto what you already know.

The best microlearning lessons build on previous learning, and are organized in a logical sequence that helps students create a solid knowledge base. It’s that growing knowledge base that allows us to be excellent problem solvers at work. As your knowledge base deepens, you’re able to solve problems more quickly and create better outcomes. This is how you get those star employees who seem to come up with a fix to every problem.

Perhaps most importantly, staff members prefer microlearning! This means they’re more likely to do assigned training, which makes everyone happy.


Reasons you might want to use microlearning

We know microlearning is short (and most busy professionals tend to say short = good when it comes to training…) but what are the real reasons to incorporate it into your organization’s training program?

Benefit #1: Fit into your staff’s workstyle

A typical employee is interrupted on average every 11 minutes while trying to perform any given task. (Healthcare workers tend to get interrupted even more!) The interruption might be a colleague coming over with a question, an email notification, or a phone call or text.

During that 11 minutes of uninterrupted work, your employee may be engaging in multiple small tasks that take about 3 minutes each. And if your employee is looking up information, they’ll spend on average 20 seconds reading before moving onto another task or piece of content.

Micro-learning fits into that model your staff members are already using to do work (and learning!) throughout their day. They can add in training seamlessly without making major adjustments to their day-to-day routine.

Benefit #2: Improve employees’ motivation and engagement with training

Great microlearning is interactive and keeps the student involved in the lesson. And when the student is more involved, their comprehension improves.

And, as you might guess, when they’re paying attention and fully comprehending the material, they feel more successful and motivated to implement the training they just learned. It’s like a wonderful circle of joy. Or learning. Or joyful learning.

Benefit #3: Ideal training for short-staffed environments

So many healthcare organizations are operating on a skeleton crew or are otherwise short staffed. In these cases you’re simultaneously keeping up with the overwhelming demands of daily work, trying to keep staff up-to-date with required training, and also onboarding new employees, which no one has adequate time to train!

One important trick is to fit training into those little pockets of time that staff members have available for training. And for new hires or for staff with some unexpected free time, multiple microlearning lessons can be watched back-to-back for a longer session. In other words, microlearning gives you a lot of flexibility.

Benefit #4: Highly adaptable to diverse learning needs

Everyone is different, and we certainly don’t all learn the same. Some have shorter attention spans. Some simply have greater limits on their time and can’t (or won’t) carve out hours to do training. And some need to go through courses slowly, at their own pace to make sure they absorb everything.

Microlearning accommodates a wide range of learning styles, learning abilities, time restrictions, and staff preferences.

Lessons can be watched all at once, like binge watching season four of Friends. Or they can be digested slowly, one at a time, and even watched several times in a row for learners who need that extra time.

A peek inside a microlearning course

When you’re administering an employee training program, it’s not enough to simply track who has watched or attended training. You have to build-in some accountability and incorporate knowledge checks.

To give you an idea of what this looks like, here’s how we do it at MedTrainer:

Set expectations upfront

In each course, we explain what the student should learn from the course. This gives them context, which helps them learn. It also starts the process of repetition, which is important for learning, even in a microlearning setting. Lastly, it previews what will be assessed during the knowledge check (more on that in a moment).

Focus attention

Even in five minute microlearning courses people are tempted to switch tabs on their browser and respond to emails or peruse the sale items at Crate & Barrel (no judgment!). We try to put some guardrails on this behavior to keep the learner focused. So if a student clicks away from the lesson, our courses pause until the viewer is back on the course tab and ready to engage.

Provide interactive material

Throughout the short course, we include interactive elements that are designed to keep the learner engaged. When a student participates in the learning process, rather than being a passive participant, they learn faster and more thoroughly. Clicking to reveal more information, or dragging an element to the appropriate category, are ways we put learners in the driver’s seat.

Check comprehension

At the end of a microlesson we always give a quiz to make sure the student learned what they were supposed to. If the student doesn’t get a passing score on the quiz, they can take the course again until they improve their score. The lesson is short, but the content is important.

Parting tips

If you need help developing a training program for your healthcare facility (or perhaps help making sure everyone actually does the training!) click here to set up a chat with one of our friendly product experts. They have some great tips to share (yes, some of which were acquired through microlearning courses!). We’re here to help you get on the path to training success.