A Teacher’s Guide to Microlearning

What is Microlearning?

Microlearning involves providing short bursts of focussed information, rather than the traditional longer lesson. It is an evolved method of George Miller’s 1956 concept ‘Chunking’. His famous paper theorized that the human brain is only able to retain five to nine things until it has to become long term memory to be remembered for good.

After over a year of Covid restrictions, we are all rethinking our teaching methods. E-learning is becoming hugely popular, and new methods of learning are coming into play every day. Some organisations such as the Mental Health Foundation are suggesting that as young people adjust back into class learning, lessons should involve more art focus and group activities to encourage students to support each other and re-build connections. Therefore, we suggest interactive group activities such as quizzes and games, which are also suitable for smaller groups of people.

Due to the exponential growth of technology over the last 30 years, the attention span of children is constantly decreasing. The concept of chunking has been adapted and changed and is now known as Microlearning, which mostly comes under E-learning.

However, nanolearning isn’t just a by-product of technology’s effect on information retention, it is a scientifically proven method of education. Research has found that microlearning is more engaging, reduces cost, and “improves focus and supports long-term retention by up to 80%”.

Examples of Microlearning

Some forms of microlearning have been used by teachers for decades, however now, they are becoming more popular with e-learning. Some of the best microlearning tools are:

  • Videos

Educational videos are a great example of microlearning. They are designed to meet a specific learning objective, with some of the most effective videos relying on engaging content such as bright colours and animation.

  • Flashcards

Flashcards are incredibly versatile, engaging, work well for specific answers, and use the benefits of repetition to memorize content. However, they need to work off simple questions that do not rely on context or subjective questions.

  • Mini quizzes

Quick quizzes are playful, reusable and allow instant feedback. Quick quizzes can be used online (eg. Kahoot) or from the teacher directly. Online quizzes are more flexible and allow students to have more autonomy.

  • Games

Games offer an interactive and collaborative element to learning as students can work in teams

Advantages of Microlearning

The most appealing advantages to nanolearning for teachers are that:

  • Little effort is required
  • It’s quicker and more consumable
  • It’s flexible to a range of learning styles
  • Gives students some freedom
  • Results in higher engagement

Disadvantages Microlearning

As for all teaching methods, there are drawbacks to microlearning which include:

  • Lack of suitability for all lessons
  • Significant adjustment period
  • They must be engaging
  • Repetition of topics
  • Information overkill

Most teachers who use microlearning methods incorporate it into their lesson plan. Every student learns differently, so using a mix of strategies caters for a wide range of learners.

Tips for Successful Microlearning

  • Prepare (clearly outline the goals and objectives)
  • Create a hierarchy for the content (learners won’t retain everything so prioritise the most important bits)
  • Choose a suitable medium for the subject, to achieve the most success
  • Group similar content together
  • Review (check success of retention)

As microlearning is generally more interactive in encourages group involvement, it will become more and more popular in 2021 and 2022. We hope this quick introduction to microlearning (or nanolearning) will help prepare you for what the classroom might look like when we get back to school later this year!

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