Mobile experiences are perfectly suited for bite-sized lessons.

Online education—especially mobile education—has become so prevalent that many of us probably engage with it several times a day without ever thinking about it as e-learning at all. In thinking about my education experiences over the past year, I realized that I use three different apps for online learning almost every single day. One is a language learning app, which I use to practice Spanish. Another is a health and fitness app, and the third is a chess app.

While the language app is obviously an e-learning program, the other two are less obvious. I didn’t sign up for the health and fitness app to learn, but I do read short articles every day, and it frequently quizzes me on the material I’ve learned. I use the chess app to play with friends, but I also engage with practice puzzles to learn new strategies.

All three of these apps are examples of mobile learning, but they’re also examples of micro learning. As I used them, I realized that they share several characteristics that have been highly effective in keeping me engaged, day after day, week after week. And, while some of these apps are multimillion dollar companies with complex algorithms and whole teams of developers behind them, many of the strategies they use can be replicated by solo educators operating on a shoe string budget.

Don’t miss our post: “How a Mobile App Can Benefit Online Learning

Here are six strategies I observed that any online educator could use by combining LearnDash alone, or with the aid of one or two other WordPress plugins and add-ons.

1. Keep lesson content under 5 minutes.

For content to be considered “micro,” it has to be short. Some of the lessons in my fitness app are a minute long—they’re just there to remind me to keep going. Others can be five or six minutes, and dig a little deeper into the content once concept at a time.

They key, however, isn’t that these lessons are short, but that they build on each other. Good lessons often end with a prompt to keep going and start another lesson right away. If I don’t have time, I can leave it till later, and knowing that I can pick it up again and finish my next lesson in just a few minutes is good motivation.

2. Include micro quizzes every few lessons.

Content that builds on previous lessons is great, but after a little while, learners need a quiz to keep track of what they’ve learned. Many of these quizzes only need to be three or four questions long to be effective in helping learners consolidate what they’ve covered so far.

Quizzes are also some of the funnest parts of the course. Many learners love a good challenge, and offering them a chance to prove their learning can be a big confidence boost as well as an important memory retention tool.

3. Focus on interactive content.

Mobile learning is instinctively a more interactive format than desktop because mobile devices area already operated by touch. Take advantage of this, even if it’s only in small ways, like incorporating drag and drop elements, or giving buttons more interesting action text.

If you have the budget and the skill set, this is also a great place to experiment with more advanced interactions, too, like augmented reality or voice recognition.

4. Prefer audio to video.

One thing that has been true for all my mobile learning experiences thus far is that none include video. This is not to say that they could not, simply that many users may find video more difficult to engage with on mobile devices, even in short chunks. After all, many mobile learners are consuming content in situations where they might be interrupted at any moment. It’s not usually a problem for learner experience to pause halfway through a quiz, but the same is less true of a video.

On the other hand, audio content is easy to stop and start, and can be consumed even when the learner is driving or not otherwise able to look at the phone. Similarly, gifs or short animations can add visual interest to micro content, and can be interrupted without a problem. If you do choose to use video, keep content as short as possible so that learners don’t have to wait too long for a quiet, uninterrupted moment to watch.

5. Use push notifications to keep learners engaged.

One benefit of turning your online course into an app is that it makes it easier to design push notifications to your learners. Many users have a love/hate relationship with mobile push notifications, but done right, they can be a real boon to your course.

Keep your push notifications limited, or learners will turn them off entirely. Personally, I’ve found that one or two a day don’t bother me (especially if it’s for a subject I want to practice every day). Notifications can be reminders, updates, or prompts to ask a group question. If you use gamifaction, they can also notify a learner if their leaderboard ranking has changed, or if they need to earn more points to make their weekly goal.

Read more: “5 Ways to Take Advantage of Mobile Learning Functionality.”

6. Prompt learners to engage with their peers.

Community and engagement are a huge part of online learning. Encouraging your learners to connect with other learners increases the value of your course and gives learners more reason to stay around. It also takes some of the pressure off you to be constantly creating new content.

However, many learners need a little prompt to get involved. Nudge learners in the right direction by introducing discussion topics and encouraging them to share.

Microlearning is an incredibly effective educational tool, and mobile lessons are the prefect delivery method.

Online learning is becoming ever more accessible, both to learners and educators. Mobile courses that are built on short lesson content offer one of the most accessible course experiences to learners, and educators who can use these features in their own content design have a large potential audience to tap for their business. So don’t assume that the methods used by sophisticated app designers are beyond your reach.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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