Everyone is a student. Whether you are enrolled in a formal degree-granting institution, an employee of a large corporation, or simply an inquisitive knowledge enthusiast, we are all students. But we have grown vastly impatient when it comes to getting to the meat of a subject and are easily distracted by technology. Really, though, there are apps that help us learn while other apps are loading. Check it out: http://people.csail.mit.edu/ccai/waitchatter/.
Did you get distracted just then?
As the attention span of most modern learners decreases to a mere eight seconds, it's no wonder why GIFs are becoming a popular medium for transmitting information. But the GIF in education is only a small aspect of a larger trend in the e-learning and professional-training environment: microlearning.
Microlearning is a direct response to technology’s effect on our attention spans. Microlearning is snackable, modular learning objects that grant learner’s the ability to learn new subjects or skills on their terms: when, where, and how they want. Think of it as the Twitter or Snapchat of e-learning; and it's gaining popularity in both the education and corporate-training spaces.
In a recent study by the Association of Talent Development (ATD) entitled MicroLearning: Delivering Bite-Sized Knowledge, 596 individuals were queried on microlearning. Of the 38% whose companies implement microlearning techniques (with another 41% looking to start in the coming year), 48% believe the trend to skyrocket in the coming years and 44% believe it will incrementally increase. So it's safe to assume it isn't going anywhere soon.
So what does microlearning look like? There are countless examples to look to for inspiration, though a few stand out:
- Duolingo has been owning the foreign language learning market with a gamified, addictive learning design.
- Crash Course, a series of videos created by brothers John and Hank Green since 2011, breaks down complex subjects for students with a comedic tone and minimalist design that propelled it as a household name for instructors.
- Udacity focuses on in-demand, employable skills such as digital marketing, robotics, and coding.
- Skillshare allows you to master employable skills or soft skills. Learn to chop food like a chef or edit photos in PhotoShop on your time.
The 5 Musts for Microlearning to Succeed
The microlearning development process isn't the same as creating training manuals or a typical textbook. The following need to be flawless in their approach to insure microlearning success.
1. Size: So how small is micro? ATD estimates that the most effective seat-time for a microlearning modules is 10 minutes. But a separate study by those already implementing microlearning quoted between 2-5 minutes! Track seat-time with all that you create.
2. Mobility: Without mobile, microlearning cannot fully succeed. The point is to meet the learner where they are. Allow them to learn in line at the coffee shop or on the train. This isn’t to say that microlearning cannot happen on a laptop or desktop. But for better results, go mobile. Some institutions, such as Northeastern University, are even combining the benefits of microlearning with social networking to increase mobile engagement further.
3. Measurability: The measurability of our every actions in the mobile environment has given us the expectation that our efforts in learning are never for naught. As learning objectives and metadata tagging become more advanced, we expect every action to check a learning objective off our list. eLearning Industry cites this is a major commandment of microlearning “We define a Learning Objective by what the learner will do or know after they consume the asset... The more objectives you try to introduce, the longer your content will be. Ultimately, you’ll lose your audience.” So choose one per module and let your learners do the rest.
4. Modularity: As a “choose-your-own-adventure” style of learning becomes more the norm, creating modular building blocks of learning objects requires you to be more organized. A SaaS offering like MyEcontentFactory will allow you to store and manage your content, assessments, and media in taggable libraries so when it comes time to create a new project, you can create from scratch or pick and choose what you know already addresses a particular learning objective effectively. Try MEF for free to see how easily storing and recalling learning objects has become.
5. Autonomy: Just as the working world is becoming less of the 9-5 mentality, learning is becoming less of an hour-long lesson plan. Creating self-paced, modular microlearning tools gives the learner greater control over how and when they learn. According to the eLearning Industry “giving the learner autonomy empowers him/her and provides a sense of being respected and trusted.” This increases engagement and interaction with the content.
In short (no pun intended), microlearning is a benefit to both you and your learners. Save time in your development schedule and budget. Let’s ditch the macro-lectures, do away with the hour-long videos, and forget the afternoons of testing, no one has that kind of attention sp… ooh, I got a new email.
By Scott Greenan