Tom Spiglanin has a nice blog post on Microlearning, in which he has generated a great discussion as well.
I commented on the discussion and am copying-and-pasting my comments here:
Tom, glad that you’re pushing this important discussion!
You say, “Microlearning products usually need no navigation, and there is no inherently complex structure. Each microlearning product serves but one objective and is tightly focused on that objective.”
I think this is too restrictive. Please check out my work on the Subscription-Learning Website (defunct as of December 2017).
On that website, I describe subscription learning (the use of small nuggets spread over time) as a way to create meaningful learning interactions. Indeed, subscription learning can go way beyond “learning” to provide prompting mechanisms, calls to complete tasks, feedback, etc.
The problem with the way many are thinking of microlearning is as a content-delivery system for folks with short attention spans. Unfortunately, we know that content presentation is a poor method. To really get folks to benefit from learning we need to ensure that we provide learners with at least the following (from the Training Maximizers model https://www.worklearning.com/2015/04/08/training-maximizers/):
A. Valid Credible Content
B. Engaging Learning Events
C. Support for Basic Understanding
D. Support for Decision-Making Competence
E. Support for Long-Term Remembering
F. Support for Application of Learning
G. Support for Perseverance in Learning
So, if microlearning only gets at A, B, and C; it will not create meaningful learning benefits.
Subscription learning can deliver isolated nuggets of information, but it can do much more as well. For example, one of the most important learning factors (based on the scientific research) to support remembering is the spacing effect (spacing repetitions of learning concepts over time). If you take a nugget-by-nugget approach, you don’t get the spacing effect.
Bottom line is that microlearning without intention, without scientifically-based learning design, with only isolated nuggets — will be a FAD.
Microlearning that utilizes learning factors that help us reach the requirements of (D) decision-making competence, (E) long-term remembering, (F) application of learning, and (G) perseverance in learning will be FAB.