Microlearning Comes to Health Care


Embracing this method for patient education and staff training

We live in an age of on-demand content, YouTube tutorials, and “ask Siri.” It makes sense, then, that patient education, staff training, and really any kind of learning and teaching would adapt to these changes. That’s where microlearning comes in.

A widely publicized (and debated) Microsoft study a few years back claimed that the average person’s attention span has dropped to just eight seconds—one second shorter than that of a goldfish. However, the length of educational materials appears not to be as important as other factors. Read on for an explanation of why short, specific, visual materials are the best choice for learning in health care settings.

Key principles of microlearning

It’s unclear who exactly coined the term, but the concept of microlearning dates back to the mid-2000’s work of Theo Hug, a professor of educational sciences at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Microlearning can be defined as specifically focused content delivered to the learner when they need it and how they need it, said George Hanshaw, Psy.D., an online instructional designer with more than 17 years’ of experience, in a webinar for UC Irvine Division of Continuing Education.

Short, single-topic videos with high-quality graphics are key components of successful microlearning content.

Key components are that the learner has control over the selection of the content, and that the content is 10 minutes or less in duration, he said. “My personal preference is two minutes or less when delivered by video.”

Mytonomy’s key principles for microlearning include focusing on a single topic in each video, providing real-world context and concrete examples, and using high-quality graphics.

Here are some examples of this from the Rendia video library:


Microlearning is also ideal for communicating instructions, such as how to clean your glasses:

Microlearning for patient education

The concept of microlearning has gained traction in recent years, and is a popular subject for webinars and professional development workshops. New tech startups are discovering that microlearning is the perfect format for patient education—something Rendia has been offering since 2000.

Studies find patients prefer narrated animations and videos to verbal or text-based patient education.

In 2016, MedStar Health announced that it was partnering with Mytonomy—a cloud-based patient education microlearning software company—to deliver personalized instruction to cardiology patients. While traditional patient education methods like pamphlets and printouts are often not reviewed or understood by patients, in MedStar’s pilot of the microlearning approach, nearly 90 percent of 300+ patients scheduled for heart catheterizations completed the education modules. MedStar also found that patients reported “feeling less anxious, more confident, and appeared to be more engaged throughout their care process.”

[bctt tweet=”In studies of patients who completed microlearning education modules, patients reported “feeling less anxious, more confident, and appeared to be more engaged throughout their care process.”” username=”goRendia”]

This mirrors findings from a Rendia study on the type of patient education and its impact on patients’ perception of care. The study found that narrated animation videos surpassed verbal or text-only instructions in terms of perceived quality of information, perceived ability of patients to manage their own health, and even their likelihood of recommending their doctor to family and friends.

For more on this, download The Impact of Narrated Animations study here.

Just-in-time staff training

One of the newest buzzwords in employee training is “just-in-time” training or learning. Closely related to microlearning, this refers to information delivered to an employee when and where they need it, often online or on a mobile device.

In a clinical setting, this can be useful for procedures or situations that don’t occur that frequently, so therefore it would be unrealistic to expect clinicians to be able to retain and access the right information quickly when needed. One example cited in a medical journal was the finding that mobile just-in-time learning was effective in helping first responders manage weapons of mass destruction events.

Mobile just-in-time training is effective for clinicians and office staff to use when and where they need it, without information overload.

A more common scenario could be using this training method to help your clinical and office staff effectively use your practice’s technology. For instance, Rendia has a short video tutorial on Getting Started with Exam Mode, our visual anatomy tool:


“An additional advantage to presenting just-in-time training online or via mobile devices is that you can update training modules more quickly, easily, and inexpensively than the longer, deeper traditional eLearning modules or printed materials,” noted an article in Learning Solutions magazine. “And you can develop new modules as technology changes, new compliance standards or policies are adopted, or new learning needs arise.”

Research shows that training staff in new technologies can boost employee engagement and retention, reducing costly staff turnover. Buzzwords aside, delivering high-quality, effective patient education and staff training is always a good idea for any practice.

Interested in microlearning videos for your patients and staff?

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