Much is made these days of things like micro-learning: presenting training in small chunks; and spaced learning: a series of short, intense training sessions.

But do these really help?

They seem very attractive and I’m sure that in some situations they are very effective. However, if they are applied to all learning situations equally, they’re unlikely to help the learner, and there’s a very good chance that they will hinder instead.

Sometimes you need a good chunk of time to ‘get your head round’ a topic and really understand it – breaking this type of learning down into small ‘chunks’ is unlikely to help.

Part of the issue is that some topics have long, intertwining threads going through them e.g. learning how to be an effective negotiator, and some are discrete, or self-contained points e.g. learning keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl+S (Command+S on a Mac) to save a document.

There are only so many shortcuts that you can learn at a time and you would only need a few minutes to learn 3-4 useful ones. Whereas, if you spent 3-4 minutes on learning how to become and effective negotiator, you’d be stopping before you got started.

In short, not all learning topics