What is micro learning, and how can you use it to your advantage?
If you’re like most online educators, you probably tend to think of course creating in terms of subject matter rather than delivery method. You start with the idea of the course you want to teach, write a lesson plan, and begin organizing your material around that structure. This comes naturally to many of us, in no small part because it mimics the way we were taught subject matter in school and college.
There’s nothing wrong with thinking about courses this way, of course. However, focusing solely on content and neglecting delivery can cause many educators to miss out on big opportunities. One such opportunity has to do with micro learning—a trend that has been steadily rising in online education for several years now.
The idea of micro learning encompasses micro content, which involves breaking large courses down into smaller pieces. Micro learning is also concerned with the way larger courses are delivered. You can create a semester-long course which you deliver in fragments, or you can incorporate micro learning moments into your normal course material.
Whichever way you approach this teaching method, using it is likely to show positive results in your course. Micro learning is an effective means of reducing cognitive load, which is the limit of information a learner can absorb at one time before their short-term memory becomes over-burdened. Because of this, educators should take measures early to offer their learners micro learning opportunities in their course. Here’s how to start.
1. Create reasons for your learners to re-engage throughout the day.
If you think of your course as a traditional class, you may envision your learners sitting down in a quiet room for a couple hours to do their homework. However, many learners sign up for online classes precisely because they want to avoid that traditional learning experience. Maybe they’ve always struggled in a classroom, or maybe they’re short on time and can’t devote an hour or two at a time to your course. Either way, their time is limited.
Using micro learning, you can push content to your learners in small chunks throughout the day. Whether that involves daily reminders to log in and finish a short lesson, or gamification incentives to stay involved, pushing for daily engagement will work best if you can make each commitment relatively brief, as in, 3–7 minutes rather than an hour.
2. Make sure everything is mobile-optimized and user-friendly.
This should go without saying by now, but sadly it can’t. Your online content must be easily accessible from mobile devices. This doesn’t just mean accessible in a technical sense, but accessible by mobile devices in a way that makes consumption easy and frictionless.
It’s been a few years since mobile searches surpassed desktop, so any educator who is aware of these trends knows that their learners won’t be signing in just for a lesson here or there. For many, mobile has become their default way of accessing content. They’re logging in to check in with their community, learn a new lesson on their lunch break, and build a learning habit. Don’t stand in their way with a course that isn’t designed for mobile.
3. Combat the learning curve with just-in-time delivery.
Anyone can tell you that forgetting is the hardest part of learning. However, what you may not realize, is that making our brains work harder to remember a thing can actually help us learn it long-term. In this way, it’s a little like building muscle: you won’t grow stronger if you only stick to easy weights.
Juts-in-time delivery is designed to send your learners short lessons right when they’re about to forget what they learned earlier. In doing so, it strengthens the memory and improves learner outcomes.
4. Boost engagement through daily pop quizzes.
Earlier this year, I got myself hooked on daily crossword puzzles. They’re remarkably satisfying, and with so many publications producing puzzles (not to mention the access they offer to old puzzles), it’s easy to lose yourself in a bottomless pit of cleverly-crafted trivia.
My point is that learners love daily content. Remember, these aren’t students who have been forced into learning by their parents or the educational system. These are adults who have invested their own resources into taking your course. They want to learn from you. And for learners who are excited about the material, pop quizzes can be just as fun and exciting as a daily crossword. After all, just look at how many game shows are built around trivia questions. Adults like testing their knowledge—especially when it’s just for fun and the risks are relatively low.
5. Attract new learners by sharing micro learning moments on social media
Finally, it would almost seem that micro learning was designed for social media. As much as micro learning can be incorporated in other content forms, social media already has the functionality built-in to deliver content to users in bite-sized pieces. Micro learning on social media is a great way to broaden your audience and entice new learners to your course.
Micro learning isn’t just a content strategy, it’s a new way of engaging learners.
As we said in the beginning, micro learning isn’t just about creating short content. It’s about rethinking your entire approach to education. Micro learning helps you take advantage of small moments of down time throughout the day to help your learners achieve their educational goals. In doing so, you’ll take on the role of a life coach who’s with them every step of the way, rather than an authoritarian holding them to account.
So, we encourage you to explore the new features of LearnDash 3.0, as well as the ecosystem of plugins that support it, and think of ways you can make micro learning work in your course.