How Long is too Short? Determining the Ideal Duration for Bite-Sized Learning

Ever since Grovo Inc. trademarked the term ‘Microlearning’ the L&D industry has been using different terms like ‘bite-sized learning’, ‘just-in-time learning’, and ‘learning nuggets’. In this blog post, we examine results of some popular surveys and insights from industry-leaders to determine the ideal length of bite-sized learning.

Ideal Length of Bite-Sized Learning

Snackable Learning

Yes, you read that right. ‘Snackable Learning’ is one more term coined as a substitute for microlearning. For this topic, it serves well to help us understand the term better. Compare a three-course full meal with a snack. A three-course meal takes time to make, the portions are large, and it is to be savored bit-by-bit and can’t be consumed in a hurry. This is akin to a full-fledged eLearning course that can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes long. A snack on the other hand could be as simple as an apple or a sandwich that can be consumed anytime and anywhere without too much of preparation time. It is designed to work as a filler between meals and cannot fully substitute a full meal. To summarize, bite-sized learning cannot replace a full-length course. Alternatively, a collection of bite-sized learning nuggets can be structured together to form a full-length course.

Just-in-Time Learning that Delivers Results

Bite-sized learning is designed to be delivered when its needed the most. Remember that a 75-minute course can be broken down into smaller coherent modules that are between five to ten minutes in duration. Research shows that these micro lessons add value and help reinforce learning better than the longer courses.

The Knowledge Plus website cites the following case study that proves the efficiency of microlearning.

In 2015, researchers at the Dresden University of Technology found that a group of online learners studying through a microlearning platform answered assessment questions 20% more accurately than a group who learned through the traditional method of studying a substantial amount of material, then completing one assessment. The microlearning group also took 28% less time to answer questions, demonstrating the strength of microlearning in both accuracy and efficiency.  

The Ideal Length

The good folks at ATD ran a poll to figure out the ideal duration for microlearning and found some interesting answers. ATD Research polled 228 respondents working in various organizations that deployed microlearning to figure out the effective length of a microlearning activity. 59% of the participants of the poll said that two to five minutes was the ideal length; but most of the microlearning deployed at their organizations was between 10 to 15 minutes in length. When the same question was posed to a group of 144 Talent Development professionals, 13 minutes was the most popular answer and the average amount of time for microlearning was 10 minutes.    

Two Distinct Bite-Sized Learning Capsules

Based on the various surveys conducted, we can conclude that there are two distinct types of bite-sized or microlearning. Learning nuggets that are from two minutes to four minutes in length and are concise, crisp, and focused. The second category comprises five to ten-minutes long microlearning chunks that have additional details and offer greater insight into the topic.

What are your thoughts on the ideal length of bite-sized learning? Do share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section.

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