10 reasons to make microlearning a part of your classes

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Natalia De la Peña Frade

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7 minutes

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March 13, 2024

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Recently I read a newspaper article about a desperate teacher who said: ‘I can’t compete with Tik Tok’. Understandable – none of us can! If you’re a teacher, I’m sure you’ve had similar moments of despair. Do you find it increasingly difficult to capture and retain the attention of your students? Microlearning to the rescue. 

In the age of distraction, microlearning seems to provide a glimmer of hope. Did you know that it can improve retention by up to 80%? So, let’s take a look at what microlearning means and some ways we can put it into practice successfully. Let’s go!

What is microlearning?

It is a methodology that consists of fragmenting educational content in order to convert complex concepts into small units of knowledge that are easy to understand and assimilate. That way, the effectiveness of the learning is enhanced, as each piece of content focuses on a single concept or skill. 

Although it is an eLearning methodology, it can work (and does work) as a complement to other strategies in face-to-face or blended education. It is not meant to replace all other educational strategies, but it is very useful for achieving certain objectives, such as reinforcing specific skills.

This increasingly popular strategy is closely related to new technologies, which facilitate and promote both the creation and consumption of microlearning content. Videos, infographics, and podcasts are easier to distribute among students since the use of tablets in the classroom has become widespread. That is why they say that microlearning and mobile learning go hand in hand, just like Clinton and Dole in this episode of ‘The Simpsons’.

So how short does content have to be to be considered microlearning? There are different theories that mention durations from 3 up to 20 minutes. Perhaps the most practical idea is not to set a fixed duration, but rather to focus on one concept at a time and make it as long as necessary and as short as possible. 

To get the best results with this strategy, you have to do more than simply break concepts into pieces like they were your ex’s heart, or decide the length of each piece of content. Later in this post I’ll explain how teachers use these microlearning pieces to build learning experiences without losing the overall perspective.   

A bit of background

Whenever I talk about microlearning, I think of Momo (aka The Men in Gray), the famous book by Michael Ende. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend putting it on your wish list right now. In this excerpt, Beppo Roadsweeper, the most endearing character in the book in my opinion, explains his life philosophy to little Momo: 

Well, Beppo, you’re on the money: when we take it step by step, the task gets done properly and becomes fun, which is just what we need in education. Let’s take a look at some other virtues of microlearning in detail.

10 benefits of microlearning

  1. Focused learning: It allows students to put all their energy and concentration into one goal at a time.
  2. More retention: Good content, if brief, is twice as good. But it is also made to be appealing. Prioritize visuals and include strategies such as gamification and storytelling, which avoid distractions and help make concepts more memorable.  
  3. Convenience for teachers and students: The shorter the content, the easier it is to prepare, teach, and study.
  4. Lower cost: Reducing the scope of your content not only reduces the time needed to produce your courses, but also the cost. 
  5. Extra motivation: Tell your class to watch the content on their phones and they’ll have it done in minutes. Need I say more? Higher motivation translates into higher course completion rates and better learning outcomes.
  6. Accessibility: Content can be consumed on any device. This increases the options for students, who can take advantage of any free moment to progress and catch up.  
  7. Speed: Microlearning gets to the point, allowing students to use their time more efficiently.
  8. Flexibility: Short content adapts easily to different needs and ways of learning or consuming the content.
  9. Self-learning: Knowing the objectives is the first step to learning independently. Microlearning also makes it possible for each student to progress at their own pace, at the time that suits them best, and review or practice whenever they want.
  10. Learner-centered: This is in contrast to older, more traditional learning methods and in line with the latest educational trends.

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What do education and construction have in common?

Some theories link the importance of microlearning in education to the scaffolding theory, developed by psychologist Jerome Bruner in the 1960s. Simply put: it works like Lego pieces.

Applied to education, the scaffolding technique consists of providing support to students while they are learning a new concept or skill, until they are able to use that learning independently in the future. It is the real objective of teaching.

Just as scaffolding supports those working on the construction of a building and is taken away when it’s finished, microlearning content can underpin learning, and is no longer necessary when the learner has acquired the knowledge. 

As a teacher, you’ll know that repetition is necessary for retention. So it makes perfect sense to have very short and very entertaining pieces of content about each essential concept. 

When you design a unit plan or lesson plan, lean on these microlearning pieces. If you’ve managed to create good experiences, your students won’t mind reviewing them whenever they come across them – quite the opposite! At the end of the journey, they will have assimilated the material, and it will be time to ‘remove the scaffolding’.   

7 key steps for creating a microlearning strategy

Thinking about adopting microlearning in your classes? Great idea! Here are some points that you need to take into account to make sure your strategy is successful.

  1. First things first, set your objectives. Prevent your students from having difficulties when connecting the individual learning points with the general context. Short-term and long-term goals must be clear from the start. In microlearning, the ‘backwards’ design usually works well: first consider where you want to go and then trace the path back.
  2. Create the itinerary, taking into account, in addition to the objectives, the total duration of the training or learning, how you’re going to distribute the content, on which devices it will be consumed, and how you are going to monitor it.
  3. When writing content, focus on one thing at a time; one goal for each piece of content. Be focus, my friend. It is essential to condense the main ideas and eliminate anything superfluous. The priority is to remove any unnecessary cognitive load.
  4. Design a good learning experience. Prioritize visuals, include practical activities and simulations, and use multimedia content in different formats (infographics, videos, audio, GIFs…) to make it more fun and motivating.
  5. Choose the tool you’re going to use to put your strategy into practice. I recommend Genially. And not because it’s home (hehe), but because no other tool offers you everything you need:
    • You’ve got thousands of templates to choose from: infographics, concept maps and mind maps, timelines, learning units, quizzes, gamified content, branching scenarios … Say goodbye to boring PDFs!
    • You can include content in any format
    • It is compatible with the most commonly-used LMS: Moodle, Canvas … 
    • You’ve got the option to download the content in SCORM format for monitoring, 
    • And above all: your content will be interactive. You know, the more interactive it is, the more it motivates and the more it engages.
  1. Celebrate successes: Positive reinforcement will help you further boost your students’ motivation and reduce content dropout rates. No lesson, micro-course, or segment should be without its corresponding congratulations, and no quiz without its message of encouragement. Other ways to encourage your students are giving them the opportunity to share their achievements with the rest of the class or displaying progress bars. Instant feedback keeps them coming back.
  2. Create a system to collect feedback from your students. You can use Genially’s interactive questions feature. Observing the results will help you get an idea of how the content has performed, but first-person feedback will be much more useful for improving the content. Their feedback will help you make it better next time. 

Templates for your microlearning content

In your Genially Panel you’ll find plenty of microlearning examples to inspire you. Perhaps the easiest way to get started with this type of content is to create an interactive image. What do you think of these ones?

TEMPLATE

Art infographic

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Volcanic eruption

Students glued to their phones? We’ve got you! Here are some vertical templates here that are optimized to look great on mobile. 

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Learning micro-course

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Quiz cool

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Pollution infographic

Already adopted microlearning in your classroom? Tell us about your experience!

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Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read

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