Microlearning: Making Learning Exciting, More Effective, and Perhaps Faster!

This is the ninth article in a series of articles by CCCEP about the value of high-quality continuing education for pharmacy professionals, the difference it can make in their practice and careers, and the role accreditation can play in ensuring the quality of continuing education.

The Canadian Council on Continuing Education in Pharmacy’s article on learning science talked about learning as a process and an outcome. Learning takes place in 3 stages:

  1. Encoding — information acquired to the brain

  2. Consolidation — storing information in the brain

  3. Retrieval —retrieving information from the brain

By optimizing the learning process, learners can make the most of their learning, potentially in a shorter period of time. Microlearning is one of the approaches that can help learners do so by breaking down the content into easily digestible smaller pieces, also referred to as bite-sized content, micro-courses, or just-enough information.

The Need for Microlearning Approach

“…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…” 1p(40)

Learners are facing an increasing amount of information. However, at the same time, the average human attention span has decreased. 2 With the emergence of the Internet and the exponential growth of social media, instant gratification has become an expectation. 3 Such an expectation has affected how people think about their time and how they learn. Technology has changed the way we learn, remember, and transform information. 4 The desire for just-in-time learning has increased. 5

Microlearning is an innovative pedagogy in which the material is broken down into smaller pieces — single definable ideas published in shorter formats 6  that learners can process more easily 7,8,9 resulting in learning at a higher speed. Learning content in small pieces also makes it easier for learners to access the information in specific moments and conditions of their day. 10 In addition, microlearning creates small structures (memory) repeatedly, which in turn helps learners to develop a long-term memory of learning materials. 11.12

Key Benefits of Microlearning

The key benefits of using microlearning include:

  1. Better retention of concepts,

  2. Better engagement for learners,

  3. Improving learners’ motivation,

  4. Engaging in collaborative learning, and

  5. improving learning ability and performance.

Several clinical studies have reported the effectiveness of microlearning for health care professionals. 14 Furthermore, many health educators, programs, and organizations have also endorsed microlearning to facilitate student learning, training, and continuing education. 15,16 Studies have demonstrated that microlearning can potentially improve performance in the clinical environment and increase safety. 17.18 Additionally, it can be used as a refresher [to refresh content & knowledge] before performing infrequently used skills or when performing new skills for the first time. 


Microlearning format optimizes all three stages of the learning process, ie, acquiring, storing, and retrieving information (memory). For pharmacy professionals, pursuing continuing education in a microlearning format represents a new way to learn and master information in a shorter period of time and more effectively while performing their daily responsibilities.


  1. Simon HA. Designing organizations for an information-rich world. Computers, Communications, and the Public Interest. 1971;37-72.
  2. Gausby A. Microsoft attention spans research report [Internet]. Microsoft; 2015 [cited 2023 Jan19]. Available from: https://dl.motamem.org/microsoft-attention-spans-research-report.pdf
  3. Wertz J. Why instant gratification is the one marketing tactic companies should focus on right now [Internet]. Forbes. 2018 [cited 2023Jan19]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jiawertz/2018/04/30/why-instant-gratification-is-the-one-marketing-tactic-companies-should-focus-on-right-now/?sh=42de2701e91b
  4. Cooper WO, Hickson GB. Building an infrastructure to support professionalism in the modern era: the required elements (people, process, technology). Medical Professionalism Best Practices: Professionalism in the Modern Era. Aurora, Colorado: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. 2017;73–84.
  5. Brandenburg DC, Ellinger AD. The future: Just-in-time learning expectations and potential implications for human resource development. Advances in Developing Human Resources. 2003;5(3):308–20
  6. Buchem I, Hamelmann H. Microlearning: a strategy for ongoing professional development. eLearning Papers. 2010;21(7):1-5.
  7. Bell F. Network theories for technology-enabled learning and social change: Connectivism and actor network theory. In Networked learning conference 2010: Seventh international conference on networked learning. 2010.
  8. Cosnefroy L, Carré P. Self-regulated and Self-directed Learning: Why Don’t Some Neighbors Communicate?. International journal of self-directed learning. 2014;11-2 (1-12). Available from: https://hal.parisnanterre.fr/hal-01410802/document
  9. O’Neil C. Teaching in online learning environments. In: Teaching in Nursing and Role of the Educator: The Complete Guide to Best Practice in Teaching, Evaluation, and Curriculum Development. Second Edition. New York: Springer. 2018; 103–18.
  10. Gabrielli S, Kimani S, Catarci T. The design of microlearning experiences: A research agenda (on microlearning). In Hug, T., Lindner, M. and Bruck, P.A. (Eds), Microlearning: Emerging Concepts, Practices and Technologies after E-Learning: Proceedings of Microlearning Conference 2005: Learning and Working in New Media. 2006; 45-53.
  11. Wei Y. Explore the blended teaching model from the perspective of cognitive load. In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Education, Management, Arts, Economics and Social Science. 2018; 10-11.
  12. Wissman AW. Cognitive load theory: Applications in medical education [Internet]. Cognitive Load Theory: Applications in Medical Education. Technical Communication Capstone Course; 2018 [cited 2023Jan20]. Available from: https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1024&context=eng_tech_comm_capstone_course
  13. Leong K, Sung A, Au D, Blanchard C. A review of the trend of microlearning. Journal of Work-Applied Management. 2020;13(1):88–102. doi:10.1108/jwam-10-2020-0044
  14. De Gagne JC, Park HK, Hall K, Woodward A, Yamane S, Kim SS. Microlearning in Health Professions Education: Scoping review. JMIR Medical Education. 2019;5(2):e13997. doi:10.2196/13997
  15. Orwoll B, Chu K, Diane S, Fitzpatrick S, Meer C, Roy-Burman A. 906: ENGAGING STAFF THROUGH SOCIAL GAMIFICATION: DELIVERY OF MICROLEARNING TO IMPROVE SAFETY AND QUALITY. Critical Care Medicine. 2014;42(12):A1578. doi:10.1097/01.ccm.0000458403.41811.2c
  16. Nelson M, Calandrella C, Foster D, Perera T. 147 heads up! an innovative use of smart phone technology to facilitate residency education. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2017;70(4):S59. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2017.07.173
  17. Diug B, Kendal E, Ilic D. Evaluating the use of twitter as a tool to increase engagement in medical education. Education for Health. 2016;29(3):223-230. doi:10.4103/1357-6283.204216
  18. Cheng YT, Liu DR, Wang VJ. Teaching splinting techniques using a just-in-time training instructional video. Pediatric Emergency Care. 2017;33(3):166–70. doi:10.1097/pec.0000000000000390