An introduction to microlearning

Dulce Julissa Salas Benavides and Jesús Alejandro Salas Benavides explain the basics of microlearning, from how it works to benefits and key features

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Monterrey Institute of Technology

Technologico de Monterrey
1 Dec 2022
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Student microlearning on a train

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Teaching and learning have evolved. It’s fair to say that today’s methods and techniques are almost entirely different from how knowledge was disseminated in past generations. Evolving student characteristics and the mass adoption of digital technologies has seen the learning process focus more and more on visual resources and brief review times. Microlearning is one such method; encouraging learning in less than 15 minutes. In this article, we present an introduction to this method, including characteristics, benefits and recommendations for how to develop microlearning as part of your course.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning refers to forms of study that are carried out via small units of short-duration content, which can be accessed at any time and from any place.

How does it work?

Pieces of short study content are created around a specific topic, with the aim that any given moment can potentially be used to learn. Therefore, lessons must be brief, attractive and visual, and they are usually presented using text, graphics and/or videos. Their short length only requires a short attention span, which makes learning easier to integrate with long-term memory.

Often presented digitally, the topics should be structured and presented in a specific order/hierarchy, meaning that students can deepen their knowledge as they progress.

How do I do it?

Applying this methodology is not as complicated as it seems. Below are the steps required to develop content with a microlearning approach:

  1. Select the learning topic
  2. Define the objective
  3. Choose the medium (audio, video, text, etc)
  4. Structure your ideas using templates
  5. Select and create the content and any necessary scripts
  6. Upload or send your content to students

Remember, the content must be short, objective and understandable. Nowadays, there are many innovative teaching and learning processes. Microlearning is just one of them and can be used in academia and corporate training within a Learning Management System (LMS) platform.

Benefits

Microlearning resources use different visual elements to grab students’ attention and help them better retain the information presented, all in just a few minutes. Some of the benefits of microlearning we have observed are: improved knowledge retention; increased student motivation; the ability to adapt to the pace and learning style of each user; encouraging positive use of technology in class; reducing cognitive overload.

Features

For microlearning to fulfil its function, content must focus on a single topic, concept or idea. The content must be short, with an ideal duration being between three and 15 minutes, and utilise a variety of tools/materials that have been adapted to the different levels of knowledge and chosen specifically to support/complement the content. Microlearning can take various forms, such as activities, games, videos, slides and more, but it must support autonomous decision-making, in that the students decide where, how and when they access the information.

Some useful methods that can be used for microlearning are the TED Talk approach, which most people are now familiar with. There is also the PechaKucha method, which involves presenting 20 slides for 20 seconds each on a particular topic. There is also the 5E model, which focuses on helping students use small steps to grasp a concept over time.

Of course, microlearning is not only useful for students – if a tutor needs to teach a new subject but time to prepare is in short supply, they might choose to look for microlearning resources on the topic of interest to supercharge the learning and analysis process.

Conclusions

Today’s multitude of tools and platforms are particularly well suited to microlearning, which can take many forms – in addition to those outlined above, you can experiment with mobile apps, podcasts, gamification and infographics. What’s more, the autonomous nature of microlearning, with its self-motivational, creative and digital elements can help optimise student performance in the physical classroom, too.

Dulce Julissa Salas Benavides and Jesús Alejandro Salas Benavides are instructional designers, educational innovation and digital learning, at Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico.

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