Microlearning vs. Traditional Learning vs. eLearning - What’s The Difference?

When it comes to creating an eLearning program, there are a lot of questions about the various types of learning. One of the most common questions is what is the difference between microlearning vs. traditional learning vs. eLearning. 

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these terms means and how they all work together. 

What Is Traditional Learning? 

The best way to start comparing microlearning vs. traditional learning vs. eLearning is to define each term. Traditional learning refers to learning that occurs live. The subject matter expert (SME) presents the information to the learners while live. 

You can get into more technicalities with the definition than that, but for our purposes, the idea that learning is live is what is important. 

It can also get somewhat complicated when it comes to digital learning that is imparted live. In most cases, as long as it is live, even learning over digital devices will be considered traditional learning. The key is that it is live and the presenter and learner are interacting in real-time. 

What Is eLearning? 

At the most basic level, eLearning is any type of learning that occurs online. But because live learning online would be traditional learning, we also add the restraint that it must not be live. 

The fact that eLearning is not live adds a great deal of versatility and time savings. There is no need to find a time where both you and your learners are available. 

What Is Microlearning? 

Microlearning is when you take a topic and divide it into smaller learning bites. These learning bites contribute to a larger topic. Think of microlearning as a way to handle shorter attention spans and prevent boredom while learning. 

For example, instead of one long lesson covering five or six subtopics, microlearning would break that into five or six lessons, each covering a different subtopic. 

Given that definition, it should not be surprising that microlearning can apply to traditional learning or eLearning. The key to microlearning is the specificness and length of the learning. A very common example comes from eLearning courses that break lessons into five- or ten-minute segments. 

How Do Microlearning vs. Traditional Learning vs. eLearning Interact?

As mentioned, microlearning can be traditional learning or eLearning. That means you don’t have to compare microlearning vs. traditional learning or eLearning. They work together, not separately. 

Using microlearning is especially popular for eLearning, as it makes it easier for learners. Learners can more easily fit shorter lessons into their schedules. More importantly, microlearning lets them learn at their own pace. It also offers more opportunities for questions—for example, at the end of each microlearning lesson. If you answer those questions in real-time, that would be yet another way traditional learning fits into the program. 


Traditional learning is live learning where both the teacher and the learners are present at the same time. eLearning is done online and is explicitly not live. Microlearning can apply to either traditional or eLearning, and its key feature is that it is broken into smaller learning bites. 

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