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Is Microlearning a Skill of the Future?

NEWS 5 July 2021

As educators continue to discover more about how our brain learns, they develop new techniques to further improve how students can absorb and retain information.

It is already recognised that students understand better when learning is spread over time. This is referred to as the spacing effect and it is one element of a learning style called microlearning, which comes from the Greek word ‘micro’ that means small.

Essentially, microlearning involves breaking information into bite-sized chunks that are easier for students to digest and remember. Short, sharp sessions highlight and embed key information and students are then given opportunities to explore a specific topic in more depth with their teachers in the classroom.

Because they already know key ideas or points of a topic through microlearning, the theory is that children more easily make connections between the information they are given. This makes facts easier to absorb and remember because they simply make more sense.

So, if students are going to learn about gravity for example, their Science teacher could outline what gravity is and what it does before delving into more detail about the discoveries of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein and the development of gravitational theory.

News - MicroLearning

Benefits of Microlearning

A study published in the International Journal of Educational Research Review found that primary school students who took part in microlearning showed around 18 per cent better learning than students who were taught using traditional teaching methods only.

Experts say that microlearning is particularly suited to younger generations who have grown up navigating the digital world, where information is delivered in short bursts.

Many microlearning programs are delivered online, which means learning can also be flexible with students dipping into content when and where it suits them. Content can be updated regularly and can often be more engaging for students who are comfortable in the digital environment.

“As an educational approach, it appears to be enjoying swift ‘buzz’ growth in the learning domain and in workplaces, but I think we have been implementing this already for a long time and it’s been adapted in a very exciting way with technology,” says Maria Bailey, Director, Counselling Services at Haileybury.

The Secret to Microlearning

“Microlearning allows students to learn in short, specific bursts—they learn in ‘snapshots’ so it is very user-friendly. Learning in small doses or chunks may encourage comprehension, it can personalise a learning experience and it perhaps filters out irrelevant information. It may help students avoid becoming ‘stuck’ and reduces the chances of students losing focus.”

Mrs. Bailey also supports the idea of having breaks or spacing to allow information that is learned to move from short-term to longer-term memory.

Microlearning is a useful tool but it does have some limitations, so is most effective when balanced with traditional learning methods.

Experts suggest that it is not useful when people need to learn or develop more complex skills and knowledge, and they emphasise that just following any steps outlined in a micro-lesson isn’t the same as actually ‘learning’ the material within the lesson or program.

Just because material is presented in short bursts, also doesn’t mean that students can multi-task while doing a micro-lesson, says Mrs. Bailey.

“To be effective, you have to be focused during that short burst of learning. It is definitely not recommended that you micro-learn and do something else at the same time,” she says.

“We also still need to be able to reflect on the big picture and understanding challenging concepts thoroughly takes time. But it is useful; it offers benefits to how students learn and we will definitely be seeing more of it in the future. Students finding their own formula for learning is essential for personal best performances.”