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Microlearning in law enforcement—one snippet at a time


November 9, 2020
By Isabelle Sauve


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Photo: ©Nicoelnino Adobe Stock

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed how we work and learn. Under the influence of social media and extensive integration of smartphone technology, many have become accustomed to consuming information in short bursts. The same holds for education, with efforts to develop virtual learning content being at its highest. Modern professionals want the option to access courses and information on mobile devices, outside of the office, on the move, or when they find themselves with a few spare minutes.

The pedagogy that encourages learning in short segments is commonly called microlearning and can be supported through various platforms. Social media platforms are frequently utilized for their ability to promote connected learning and peer interaction. Microlearning is about providing focused chunks of content to an audience where and when they need it. Its effectiveness has been widely debated within the learning and development industry, however, in the right context it is highly effective.

Consequently, digital learning content is gaining popularity worldwide. Furthermore, research indicates microlearning opportunities offered in short segments can increase focus and engagement with the microlearning objective or activity at hand.

Effective microlearning offers bite sized topics in a clear and distinct matter. Each two- to three-minute segment focuses on achieving a specific design outcome. Every topic is divided into a few seconds of theory, three to four demos and some tips from the experts. This cookie cutter format is typically reflected in each of the separate topics.

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With a fast paced, multi-faceted and demanding environment, law enforcement officers could grandly benefit from such approach. Officers face competing deadlines, tasks and priorities. Work related pressures are significant and members often have little time for lengthy or highly demanding professional development training or courses. Tiny windows of opportunity may be the key to providing ongoing learning opportunities in a law enforcement setting.

Each of the topics can also be quickly accessible to officers when in need of guidance such as while out on the road and at calls. By nature of the job and virtue of the amount of information law enforcement officers must know and retain, short and easily accessible snippets of information can very practical and serve as refreshers on various topics for frontline employees and specialty units.

Traditionally, education has been provided in a classroom setting, relying mostly on the teacher’s single knowledge indoctrination. In contrast, with microlearning, individuals guide and control their own learning journey and progress. With the internet, learning videos and tools can be downloaded and subsequently re-played at will without limitations such as time or location. A well-designed, properly tailored and responsive digital resource can provide on-demand, practical performance support on a 24/7 basis.

Microlearning can also be interactive and support enhanced member engagement. For example, personnel from a common project or specialty unit can share information and tips on related topics and issues. Members who are geographically distanced can also feel more connected and share equal access to resources and information. It also allows for learning to take place as part of one’s role rather than as a separate entity.

Microlearning can offer true on-the-job reference support in addition to just-in-case learning. Through various microlearning platforms, members can connect subject matter with their everyday lives as well as the world around them. This improves knowledge retention and continuous learning — a practice that should be an upmost priority for all law enforcement agencies.

When examining how humans learn and retain information, it is vital to consider cognitive load, which is in essence knowledge flowing into the working memory. According to the cognitive load theory, one’s working memory can experience an overload of information. A bi-product of this phenomena causes a halt in the process of information transferal into long-term memory. By cutting up material into small fragments and providing frequent microlearning opportunities, cognitive overload can be decreased and the flow of information into long-term memory can be improved.
Due to its very contextual nature (on time), microlearning is an approach to pedagogics with the potential to be highly effective in a law enforcement setting.


Isabelle Sauvé is a 14-year veteran with the OPP, and currently the new Psychological Services Advisor in the OPP’s Healthy Workplace Bureau. She has a MA in psychology and is a PhD candidate. She is also an ultramarathon/endurance athlete and the Racing the Planet/4 Deserts 2018 Series winner as well as a Guinness World record holder. She can be contacted at: isabelle.sauve@hotmail.com.


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