Although popular in private sector training, microlearning in the college classroom is practically unknown. Microlearning means breaking down larger topics into digestible bites. This strategy has great potential for improving student learning.
Microlearning is ubiquitous. Who among us has not visited YouTube to learn how to get out a stain or plant a tree (or whatever)? When done well, these short, specific explanations offer information when the learner needs it—and that is the time when learning transfer occurs.
This teaching strategy can be incorporated into the business communication classroom in several ways. An instructor could record a 1-2-minute video that reviews aspects of an assignment or that revisits a concept discussed in class: Remember to assess your audience’s expected reaction as part of your prewriting process. Here are some questions to ask yourself. An infographic describing the writing process for a particular assignment, for example, is another potential use of microlearning. The idea is to present material concisely and clearly.
Microlearning strategies can be applied to the various genres in the curriculum. Let’s say an instructor has introduced a new unit on persuasive writing or research methods. If students have missed an important element of the discussion or don’t fully understand an aspect of it, a short video that highlights main points gives them the opportunity to review the information. And what’s more important: Students can access the information as many times as they need, at their convenience.
The benefits of microlearning are manifold. This bite-size learning works especially well for nontraditional learners, whose busy schedules may make attending class or scanning through a long video of a lecture impossible. However, students can easily access a short video during a lunch break at work or after the kids are in bed.
It’s also a good fit for students’ notoriously short attention spans. We have long known that attentiveness has diminished over time. This is why the brevity of microlearning can be an important a tool for students who find focusing difficult. When the information is presented in succinct chunks, even the most disengaged students may take a look.
Likewise, microlearning supports struggling students. The vast diversity of student populations in today’s college classrooms means that not all arrive with the same baseline of skills. Creating short microlessons can help these students acquire the knowledge they need to keep on track.
While it may appear that these mini learning modules would work only for simple subjects, this is not the case. Breaking down even a challenging concept into small chunks that are absorbed one at a time builds upon prior knowledge. After the learner understands all the chunks, the larger lesson becomes clear. The increased access to the information and ability to review the material multiple times can likewise deepen understanding.
Our classrooms and the students in them have changed. It makes sense that we support students in any way that will help them achieve success. Microlearning may just be one of the strategies that can accomplish this goal.