Microlearning( sometimes referred to as micro-learning, micro-learning, or nano-learning) is a strategy for delivering instruction in a method that fills in skill gaps very quickly. Many instructors are incorporating micro-learning or nano-learning into their everyday instruction. The idea is to take complex subjects and break them up into bite-size learning pieces. This will improve retention and make concepts easier to grasp. This strategy is perfect for eLearning type scenarios and it’s the model the MOOC delivery companies such as UDacity and UDemy. This approach to microlearning works very well in technology type applications as the information changes rapidly. If your course utilizes this strategy, then it’s very easy and cost effective only to change out the micro lessons in the course are that requires changes.
This process works very well in the following situations:
- Information that is constantly changing
- Concepts that are difficult to understand when presented together. Such as advanced math concepts
- Freely available resources, such as YouTube videos on subjects( This works well when teaching millennials, more on that later)
- You have access to technologies that support micro based learning
What is Micro Learning?
If you search for the definition of microlearning, you will find as many definitions as you will ways to implement the nano-learning technique. Some educators define it as small and informal directed learning which lean well towards online self-paced instruction. This is the process UDacity has taken with their nano-degree programs.
Other educators think of micro-learning as a structured set of information just broken out into bite-sized chunks. With the goal of demonstrating and gaining master of a broader subject. Both these definitions are accurate.
How you define micro-learning depends on the information to be presented. The educators must develop strategies that work well depending upon the type of content presented. The approach taken depends on the type of students and stated goals of the learning exercise. There are a few similarities in all micro-learning techniques.
- Concepts are small bite-sized pieces of information that can be grasped in a few minutes.
- Simple concepts- The information should lend its self to a narrow topic that is easy for a student to understand.
- Various instruction methods- One of the goals of micro-learning is to keep the content interesting. This means it should have a variety of content delivery mechanisms includes, such as video (and we all know students love video), short quizzes, presentation or short reading assignments.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Micro Learning Strategy
There are many benefits to implementing microlearning in your instructional design, but just like everything else where there are advantages, there are also disadvantages. Whether this strategy is right for you will be your ability to capitalize on the advantages will minimizing the effect of the disadvantages.
Advantages of Micro-Learning:
- Immediate feedback- Since microlearning is delivered very quickly you get the benefit of immediate feedback. This can let you know if you have adequately captured the concept in a micro-learning format or if you need to make changes to illustrate the concept better and disseminate knowledge.
- Variety in instruction- Since you will use a variety of methods to disseminate information to students. This helps to alleviate some boredom that students sometimes feel in classrooms and keep things interesting.
- Cost Effective- The format of microlearning makes it very cost effective when modifying and even developing courses. Various micro-formatted content can easily be changed and modified without reinventing the wheel so if a new method of some technology changes it’s very easy to incorporate into your courses without the need to redesign everything.
- Student Achievement – Students can not only give immediate feedback, but they also obtain the immediate knowledge. On the concepts they grasp quickly will allow them a motivation boost and allow them to focus on other areas where they may have trouble. This element makes microlearning especially effective in flipped learning environments.
- Ease of organization – Information can be easily organized in a manner that makes the most sense, Since most of the content will come in the form of lists, you can easily modify the structure and delivery schedule that works best for your students.
- Integration with LMS — If you have access to Google Classroom, it lends itself very well to delivering content in a micro-learning format. Moodle and Blackboard also work well with this format. Microsoft Classroom is a new product released as part of Office 365 that should support micro-learning effectively.
Disadvantages of Micro-Learning:
With everything good, there is always some bad and microlearning or nano-learning is no different. There are many benefits, but also a few drawbacks.
- Lack of Depth – It can sometimes be difficult to adequately explain complex concepts in the microlearning format. Even when you break them up, it can become difficult to pull everything back together in a cohesive format. This lack of depth makes some subjects not ideal for the microlearning format.
- Fragmented learning- When developing microlearning formats, it sometimes becomes difficult to tie pieces together, or if students are allowed to jump around, this can lead to a fragmented understanding of the material, where a student may understand portions, but missed important parts of a complex concept. This makes it imperative to test for the whole understanding and then provide remediation when required.
- Complete understanding, just like the fragmentation that can happen, students may not totally understand how all the various pieces fit together. This is another reason complete testing for understanding should be untaken.
- Confusion- The variety of delivery methods works very well for a lot of students, but some people have trouble switching back and forth. This mainly revolves around learning style. If possible, it’s best practice to develop multiple formats for each piece of content. For example, provide video and written instruction when feasible. This not only provides a more productive environment but enhances knowledge for multiple learning types. Of course, it is more work, but the modular nature of micro-learning allows you to constantly improve or courses without having to do everything at once.
Microlearning is all about keeping things short, so any content that can be broken down into chunks will work well.
Repetitive topics- Items that are repetitive, work very well in this format. You can repeat lessons over some days and reinforce the content. Math or learning a new language can work well.
Technology- Learning a software application or even how to program software can work well in a micro format. This is the approach the Udacity takes, and it has worked very well for their nano-degree programs. The software can also be learned in this form will usually produce a high success ratio that if you dumped the knowledge on the class all at once. Teaching software also works well with video and written instruction. First, you show them a short video demonstrating how to do tasks, then provide a step by step checklist to allow the student to practice.