Modern professors and companies are learning that traditional learning methods are no longer adequate for today’s students and employees. To assist audiences in remembering knowledge, it is important to engage creativity and innovation. This is when microlearning comes into play. When compared to traditional methods of education, this strategy has been demonstrated to increase learning by around 18%.
What Is Microlearning?
Microlearning (from the Greek word “micro”, meaning small) is a method of delivering brief, targeted pieces of material to an audience, ideally where and when they are needed. In general, microlearning is a method of teaching and training that takes minimal time but achieves the desired result. It is not a novel concept, and its efficacy has been contested within the learning and development business. It is observed that the bite-sized courses do not always equal good learning or enhanced performance. However, when done correctly and with the overall experience in mind, it may be really beneficial.
The Hermann Ebbinghaus forgetting curve underpins the entire concept of microlearning. Hermann Ebbinghaus was the first to develop a scientific approach to studying and classifying memory in the mid-1880s, and he introduced the world to ideas such as the learning curve and forgetting curve.
During his research, he evaluated people on their memory of insignificant, erroneous sounds and syllables. Throughout the trials, he began to examine his subjects’ memory capacity and function. Ebbinghaus observed that memory did not remain consistent between trials. Memory can increase, decline, and then increase again.
Of course, this is dependent not only on the subject matter being learnt but also on the methods used to study it. These methodologies and experiments are also consistent with his research on forgetting and, ultimately, his “forgetting curve”.
This also resulted in the discovery of memory “savings”. Memory saving refers to knowledge that was once at the forefront of one’s mind in entire (or at least relatively complete) accuracy and subsequent retention of the information. He discovered that strictly memorised material might be recalled far more quickly after learning it again, even after a large period of inactivity.
According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, people typically forget 80% of what they learn within a month.
When people learn a huge amount of knowledge, they do remember it for a short period of time. However, if such information isn’t deemed ‘critical’ to the activities at hand, it tends to deteriorate over time. To address this issue, the micro-learning concept might be applied. Splitting the content into little chunks and recalling different sections throughout the learning period can aid in knowledge retention and productivity.
What Are the Benefits of Microlearning?
Whether it’s called microlearning, micro training, or nano learning, one thing is certain: there are significant benefits for both learners and companies who employ a bite-sized learning strategy.
- Instant Results – bite-size learning allows a person to swiftly close a small knowledge or skill gap. Some colleges, for example, are utilising a microlearning technique to assist students in learning about collaborative and social technology.
- Various Formats – microlearning offers the potential to use a very mixed approach to training in both unstructured and structured learning.
- Quick and Easy to Digest – microlearning, as the name implies, focuses on little bits of information. These bite-size training sessions are quick and easy to consume, allowing students to learn alongside their regular day-to-day activities.
- Increased Learners’ Engagement – even students with large attention spans may find it difficult to stay interested in lengthy learning sessions. Students, on the other hand, find it much simpler to sit through learning or training when they believe it will just take a few moments. Most people are wired to engage with new knowledge for shorter periods of time rather than longer. This is addressed with microlearning, which keeps students interested.
- Budget-Friendly – the costs of producing microlearning should be significantly lower than the expenses of producing a large course. Microlearning has a smaller and more concentrated vision.
What Are the Disadvantages of Microlearning?
While there are various advantages to microlearning, it is not without its drawbacks, most of which may be mitigated with the correct LMS or authoring tool.
- Learning Fragments – smaller learning experiences may end up as unconnected material pieces for long-term learning goals.
- Squeezing Large Amounts of Content – unlike more standard e-learning formats, which divide content into 20 or 30-minute sessions, microlearning content may only be 5 minutes long, requiring more content to cover all themes. You may already have a plethora of courses and training materials available to you. And just dividing them into smaller chunks isn’t always sufficient. Take the time to set out your microlearning lessons and ensure they are appropriate for the students who will use them.
- Potential Lack of Cognitive Synthesis – we can’t be sure that learners will be able to synthesise microlearning content effectively enough to build adequate mental models.
Microlearning comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are some examples of formats and strategies to consider:
Video is an effective medium of communication that lends itself well to microlearning. Videos have the ability to show and tell, as well as deliver messages with more personality than an eLearning or slide deck.Motion graphics videos provide movement to graphic design, allowing complicated ideas to be graphically illustrated. They frequently, but not always, blend animation with audio. Animation in motion graphics videos can range from simple abstract shapes or forms to character-driven storylines. Examples of videos in microlearning include explainer videos, brief & interactive videos; micro-lectures; whiteboard animations, and text-based kinetic animations.
- Infographics and Interactive InfographicsText combined with visuals improves comprehension by approximately 90% when compared to text alone. This alone strengthens the case for using infographics in your microlearning plan.Infographics demonstrate rather than inform. They use pictures, figures, and text to create an easy-to-understand overview of a subject. They have the ability to depict data and tell a story. What makes infographics intriguing is that they can also be interactive. Learners can access additional resources such as videos, articles, and eBooks by clicking on links.
- Microlearning Apps or Mobile AppsThese apps were created with one goal in mind: to teach lessons in bite-sized chunks on the go. All apps and tools are usually iPad compatible, and the majority of them are also iPhone compatible. Microlearning is more enjoyable on a tablet or smartphone, however, some apps also feature a browser version. The examples include Google, Youtube, Headspace, Word of the day, Duolingo and TED-Ed.
- Short Scrolling PagesA one-stop scrolling page gives learners access to all of the information they need on a specific topic in a single, easy-to-follow style. This makes it straightforward for students to extract the main points of a topic and understand the sequence of linear processes.
- Microlearning MasterclassesCombining brief theoretical parts with quick demo videos and expert recommendations results in a full masterclass menu that learners can go through in small increments.
- Quizzes and GamesExamine learners’ understanding by providing quick, on-the-go quizzes and activities for learners to receive instant feedback on their learning and subject expertise. They are engaging and require a high level of interactivity. They are also fun and immersive. In this method, the fundamental concept is reinforced in a variety of ways in a short period of time.
Microlearning appears to be an excellent method of modern learning. It is effective, entertaining, and appealing to students. It can be used as a stand-alone learning solution, as well as to complement and augment longer eLearning courses and even face-to-face learning. At the same time, microlearning cannot be described as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It will not save the day unless there is a strategy and proper planning. However, given our current fast-paced culture, microlearning is unquestionably here to stay.
- Dr Ruth Colvin Clark and Dr Richard E. Mayer. E-Learning and the Science of Instruction. http://bit.ly/RichardMayer
- Bite-Size Is the Right Size: How Microlearning Shrinks the Skills Gap in Higher Education. https://www.highereddive.com/library/bite-size-is-the-right-size-how-microlearning-shrinks-the-skills-gap-in-hi/
- Kovachev, D., Cao Y., Klamma, R., and Jarke M. Learn As You Go: New Ways of Cloud-Based Micro-learning for the Mobile Web in Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 7048, 2011, pp 51-61.
- Leong, K., Sung, A., Au, D. and Blanchard, C. (2021), “A review of the trend of microlearning”, Journal of Work-Applied Management, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 88-102. https://doi.org/10.1108/JWAM-10-2020-0044
- Praveen Shrestha, “Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve,” in Psychestudy, November 17, 2017, https://www.psychestudy.com/cognitive/memory/ebbinghaus-forgetting-curve.