Tapas are small, tasty Spanish dishes, typically accompanying drinks. Did you know that ‘tapa’ literally means lid? The word reflects their original purpose. Back in the day, tapas were pieces of smelly cheese covering a glass of wine to hide its poor quality. Or ham keeping flies away from sherry. In time, both tapas and drinks got better and proved to be a match made in heaven.

Nowadays, tapas allow you to experience different tastes over time and fill you up as would a consistent dinner. Some are better than others, of course. It is a matter of quality and personal taste.

Microlearning is a lot like tapas: bite-sized pieces of information digested at regular moments. It can be an overall rewarding learning experience. Or leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Why? We’ll break down the reasons in small bites.

The science behind learning tapas

Apart from the ‘learning curve’, we also experience a ‘forgetting curve’ (coined by German psychologist Ebbinghaus in 1885). We gradually lose knowledge or skills we don’t use. It’s quite a steep curve:


Learning over time counteracts the forgetting curve. Researchers call it 'spaced learning'. The basic principle: learning is more efficient when the information is spread out over time rather than presented close together or at the same time. We can all benefit from short, and frequent, learning moments.

Some learning is just ‘croquetas’

Perhaps you watched an instructional video, listened to a podcast, solved a quiz, read an informative article, or subscribed to the ‘word of the day’. But is that ‘real’ microlearning? Or what about a 3-hour lecture broken into 5-minute chunks?

The answer is no.

These examples are just ‘microcontent’. You are getting a piece of information when you need it or are curious. The content is nothing more than information split into small, easy-to-grasp bites.

Focus holds it together – like toothpicks in ‘pinchos’


Learning - as the act of understanding and acquiring knowledge - goes beyond a quick fix or marketing tactic. Microlearning works when it is structured and focused: thought through in time, as a series of learning moments building up to a goal - ultimately, gaining a skill.

When considering microlearning, keep your critical hat on. A good method offers a step-by-step approach which allows you to achieve a specific learning goal. Even better, it allows you to measure progress and ask for help along the way.

‘Tortillas’ need time to bake

DuoLingo is a frequently-mentioned example of microlearning. It is a free platform for picking up a foreign language.

Is DuoLingo really microlearning?

Well, yes. It is structured in repetitive exercises and regular tests leading up to a clear goal.

Did I learn Spanish using it?

Sadly, no.

Because I failed to practice. I did not go to Spain to apply my learning, nor did I strike regular conversations with Spanish friends. Relying on a platform to do all the work is unrealistic.

Microlearning can advance your knowledge - if you’re willing to dig for your gold. Take ownership, practice, and reach out to the authors when you struggle.

Be brave like ‘patatas bravas’!

Next time you want pick up new or update existing skills, experiment with a microlearning approach and put your skills to practice. It’s also where we can help at 5miles – follow us on LinkedIn for more insights!

Happy learning!