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Why Microlearning is Invaluable to Today’s Students

By: Sarah Doar
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Most individuals forget 50% of new information within an hour of learning it. This number increases to 70% within 24 hours and only continues to worsen. This research is based on a model called “the forgetting curve.”

To overcome the forgetting curve, many institutions are turning to the scientifically-proven method of microlearning. Microlearning involves delivering education in small, consumable chunks. As a result, this information stands a better chance of being retained by today’s students. In fact, microlearning makes the transfer of information 17% more effective

Students themselves, especially those learning online, are also seeking out microlearning opportunities. They find it to be invaluable because it allows them to consume their course  information quickly. Microlearning makes learning and studying easily accessible to students so that they may successfully reach their learning goals as efficiently as possible.

Exploring the concept of microlearning

Microlearning, also referred to as microtraining, is the learning approach that offers small, bite-sized units of information for learners to study at their own pace and convenience. For example, instead of assigning pages of in-depth reading material, microlearning materials are condensed and contain only the most important, high level information about a topic.

classroom with a presenter in front of students

Microlearning highlights the most necessary information only and can help greatly when looking to upskill today’s students and workers. Regardless of whether microlearning segments are text or interactive multimedia, they should always be short.

The three defining characteristics of microlearning are:

    • The learning is performed in short bursts. Typically, microlearning sessions are under 10 minutes and can take as little as one minute to complete
    • It requires little effort per individual session. Microlearning sessions can take place in between doing other activities and can be easily integrated into everyday tasks. 
    • It involves simple and or narrow topics. Microlearning content addresses only one or two learning objectives, however can usually yield four to five key takeaways. 

Microlearning can take many forms and universities are getting creative. The most common include succinct texts, photos and illustrations, short videos, snippets of audio or music, quizzes and simple games.

The best type of microlearning is one that resonates with your students. When creating content for microlearning, it is important to ask students for their feedback to understand what works best for them. Creating class surveys to gather data on what is working helps to ensure that microlearning is being done effectively.

The advantages of microlearning

Students find microlearning invaluable because of its flexibility, efficiency and efficacy in helping them retain information.

man wearing headphones working on his laptop on a table

Facilitates effective learning: Our attention spans are shorter these days. Microlearning is designed to  produce a specific outcome. It removes the idea of having students memorize extraneous pieces of information. When engaging with a small amount of focused, task-oriented content, a learner is much more likely to absorb key points and retain information. When students have the exact information they need, they focus better and master the basics of a subject in a fraction of the time.

Saves time: It goes without saying that most university students are looking to save time. Microlearning is perfect for the time-strapped student because it reduces the amount of time it takes for them to study and understand information, without compromising on how well they learn. Additionally, because microlearning is short and focused, it shields learners from becoming burned out or bogged down by information. 

Perfect for online learners: One of the core tenets of microlearning is that it encourages students to learn at their own pace. Microcontent that students can consume easily from home or during their commute helps make learning easily compatible with any student lifestyle. Listening to short lectures or watching video snippets with subtitles or captions tailors learning to students’ busy schedules without them having to sacrifice study time. AST partners with eLearning platforms and universities to provide them with captioning and transcription for microlearning content to ensure that microlearning is also accessible to individuals with disabilities.

table with laptop, notebook, pen and a cup of tea

Engaging students through microlearning

A recent survey showed that Generation Z prefers microlearning to traditional learning methods. However, understanding how to keep students engaged from the get-go is key when planning for microlearning. Here are three tips to help create engaging microlearning materials. 

  1. Build meaning: Design texts, video or infographics around a core meaning. Microlearning gives educators the opportunity to extract the best points and takeaways from a topic to create a straightforward, yet inspiring learning experience. Creating meaning can be done through memorable storytelling or sharing interesting facts.
  2. Enable access: Students are more motivated to engage when their learning materials are available to view on a variety of platforms. Whether microlearning content is presented in a PDF, image or a video file, it helps to go the extra mile and make sure that it can be accessed from anywhere. 
  3. Gamification: Gamified learning is an instructional strategy that uses game mechanics and design principles to make learning more engaging and fun. Games are a great method for delivering microlearning experiences because oftentimes the learner is not cognizant of the fact that they are learning. Educators can apply a gamified approach to microlearning by creating quizzes, flash card systems and interactive missions.

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Investing in microlearning

One of the best things about microlearning is that most of us are unknowingly already familiar with the concept. Reading magazine ads, watching TED Talks and seeing prompts pop up on our screens are technically all forms of microlearning. Incorporating microlearning into academics provides a valuable learning alternative for students who are on the go, learning remotely or just looking for a more efficient way to study.

Institutions and eLearning providers who are investing in microlearning are helping to drive student success and meet the needs of today’s on-the-go, remote learners. There’s incredible value in using microlearning to incorporate different learning styles and in offering tools with it that help learners stay engaged and retain information. Contact AST today for more tips on microlearning and how to make your learning environments more engaging for your students. Our expertise in UDL and learning solutions, such as captions, transcription and audio description can help you meet ADA guidelines and deliver learning in a more engaging way.