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My Success Story with Microlearning

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Microlearning is the hot trend in the education world, and for good reason. This style of teaching is extremely effective at reaching students and presents information in a clear and easily digestible format.

The Advent of Microlearning

As technology continues to advance, educators face a difficult battle in the fight to maintain young attention spans. Social media, text messaging, video games, and countless other forms of entertainment are a constant source of distraction for students, and their effect on learning is tangible. Students have shorter attention spans, but current instruction relies on long-form methods such as lectures.

bored students

Defining Microlearning

In order to reach students who easily lose focus, more and more teachers have been turning to microlearning. In a nutshell, microlearning involves the use of short, concentrated bursts of instruction. Longer lesson plans are broken up into smaller pieces, which are far more manageable for young students. By implementing microlearning, you can expose your students to a progressive and modern form of instruction and prevent your students' attention spans from drifting off.

Why Microlearning Works

When I first implemented microlearning, I was immediately impressed by how well it caters to a modern audience. It recognizes the needs and wants of the average student and provides a style of learning that retains attention and avoids tedium. It is perfectly tailored for mobile learning and takes advantage of technological advancements.

Considers Student Attention Span

According to a study done in Canada, scientists found the average attention span to be about eight seconds. This means that today's students have difficulty sitting through an extended lesson as they lack the patience and focus to remain alert. With microlearning, I was able to keep my lessons interesting and brief without sacrificing any essential content.

Focuses on Student Preferences

Shorter and more focused learning sessions allow students in my classroom a much greater degree of control over what, when, and how they learn. Young students expect immediate results, and as such, they want more intensive lessons. That's not to say that they oppose learning, simply that they prefer it on their own terms. With microlearning, my students are able to instantly access the content that most interests them.

learning computer

Makes It Easier to Review

Microlearning also makes it much easier for instructors to review materials. If a student does not understand a lesson, there is a significantly smaller chunk of information to cover. Rather than delve through a long lesson to find the source of confusion, I only need to review a few minutes' worth of content with the student.

Benefits of Implementation

Adapting the microlearning process to my classroom resulted in a number of tangible positive outcomes, including:

  • Teaching and reinforcement of job skills: The workforce of today (and the future) calls for multi-tasking, which is exactly what microlearning teaches. Students engaged in the microlearning format acquire skills that will prove to be invaluable as they age and enter the workforce.
  • Instant feedback: As students progress through modules, they can constantly check their progress to ensure comprehension. My students also receive a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with finishing a task, which is beneficial for self-confidence.

happy student

  • Reduction of information overload: My lessons are typically concentrated on a single topic, so students can learn a new idea, understand and master it, and then move on to the next one. Without overlapping ideas in the same lesson, students won't feel overwhelmed.
  • Repeatability : As mentioned above, small lesson plans make for quick and easy repetition in the event that a student has trouble with a particular concept. Students reviewing for exams also benefit, as they can immediately find the lesson they need.

Knowing the Risks

Nothing in life is ever truly perfect, and microlearning is no exception. If you're thinking of trying microlearning in your own classroom, you need to be aware of potential risks and problems.

Need for Coordination & Organization

Microlearning demands coordination and proper organization. Imagine the learning bursts as the dots in a connect-the-dots puzzle. Though each one is only a small point, they come together to form a bigger picture. If your dots aren't in order, so to speak, your lesson will be jumbled and incoherent. You'll need an excellent sense of timing in order to make things run smoothly.

planning

Reliance on Technology

Microlearning also relies heavily on technology, and you'll need to make sure that your school is equipped to handle the potentially massive strain on its technological infrastructure. Dozens or potentially hundreds of students using a network to access course content can slow down the internet connection and cause other problems. Luckily, my own school was more than capable of handling such a load, but an ill-equipped school poses a serious threat to your microlearning plans.

Need for Supplemental Study

There's also the issue of 'moment of need' in education. In other words, microlearning is not always the best tool for teaching long-term goals. I found in some cases that short lesson plans made it difficult to teach a single, overarching idea, and in order to teach lengthier ideas, I needed to find a supplemental form of study for my classroom.

These issues, however, are easily averted if you are prepared. Microlearning is a progressive style that meets the needs of today's students and prepares them for future education and employment down the road.

By Bill Sands
January 2017
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