December 4, 2020
Have you heard of the term “microlearning” yet? It’s a trending model for teaching and learning when concepts are not too complex, time is of the essence, and perhaps learner engagement is in need of a refresh.While there isn’t an exact definition of microlearning (meaning, it’s left to interpretation), generally the term indicates that rather than a full-blown lesson of 20 pages of reading, a lecture, an assignment, and possibly a quiz, there’s just a snippet of a paragraph or a visual aid that conveys a message.
Benefits of Microlearning
Microlearning is quicker, less expensive, and very effective for certain learners in specific situations. Think of microlearning as small activities or short units of instruction. Through quick bursts of instruction, the learner moves at their own pace and cuts through the fluff of traditional instructional models.
It is also faster to plan, create, and deliver content. What could have taken two hours to plan a lesson can now take about 15 minutes. It’s also flexible in content- from teaching the basics of a new process to onboarding to sharing fun facts, there are countless areas of study that could be molded into successful microlearning units.
On the learner side, it is more engaging because it feels more like checking your favorite social app instead of buckling down for a study session. It’s also more flexible because learners can access learning materials from their phones, on the go. This also contributes to learning retention because they will likely revisit it multiple times and the small, bite-sized pieces of information will be easier to retain than text-heavy pages.
Examples of Microlearning
Text from short paragraphs (think Twitter) to photos/illustrations (think Instagram) to short videos (think TikTok) to short quizzes (think Facebook poll) are all examples of microlearning. Notice the social media connections? Learning is more engaging if it’s fast-paced and user-driven, making microlearning clearly a trend for a reason.
There are microlearning platforms that can support the transition of regular material to microlearning material. Each vendor offers different options, so explore the options that make the most sense for your audience.
Limitations of Microlearning
While microlearning is a trending mode of delivery, it’s not ideal for all circumstances. For example, in-depth training of complex concepts will need more than just a sentence or two. Some topics require lengthier explanations, examples, and hands-on experience. For those instances, it is not recommended to convert the material into microlearning.
When using microlearning with P-6 students, they oftentimes will require more foundational knowledge before microlearning will be appropriate. In other words, microlearning may not be appropriate for this population. However, as students enter middle school and high school, they will be able to self-guide much of their learning and will also be more likely to have access to technology allowing microlearning to supplement instructional time with teachers (in-person or virtually).
Microlearning can be used to introduce new content, supplement previously learned material, or assess retention. With the convenience of small bursts of information on easily accessible apps or learner management systems, students can engage with their learning with a less formal approach, increasing retention.
While this article would not count as microlearning, here are a series of cards that could be uploaded to a microlearning app as a way to share this information:
Microlearning: A trending model for teaching; just uses short sentences and visual aids
- More engaging
- Boosts retention
- Flexible learning
- Faster to deliver
Not effective for young children or complex information