eLearning vs. Microlearning: What Are the Differences?

elearning microlearning
Woman teaching students

Custom eLearning and microlearning are two forms of development resources that are quickly gaining prominence in workplaces today. As careers get busier, time poses a huge constraint, online learning modules are fast becoming the best way to learn and keep skills updated on-the-job continuously. Meanwhile, microlearning solves the issue of time by encouraging frequent and gradual growth. Keep in mind that the two are not mutually exclusive, and you can definitely incorporate both into your company’s learning and communication strategies to better engage your employees.

In this piece, we’ll dive into the fundamental principles of learning, how they’re used in online learning methods today, and dive into the two trending learning methods: eLearning and microlearning.

What is Custom eLearning?

The capacity to learn is believed to be shaped by two essential factors: high mental functions and practical tools. Since learning involves a response to external stimuli, learning is an active, continuous process. That means that learning is not just a way to help employees develop skills, but encourage their connections with fellow colleagues and even improve retention rates. Learning has come a long way from the 16th century when compulsory learning during childhood was introduced and special spaces (schools) were created for cognitive development. In the 21st century, online learning has changed the face of education, becoming more accessible without needing physical spaces.

Custom eLearning is acquiring knowledge or education remotely or via the internet. It’s a formalized learning system that imparts a formal curriculum to recipients in different parts of the world at the same or different times. By utilizing electronic resources, access to education has become easier, granting users access to full courses taught completely online. Online resources can even increase personal connections within the workplace, giving people something to talk about that fosters a positive learning environment. Employees who are provided with eLearning opportunities by employers quickly become more productive, as their skills and expertise grows within the company and they continue to make valuable connections with their coworkers.

The Four Theories of Learning in the Digital Age

Even though online education has creatively circumvented the overhead charges that come with a traditional class setup, it still relies heavily on traditional learning methods. That means that digital learning used internally in any organization typically incorporate these four learning theories:


Cognitivism is based on conscious thought, emotions, and other mental processes that promote cognitive development. According to this theory, being able to understand learning helps to find meaning in what is being taught. This, combined with previous knowledge, resulting in better productivity. Cognitivism is a considerable part of eLearning, since the learners have to process their conscious thoughts and emotions by themselves. Their decision-making process is challenged, and so is their cognitive development. While solo thinking strikes a key part of cognitivism, it’s important to note that collaboration can enhance one’s cognitive abilities. You can incorporate an eLearning program and tools into meetings, conferences, and other corporate events to help employees grow and learn together.


Behaviorism determines how eLearners act educationally by focusing on measurable and defined goals. One's behavior will determine how serious and dedicated and committed they are to their learning processes. In a traditional class, the presence of the teacher is motivation to be on the right behavior, but with online learning, personal accountability is key to approaching one’s education responsibly. With this in mind, custom eLearning courses and tools often create discussion topics and opportunities to encourage employees to interact with each other and boost their enthusiasm for learning.


The custom eLearning development process is based on the theory of connectivism, which connects cognitive and behavior methodologies. It promotes collaboration between the tutors and students as well as real-time feedback. Plus, online learning provides platforms where the student can be part of a massive and relevant community. Finding answers to questions is easier, and eLearning allows users to learn from several perspectives instead of from one instructor. A custom eLearning program works because it uses a seminar-like approach to foster discussion and connection rather than authoritative learning.

Although traditional classes also tap into connectivism, it’s not the same as building a community online and using eLearning tools to enhance in-person conversation. Employees using online courses to further their skills can simultaneously find answers to their questions, learn meaningful skills, and connect with their colleagues..


This theory promotes collaboration where eLearners build upon information outside of the electronic "classroom" set up. They can use chat rooms, blogs, and online forums to further arguments and share different perspectives away from the traditional approaches. This creative form of engagement creates new channels of internal communication that can re-enthuse employees.

What is Microlearning?

Microlearning is a kind of learning, often using eLearning capabilities, that works best for companies and organizations when training their staff. Custom eLearning offers learners everything from a complete university course to learning how to operate a work-related application. Micro learning, on the other hand, offers small learning units to provide bite-sized training to employees over a long period of time. Micro-learning is touted as the best training model for organizations because it takes minimal time to impart essential and crucial knowledge while allowing employees to grow every day. Custom eLearning approaches education in its entirety from the theoretical aspect to increasing skills. Micro-learning, on the other hand, focuses more on providing skill-based knowledge in short training modules.

Advantages of Microlearning

Man working at his desk

Has very defined goals

Microlearning breaks down complex ideas into simple parts that enable the learner to achieve their goals faster without distracting them from daily tasks. That means that the person using the training goes into the learning session with a specific objective. Employee onboarding is a form of micro-learning and it's effective in helping new hires understand the work process that comes with their job so they can be effective from day one. The objective here is to learn how to perform their duties, not learn about company culture or other departments. Nevertheless, the right micro-learning skills can achieve both at once, giving employees a chance to connect with their managers and colleagues on a small scale.

Faster to deliver

Because of the size of the trainings, it’s easier to deliver the eLearning curriculum to the learner. Sitting through a short course means that one can concentrate better on the content compared to running through an hour-long course on the same subject. Also, shorter training enables employers to deliver any changes in information faster as their business goals change or new regulations are announced. While long training courses can often feel like a painful chore, micro-learning helps employees feel connected to the company by allowing them to achieve goals quickly and with minimal distraction from day-to-day tasks.

Better knowledge retention

Employees are able to retain knowledge from short training better, even if it's complex. Micro-learning courses deliver 1-2 objectives to prevent confusion. Also, because the courses are short, learners can revisit them repeatedly as a reference point. Micro-learning units are typically self-contained, meaning one doesn't need to look for the information anywhere else. Learners can take the training at their own pace since they only have to digest small chunks of information. Since micro-learning takes place over time, employees can reinforce goals little by little and incorporate what they’ve learned into their work each day.

Content is tailored to needs

Employees appreciate content that is tailored to their needs instead of sifting through general information to get nuggets that they can use. For example, one company may have implemented custom eLearning development for all employees and another has micro-learning modules that feature specific content for different departments. The latter will pass on information more efficiently to its employees because they are getting concise and actionable information relevant to their work and departmental goals. The former will have less success with employees focusing on relevant content to their work because they have so much information to sift through.

At eLearning Partners, our learning modules are tailored to you and can help departments reach specific goals while making sure company-wide goals are met. Our learning modules adhere to your brand in order to spearhead authentic engagement and connection between employees, while also offering individualized content for each module.

It caters to a majority

Women working at table

Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce, and they are first-generation digital natives. They better assimilate information when it's disseminated electronically because it's customized to their needs, it's available on-demand and the learning platform is less formal than a traditional classroom. Bite-sized training meets all the above criteria, making them ideal for providing crucial training to the workforce.

To make micro-learning content even more appealing, trainers are opting to incorporate engagement boosting tactics into the format. They are creating micro-learning modules that look like social media content and also creating feedback channels that keep the audience engaged during the entire training. Micro-learning often incorporates eLearning because it’s accessible, using modes of communication that are proven to work.

It matches the concentration span

A popular tactic in microlearning is launching straight into the how-to section of the training and eliminating sections about background information. This is information that the learner can access on their own. But the main reason behind this is that the human concentration span and memory capacity is best when the information is imparted for three to seven minutes. Training delivered within that time frame has a better chance of being absorbed and understood.

Also, there are interruptions that come with a work environment, like phone calls or queries that need to be answered. Typically, employees can work for eleven minutes uninterrupted. A module that lasts seven minutes is ideal because it prevents employees from self-segregating while trying to complete long sessions. Short training allows them to go about their day and interact with others rather than feel like they’re behind in terms of learning.


Micro-learning trainings can be less expensive compared to the lengthier eLearning courses. Learning developers reduce the time spent on the course by 50% when they create a micro-learning course. This impacts the bottom line since more learners get valuable and concise information that developers have had more time to polish.

Advantages of eLearning

Man working on laptop

Facilitates better employee retention

eLearning courses without micro-learning are more detailed and educational, providing knowledge that would be expensive and hard-to-find for individuals on their own. As employees seek to become more knowledgeable, they will stay with a company that is willing to pay for their training and education. eLearning sends them the message that their employers care about them and their growth, and is willing to go out of their way to make them truly feel like a valuable asset to the company. By themselves, microlearning courses do not provide the scope of knowledge and education that a complete eLearning course can.

Has better scalability

eLearning courses can be scaled from an entry-level certificate to an advanced course as the employee grows in their knowledge and skills. A single, in-depth course can be translated into various languages and disseminated to a larger number of employees, effectively standardizing the caliber of productivity throughout the various branches of an organization.

Offers several learning options

eLearning utilizes different learning formats to cater to all learners. The same course can be available as a video, text, games and podcasts, among others. This caters to learners with different attention spans and learning preferences. That’s why at eLearning Partners, our learning modules include video tools, written tools, and other forms of media.

Has in-depth information

Using assessment styles like case studies and quizzes give in-depth information that may be lacking in shorter modules like micro-learning courses. An eLearning course features background information, exercise, and tests in addition to the thorough course work that comes along with it. There is adequate information to explain crucial parts of the course and impart background knowledge that enhances the learner's skills on the ground.

Also, the body of information in a custom eLearning course remains relevant for longer, unlike micro-learning content that can quickly change depending on departmental goals and changes. Choosing information-rich custom eLearning course development can help build a company’s identity and serve as a central knowledge hub for employee discussions that informs decision-making.

Microlearning: The Future of Employee Training

Man pointing to laptop screen

While eLearning alone focuses on broader and sometimes less tangible goals, microlearning can effectively train employees with skills in the workplace. That’s especially true if the organization adheres to these best practices

1. Enable mobile access

Enabling mobile access to microlearning trainings allows employees to access the course while on the go. These trainings are effective if the employee can access them from anywhere at any time. The organization can go further and even enable offline access so employees can still use the resources away from the internet.

2. Use visuals and media

Having visuals and other media can make content more engaging and help employees retain vital information. It’s hard to concentrate on a wall of words, especially when dealing with a complex subject. Using videos and infographics can help employees to remain focused and understand the subject better. Microlearning provides an opportunity for companies to use visual aesthetics to show off its fun side.

3. Customize the course

The more relatable the training, the better reception it will receive. There is no one-size-fits-all model for microlearning resources. If one is working with the accounts department, customize the content to fit their mode of assimilating information. In this case, it may be using more numbers than words. Make sure the courses are adapted to the various departments in the organization. It’s also important to make sure the courses use the company’s brand voice and pillars. That’s why at eLearning Partners, we take great care to make sure microlearning tools keep your company on the same page and stay connected

4. Keep it short and precise

Empty office space with desks

Always keep the spirit of micro-learning alive when creating courses. These include short and precise training that last seven to ten minutes, simple language, customization to suit the audience and have clearly defined goals. Include only content that is relevant to the objective of the training, including images or videos. Everything that goes into the training should add value. To achieve this, it’s highly recommended to have as few objectives as possible. One objective is great because it’s simple and keeps the employees focused. The most number of objectives a micro-learning course should have is three and they must be very clearly laid out.

Executives should make sure that everyone at every level in a corporate team has access to continuous learning opportunities. Companies must train their staff so that they can remain relevant and successful in their industry. But it’s important to give employees the best chance of success with their training. A company that’s serious about employee learning should employ both eLearning and microlearning techniques to achieve various kinds of individual development. Traditional eLearning tools can help immerse employees into your company by creating opportunities for real connections over in-depth discussions, while microlearning boosts employee confidence by teaching them skills that they can use right away to meet company goals.

At eLearning Partners, we specialize in producing custom eLearning and micro-learning programs for time-sensitive initiatives so you can grow and scale your company while training and engaging your employees and students.

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