Is Microlearning More Effective Than Macrolearning For Corporate Training?

Is Microlearning More Effective Than Macrolearning?
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Summary: Employees save time at work when completing microlearning training. Microlearning serves as a cost-effective option for companies since evidence suggests that employees would rather learn in shorter bursts on their own time.

Microlearning Can Save Time And Money

A survey of employees in different industries ranging from marketing, higher education, and manufacturing shows interesting ways they prefer to learn skills for their jobs.


With the global need for organizations to rapidly adapt and the resulting changes in job skills, people must be able to learn on their own using both micro and macro approaches. The reason for using formal microlearning or macrolearning is to help people gain specific skills that are critical to the organization (Nerb, J., Ritter, F. E., & Langley, P. 2007).

Moreover, microlearning is defined as “learning delivered in bite-size chunks” (Cole, 2018, 12), which takes between ten to thirteen minutes (Cole, 2018). According to research, microlearning is most effective when it is delivered in two to five-minute chunks (Cole, 2018). According to Bersin (2017), microlearning is referred to as employee-centered, making learning not only easy to access through different media but also bringing learning to the employees. Microlearning courses can be viewed on any device. They can be integrated into different training scenarios, have a clear message, and are focused on one concept or skill. Scaglione (2019), Buhem and Hamelmann (2010) note that this type of learning is a new way of learning created by the new reality in the workplace, which requires lifelong learning and staying up-to-date with the fast flow of new technologies and information. It is a flexible approach, which can meet the demands of ongoing professional development.

Understandably, Scaglione (2019) mentions that there are different reasons for adopting microlearning. The most essential among them is that microlearning is the more cost-effective option available on virtually any device. It can provide timely and adequate information for employees where knowledge can be quickly applied. Callisen (2019) notes that we all use microlearning daily in the way we constantly receive small pieces of information through smartphones and tablets while engaged in other activities. Microlearning gives employees a sense of empowerment and control because of being able to study on their own time schedule, which leads to better outcomes. This type of learning enables employees to react fast in unexpected situations that require new knowledge (Callisen, 2019). Cole (2018) also agrees that microlearning is highly accessible and engaging, which helps improve employee performance, confidence, and knowledge.


Compared to microlearning, as the name suggests, macrolearning is best used to teach larger concepts. Macrolearning focuses on larger and more complete skill areas. This type of learning typically takes hours or days, rather than minutes. Macrolearning in the workplace addresses concepts such as the best approach to improving internal processes and how to get all team members on the same page (Murphy, 2007). Bersin (2017) mentions that there is a different perspective where macrolearning and microlearning are inseparable. Macrolearning is the educational option for mastering a new field of study in-depth, while microlearning is useful in maintaining knowledge and acquiring new professional knowledge unique to the particular employee or position.

However, Callisen (2019) argues that although employees are eager to learn and train on the job, traditional education is no longer relevant and efficient because employees are not willing to attend long training sessions and be required to read lengthy manuals. Microlearning is the new way to address employees’ need for learning and training by offering cheaper and more efficient formats, which are short and use technology, providing employees with a sense of control over how and when they learn (Callisen, 2019).

Different Industries, Roles, And Ranks

Forty-six corporate employees (20 male, 26 female) across multiple different industries, career ranks, roles, and ages were surveyed on their preference for learning new skills for their jobs. They work in different corporate industries and verticals with the majority in manufacturing, healthcare, and marketing/sales/media.


Job Performance

In terms of applying knowledge gained through training to real-world work scenarios, there was no preference in learning methods as both do provide a higher level of knowledge. Data also showed that participants were engaged with both ways of learning in which one did not take precedence over the other. There is evidence that age can be a determining factor in the effectiveness of macrolearning. In this study, as age increased, microlearning effectiveness increased. Interestingly, 99% of participants who noted that they work in manufacturing feel more productive and effective for their job after in-person, macrolearning focused training.

This supports Graetz’s (2006) research, which states that learners interpret skills and knowledge better when learning in the environment they conduct work in.

Age And Effectiveness

Participants ranging from 35-44 and 45-54 found microlearning more effective in their job role and were able to either immediately apply or took little time to apply knowledge learned from this training method to their job role. As age increased, microlearning effectiveness increased. This may be because those who have more learning experience prefer to learn in shorter bursts.

Industry And Effectiveness

Interestingly, 99% of participants, who noted that they work in the manufacturing industry, felt more effective and productive in their job role after in-person corporate training or other forms of macrolearning. This is in line with Graetz’s research which states that “students manage their limited cognitive resources by actively selecting environmental information for further consideration and by using existing knowledge structures to interpret this information in ways that have worked previously (2006)." Manufacturing has a hands-on skillset that other industries surveyed do not have, so these participants find that a learning environment that matches their working environment helps them feel more knowledgeable, effective, and productive.

Time Reduction

Microlearning saves employees time at work. The majority of respondents would rather learn in short bursts on their own time. This is in line with previous research by Scaglione (2019) that employees want information delivered quickly, on their own time, with the flexibility of learning on multiple devices.

Cost Reduction

There is evidence that microlearning is a cost-effective option for many industries as outlined in previous research by Callisen (2019), as a cheaper form of training to address employee needs. However, both learning methods were close together in terms of effectiveness and productivity. Participants placed an emphasis on wanting their companies to "invest in a newer, better eLearning platform to conduct such training."


Microlearning is more effective compared to macrolearning for corporate training. It was found that those who are older feel that microlearning better equipped them for their role. Interestingly, those who participated in manufacturing job roles noted that macrolearning helped them feel better equipped and knowledgeable for their role, which gives weight to further study on learning in different industry sectors and that one type of learning method is or is not the best for another industry, it’s workforce, and specific job roles.

Time and cost were reduced with microlearning. Employees save time at work when completing microlearning training. Microlearning serves as a cost-effective option for companies since evidence suggests that employees would rather learn in shorter bursts on their own time. The majority of participants would like to see their companies invest in better, newer eLearning platforms in which more microlearning modules can be completed.