What is the optimal length for an eLearning module? | Course-Source the business eLearning marketplace


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Is the trend for short microlearning content based on learning efficacy or just a fad?

As an eLearning content aggregator we invest a good amount of our time researching, reviewing, and curating eLearning courses to assess their efficacy and performance as learning opportunities.

Over recent years we have seen a significant shift to much shorter course formats and the term ‘microlearning’ has come into common parlance amongst learning & development professionals.

I was curious to understand more about this shift in course formats and whether there was any material and sound rationale behind it, or is it marketing hype to get us to reinvest in new content libraries? I approached Tom Moore, now Chief Operating Office of iAM Learning, one of our publisher partners. Tom was also previously the Managing Director of Learning Heroes, notably the content publisher who heralded in this new wave of content. iAM Learning design and build off-the-shelf courses that range in duration from around 5 minutes to 30 minutes in duration, so to some extent they cross the boundary from micro to traditional length eLearning courses.

I asked Tom how they arrive at an optimal duration for a course and if there was a focus on creating micro-sized courses. Tom explains,

‘Our strapline is 'let the content drive the length of the course', so when we sit down to make a course, we might have a timeframe in mind, but if the title ends up only being five minutes long and not fifteen minutes, we don't try to find more content to stuff into the course just for the sake of it’

Tom goes on to stress,

‘Likewise, we always start with the learning objectives. For us, a course must be focused on the change you want to engender, and we tend to focus on the three to five (maximum) learning goals for a piece of content. Any more than that and our view is that people just can't absorb all of that information - or make a meaningful change.’

We talk a lot about the ‘bizarreness effect’ and whilst that may or may not be a real thing, it's true to say that making content that is short, snappy and quirky (with some stand out moments) will naturally grab a learner’s attention more than a drawn-out course with lots of dry information.’

That all certainly makes good sense and it explains why iAM Learning courses vary significantly in length. I was keen to understand Tom’s view on the modern-day workplace learner preferences and why he thinks microlearning has captured peoples’ attention? Does he think uptake is driven by the lower cost (albeit a positive factor for the learning organisation but not the learner), the fact that we are increasingly time-poor in our work lives, the limited attention span of online learners, or other factors? Tom comments,

‘Clearly, the time demands and constraints on people, the impact of millennial generation expectations, and the cost of purchase will all play a factor; but we believe that it is the enhanced pedagogy and positive learning outcomes achieved that above anything else is driving the shift to shortened (but not necessarily micro) courses.’

If Tom’s thinking resonates with you then you can explore the iAM Learning ever-growing course catalogue here.

Also do remember, that we can deliver any of the courses through your internal LMS, or we can provide you with a dedicated and branded version of our Course-Source LMS, if preferred.

You can also search our comprehensive multi-publisher catalogue offering a huge range of microlearning and longer courses here.