Research says that we use technology to learn more now than ever before – especially those born from the 1980s onward. (1)
So, if your patients are already using technology to learn in school and the workplace, why not apply the same approach to deliver health-related information to them throughout treatment?
You can – through a technique known as “microlearning.”

Adopting Microlearning in your Practice

What Is Microlearning?

The fast-paced nature of the digital infosphere has led to the rise of many new types of teaching and learning. One such innovation is the approach known as “microlearning,” which uses short educational modules and brief activities to teach and reinforce larger concepts or learning objectives. (2) The modules are typically delivered via internet-based programs, sites, or apps. (3)

Microlearning boasts a variety of benefits for the learner. Its brevity is the most obvious: Microlearning content is typically delivered in very short modules that can be completed in 15 minutes or less, so it can be consumed in an “on-demand” format during breaks or downtime. (3)

Because the content is delivered in short bursts, the learner can internalize it quickly in a “need-to-know” fashion. (2)

While applicable across multiple fields, microlearning has shown great potential as a tool in healthcare, particularly:

  • Promoting self-care for patients attempting to prevent or manage “lifestyle diseases” such as type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease; (4)
  • App-based weight loss and stress/anxiety management programs; (5) and
  • Training students in the healthcare professions. (2)

Given the initial successes obtained in these areas, it is worth considering how you can use the principles of microlearning to improve outcomes in your healthcare practice.

How Can Microlearning Improve My Clinical Practice and Improve Patient Compliance and Outcomes?

Because microlearning breaks down large amounts of complex information into smaller, more easily processed units or modules, it can help learners of all types understand and internalize concepts that are important to their rehabilitation journey. (2)

Consider the following examples:

  1. You’re a pediatric OT trying to help a parent learn handling techniques to supplement their child’s therapy between treatment sessions with you.
  2. You’re an orthopedic PT in a wellness practice hoping to help your patient establish a 15-minute stretching routine to maintain the flexibility gains they’ve made throughout the course of care with you.
  3. You’re a chronic pain specialist attempting to teach your patient the basic concepts of pain neuroscience.
  4. You’re a therapist trying to teach a patient with ADHD how to calm their racing thoughts through breathing exercises and daily meditation.

All of these situations involve complex topics with multiple steps or key points that the learner must remember. By breaking these broad ideas down into smaller pieces, you can help decrease the potential of overwhelming a patient and ultimately improving information retention.

In addition to helping your patients, microlearning can also benefit you as the provider!

As a busy healthcare professional, you are likely struggling to keep up with the daily demands of patient care and administrative work.

In these situations, professional development often becomes an afterthought for providers, something to be done in a rush in the last month before license renewal paperwork is due. (6)

Rather than drinking from the firehose of continuing education every year or two, what if you chose to use microlearning to broaden your professional knowledge base gradually over time?

Apps and other programs designed specifically for healthcare education are becoming ever more prevalent and popular. (2)

Healthcare-specific social networks like Doximity allow providers to exchange information between peers and learn from one another, whereas an app like Human Anatomy Atlas allows clinicians to brush up on their anatomy knowledge between patients.

By embracing these types of microlearning platforms, you can save yourself time and still guarantee that you are on top of the latest information in your field.

How Can I Start Using Microlearning in My Practice Today?

Let’s use the patient examples above to break down some examples of how microlearning can help make complex topics simpler to learn and remember.

While not all of these examples specifically use technology like an app or website to deliver the microcontent, they embody the basic concepts of microlearning by dividing the information into smaller, most digestible chunks. (3)

(In fact, you may already have been using microlearning techniques without ever realizing it!)

Microlearning In Action:
A pediatric OT teaching a parent

  1. Instead of teaching the parent five different handling strategies at once, select a single skill to practice at each session. Spend no more than 2-3 minutes on this task.
  2. Repeat the practice of that skill several times in that session if possible, and then again at the start of the next session.
  3. If the parent demonstrates mastery of the first technique, move on to your second planned technique in your next treatment session. If not, spend a second session reinforcing the first skill.

Microlearning In Action:
An orthopedic PT teaching a maintenance routine

  1. Pick five key stretches to prioritize, each targeting a different muscle group.
  2. Make a series of short videos, each detailing a different stretch. Keep each video concise, lasting no more than two minutes.
  3. Upload the video series to your clinic’s YouTube or Vimeo channel (– or better yet, use the AC Health app to ensure optimal personalization and privacy!).

Microlearning In Action:
A chronic pain clinician educating on pain

  1. Select one key concept from a flashcard teaching system like this one. Allow the patient to read over the information on the card.
  2. Spend 2-3 minutes discussing the information with your patient, and ask about their thoughts on what they just learned. Consider asking the patient to teach the information back to you to ensure retention. (7)

Microlearning In Action:
A therapist teaching mind-calming techniques

  1. Introduce diaphragmatic breathing to your patient, explaining the biology behind the practice.
  2. Spend 2-3 minutes practicing the exercise with the patient, before introducing a simple meditation exercise.
  3. Record both exercises – the breathing and the meditation – as two separate instructional videos, rather than one huge instruction. This segmentation allows the patient to review individual steps of the process at need for home practice between sessions.

You may not have recognized it when you started reading this post, but perhaps by now, you’ve realized that this article itself was structured as a form of microlearning!

By breaking the key topic down into smaller subtopics and splitting the content into bulleted and numbered lists, with occasional repetition of key ideas, an otherwise dense concept was made easier to understand—how sneaky was that?!?

Now that you’ve learned the principles of microlearning, get out there and start sneaking microcontent of your own into your clinical practice!


1. Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. L. (2005). Educating the net generation. EDUCAUSE.
2. De Gagne, J. C., Park, H. K., Hall, K., Woodward, A., Yamane, S., & Kim, S. S. (2019). Microlearning in Health Professions Education: Scoping Review. JMIR Medical Education, 5(2).
3. Buchem, Ilona & Hamelmann, Henrike. (2010). Microlearning: a strategy for ongoing professional development.
4. Wang, C., Bakhet, M., Roberts, D., Gnani, S., & El-Osta, A. (2020, August 31). The efficacy of microlearning in improving self-care capability: a systematic review of the literature. Public Health.
5. Noom Research – Our Latest Peer-Reviewed Science. Noom. (n.d.).
6. 3 Ways Microlearning Can Improve Your Practice. MedBridge Blog. (2021, January 18).
7. Use the Teach-Back Method: Tool #5. Content last reviewed September 2020. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.