Microlearning means taking bite-sized information and/or studying a subject for a short time then using this new information as soon as possible. This approach is the most useful in the area of corporate and business employee training. Companies have long been using this strategy to train existing and new employees quickly. Recently however it’s been used extensively by online/distant learners and since the pandemic, even schools and individual learners have discovered it and it’s getting very popular among language learners, teachers, and online schools.
This method has many advantages and shortcomings as well. While you can acquire new information quickly and in a fun environment (especially when it’s combined with gamification technology) the retention of this new information is more difficult than in a traditional learning scenario. Most language apps (Duolingo and others) are based on this approach and they’re very useful in teaching vocabulary and expressions in small chunks in a fun way. The problem is that most individual learners won’t start to use these words and expressions right away and though they enjoy the learning process, the retrieval of that knowledge is limited. In other words, they enjoy getting points and finishing levels but their acquired knowledge is not always convertible to everyday situations where they should actively use the language. It requires discipline and an understanding of the functions of these apps for one to fully get the benefits of using such apps.
Microlearning therefore should be a side strategy, not the only strategy we use to learn a language. It should accompany other learning methods unless our aim is only to get to a certain level very fast and use our knowledge immediately. Language apps should be used together with other learning aids such as courses, books, videos, podcasts, private tutoring, and so forth.
Other microlearning strategies such as flashcards and online educational games are also very useful to learn and practice a new language but they also shouldn’t be the only forms of study. The more ways one practices a new language the better the chances of being able to actively use it later on.