January 7th, 2019 E-Learning

Micro-learning is no longer a trend—it’s a permanent e-learning development. Here’s how it will change in the year to come.

It seems like micro-learning has been topping trend charts for years. People are predicting that a trend that’s already big is going to get even bigger. To my mind, micro-learning has proven that it’s here to stay, and that moves it from a “trend” to a full-blown industry powerhouse, complete with its own trends.

If you’re not already finding ways to use micro-learning in your course content, now’s the time to give it serious consideration. And if you need inspiration, here are some of the top trends influencing how micro-learning is currently being used.

1. Smarter mobile applications.

It’s no coincidence that the rise in micro-learning has coincided with an increased focus on mobile learning: the two go hand in hand. In fact, while micro-learning can happen on the desktop as easily as anywhere else, it’s hard to see how mobile learning can be anything but micro.

However, this isn’t such an accepted truth among mobile e-learning developers. Mobile courses still frequently suffer from usability features that quickly turn learners away. The faster mobile courses fully accept micro-learning as the way forward, the more we will see these courses improve.

And for those who lead the charge, the potential payoffs for mastering mobile micro-learning could be big.

2. Fine-tuned analytics.

User analytics are the secret sauce behind many a seamless, addictive app. While they’re often painted as tricky ways app companies hijack your brain, the point is to create a better user experience—a combination of interface and interactions so smooth and intuitive that learners don’t want to turn away.

Analytics aren’t just about measuring user behavior, though. They also give online educators insights into how they might adjust their learning programs to subtly shift learner behavior. Doing so effectively means a lot of trial and error—and a lot of patience. There are a lot of variables at play, and you can only change one at a time if you’re going to isolate the right factor.

Fortunately, micro-learning offers a faster feedback process for educators. An hour-long lesson module would be a difficult one to test, because fewer learners would take it, and even with a large data set, testing different ways to improve such a detailed lecture would be difficult.

But, a micro course offers plenty of opportunity for innovation in a short enough format that it’s easier to earn the feedback you need to improve. As measure for analytics become more precise, educators can drill down into new ways to improve their course.

3. Adaptive learning.

Speaking of data mining and fine-tuning course material, with all those user analytics you can bet learning is going to become more personalized. Adaptive learning technology helps customize content to learner needs, so that they waste less time on material they already know, and devote more time to mastering new concepts.

Take language learning as a prime example. Languages are highly personal things to learn, and each person has their own interests, aptitudes, and pitfalls. Many language learning tools fail because they ignore these personal differences entirely, sending every learner down the same learning path. But an adaptive program could not only recognize when a learner was falling behind or growing bored, it could shift the lesson plan to focus more on vocabulary review or grammar drills.

Why not apply this to other lessons? A mobile app for learning the piano could gauge a learner’s progress and adjust lessons accordingly. Instead of just picking a starting level, it could recognize the rate at which a learner is improving, and speed up or slow down the pace to match.

4. Social integration.

I come back to language acquisition a lot in these examples for a few reasons. For one, it’s a subject I’m passionate about. For another, it’s very popular among a lot of other people as well. And for a third, it’s perfectly suited for both micro-learning and social learning.

One of the biggest challenges for most language learners is the forgetting curve. We quickly forget most information within minutes hearing it. But frequent reminders and prompts help us retain that information more effectively, which is why people acquire language so much more quickly once they’re in an immersive environment.

Well, most of us can’t pick up and move to another country whenever we choose. But thanks to mobile technology, we can speak with someone from a foreign country almost any time we choose. That’s where social integration becomes such a key aspect of micro learning.

I’ve already tried a few apps that support text messages between tandem language learners. Not only does this provide more motivation to learn, it also ads more micro interactions during the day, so that learners keep the new vocabulary words fresh in their memories. It’s not full immersion, but it’s a step closer.

2019 is going to be a big year for micro-learning.

As big as it is already, micro-learning still has a lot of places to go. Like every other aspect of the e-learning industry, technological changes will mean more to keep up with. The coming year is likely to see currently ground-breaking technology transition into the mainstream, and as these tools become more accessible, we’ll see them more or less successfully implemented in micro content. Whatever works will likely become the hot new trends in 2020. The only thing we can say for certain: micro-learning will still be at the center.

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