Some call it an informal, self-directed learning experience. Others deem it a structured, though sequenced learning strategy designed to meet an educational goal. It’s not only the concept of microlearning that spurs confusion, however; more frequently, people are having problems determining whether or not microlearning has the potential of improving modern education for good.
If we accept it as a trend, then we can hardly expect it to bring any significant changes. Trends are fickle things – they’re hot one moment and forgotten the next. It’s only natural then that we’re somewhat doubtful about what microlearning has to offer and skeptical about its growing role.
This is what we’ve learned about the past, the present, and the future of microlearning so far. Hopefully, it will solve some of our dilemmas and help us realize the true nature and immense benefit of this educational technique.
What Is Microlearning, Exactly?
In case you still haven’t figured it out, here’s how the eLearning Industry defines it: “Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts. The learners are in control of what and when they’re learning”.
Though our modern obsession with all things small is unquestionable, microlearning is not entirely about size. Even more importantly, it relies on the concept we call “the disintegration of learning content” – in a single simple term, chunking.
It’s a general opinion that the millennial attention span keeps shrinking as we speak. Also, experts claim that we lack both the interest and focus to consume large amounts of information in one sitting. Still, the one thing we haven’t thought of is that chunking actually increases content quality and consumption.
When divided into a series of micro-lectures, an online course doesn’t only cater to modern learning behaviour; it also gains in detail and thoroughness. That way, microlearning equips us with concise content that can be mastered very quickly and with ease.
Personalization is the second most cited argument in favour of this practice, though it may be of crucial importance. Not only can students choose what to focus on, but microlearning also allows them to study whenever they want and from wherever they are, thus increasing their motivation.
Is It Really a Novelty?
With all things said, the prevailing popularity of microlearning shouldn’t come as a surprise. For this, we’ve proclaimed it the next big trend in eLearning, whether it comes to educational institutions or corporate classrooms. But, is microlearning really a novelty?
The truth is, microlearning has been around for quite some time, in one way or another. Its current form stems from interactive media and video-based courses that the eLearning industry first introduced over 15 years ago. Though courses were longer back then, it took 7 years and an iPhone to open the door to short instructional video content, which was the very base for today’s chunked lectures.
Or, Is It the Future?
Alot has changed since 2007. It’s been said that human knowledge doubles about every 12 months, so we’ll let you do the math. Empowered by digital connectivity, the Information Age irretrievably leads to information overload. The amount of existing data is already overwhelming enough, but the new wave will certainly bring new educational challenges.
Thus far, we’ve witnessed a significant shift in both educational and corporate culture. Traditional diplomas no longer suffice, which simultaneously belittles post-secondary education and promotes continual learning. Modern careerism depends on our ability to acquire up-to-date information as soon as they emerge, making the millennial climb up to the corporate ladder at a slow pace. The moment we officially become professionals in our field, our expertise becomes outdated.
But just like microlearning isn’t a novelty at all, this current climate has been predicted years ago. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, a study signed by George Siemens, entertained this idea back in 2005:
“Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing”.
However futuristic the digital age may seem, it is nothing but another evolutionary step. It’s because of this that we cannot say that microlearning is a trend. While trends come and go, learning practices mature together with knowledge itself, adapting to fit our learning needs, our capabilities, and, finally, our preferences.
The Immense Potential of Tiny Courses
For humanity at large, microlearning ensures a significant increase in the learning retention rate. Universities and business organizations across the world have seen major benefits from online learning software systems that comply with this practice – since chunked into miniature lessons, online courses provide a strong sense of accomplishment in a student, thus boosting their motivation.
The fact that small bursts of information are more easily held in the memory has been confirmed by multiple studies. We’ve already talked about microlearning’s potential to increase focus, while its flexibility enables both ease of participation and personalized learning.
Not only do customization allows teachers and students to tailor their learning content and make it suitable for any learner’s specific needs and requirements, but it also ensures rapid authoring. Thanks to this, micro-lessons offer nothing but current and relevant information.
In terms of corporate training, LMSs and online learning software systems promise two additional benefits. Since convenient and highly effective, microlearning enhances employee satisfaction and engagement, thus keeping them invested and loyal to their organization.
Furthermore, digital learning is known to be less expensive than traditional classroom courses. Cost-effectiveness might seem as an insignificant benefit in the greater scheme of things, but is just as important when it comes to professional development and continual learning.
The final words
Be it a passing trend or a standard for the new age, micro-learning meets all of our educational requirements. However we choose to define it, one thing is for certain – smaller lectures are already paving the path toward a bigger world.