Fast, versatile, and engaging, micro-learning is an important trend in online education. This approach fragments information into “little bites” and can take now innovative forms to serve more structured online courses. In line with our technological habits, our ways of information consumption and our learning environments, its possibilities are very promising.
1. Right to the point!
Micro-learning does not boil down to cutting online training into several short modules. While it is true that it breaks up long training into short units (or modules or capsules), it is an approach with its own foundation and purpose. Based on repetition and participation, it is used to inform on a specific subject and aim for a well-determined result (behavior, competence, etc.).
Its sessions can vary from a few seconds to 15 minutes at most, but they usually last from 2 to 7 minutes. They can take various forms, for example, short demonstrative videos, multiple-choice questionnaires submitted by text message, or reminders of concepts, sent by email.
The micro-learning may be developed in the form of independent units or series of units connected on the content or on the form, which may or may not be complementary to a long training program. It is particularly suitable for providing a precise answer to an immediate need of the learner, finding a solution to a given problem, updating certain knowledge, deepening an aspect, integrating a change or practicing a specific task.
The micro-learning is a hyper-flexible learning method that can be followed online, at one’s own pace, at any time and in any place, on the support of one’s choice – computer, tablet or smartphone. Since the sessions are brief, they can be easily integrated into our daily, hectic lives.
Developed first for informal learning – learning that is not structured in terms of goals, time or resources – micro-learning can be now suitable for many aspects of formal learning. It can enrich it by expanding on specific notions in the main course, by testing the learner, or by creating tools for recollection, or for performance support. For blended learning purposes, micro-learning merges well with face-to-face training, just as it can be integrated with other solutions such as gamification, serious games or personalized learning.
While it can deal with very diverse subjects, micro-learning does not represent the optimal solution in all situations. This is particularly the case for very complex training programs or when it is clear that they will be better served by a single and longer learning unit.
3. In small pieces, it is better digested!
In return for the benefits it provides, our digital consumption habit reduces our ability to pay attention. According to a study done by Microsoft, our ability to remain focused, these days, is less than that of a goldfish, which can reach up to 9 seconds. If these figures could be doubted – others estimate at about 10 minutes the optimal brain capacity to pay attention – there is a consensus that our “digitally modified” brains are more and more vulnerable to the distractions that beset us.
Knowing that attention is the gateway to all learning, this has major implications in the field of training. Unable to reverse it, micro-learning seems to be particularly suitable for this decreasing attention span.
Indeed, short and repetitive learning helps combat the dispersion of attention, while increasing understanding and long-term retention. The fact that a training program is short or divided into smaller units, separated in time, could also have a positive impact on the motivation and commitment of the learners as well as on their chances of completing successfully the learning program.
4. A winning formula for the company
Faster to design and update than longer training units, micro-learning can be a good choice for different businesses, whether to inform the new employees, in small doses, on internal policies, to stimulate the team spirit, or to explain the operation of diverse machines. In the latter case, for example, learning could take the form of video capsules that are activated on any smartphone within the Wi-Fi perimeter of a given machine.
Beyond these technical advantages, micro-learning can become a way for a company to demonstrate that it values innovation and the training of its employees while remaining respectful of their time and autonomy. Micro-learning has everything to seduce millennials, who will soon be the majority in the labor market, but also other workers. This is because everyone has more or less the same rhythm of life and uses the same mobile technologies and web 2.0 on a daily basis. Not to mention that no one is against the idea of making their time and effort effective, enjoying the flexibility and, as much as possible, having fun while learning.
Finally, let us add that micro-learning can encourage the introduction of a culture of continue education since its “lighter” model makes it possible to offer training on a regular basis, whether it be monthly, weekly or even daily.
Types of content
Here are the main types of content that can be integrated into micro-learning:
Video or audio
Text-based animations, whiteboard animations, video animations, podcasting, branching scenarios, seminars, narrative or explanatory videos, expert videos, webcasts.
Interactive or non-interactive PDF documents, interactive or non-interactive infographics, digital texts.
Various mobile applications including apps that test knowledge or skills.