Have you ever wondered, “Do my students get it?” Did you ever explain material in class, only to find that the next class session no one remembers the key points? As a result, they don’t do well in class. Research on how the brain learns suggests that learners must visit information multiple times and in different ways and repeat practice of learned material or skill to move it from short term to long term memory (Hattie and Yates, 2014). The research also suggests that spaced instruction is better for the memory than massive instruction, and therefore, learning should be spaced out over time.
Microlearning is a teaching strategy that uses a series of short segments of content combined with short activities. It is also called bite-sized learning because it utilizes small, well planned, bite-sized chunks of units or activities. Research on microlearning points out its very real benefits. For example, a study by Giurgiu (2017) found that smaller chunks of content helped students to better retain information and perform better in an end-of-course test. Another study by Liu, Wei, and Gao (2016) found that students’ interest in learning and understanding the material significantly improved. Here are some steps you can take to create microlearning and help consolidate learning in long term memory:
One of the main steps in increating microlearning is breaking down the content into small bites. Microlearning is designed to avoid the cognitive overload that can happen when too much material is delivered to students all at once, and it supports Hattie and Yates’s (2014) claim that learning new material/skills distributed across several spaced short sessions, is more effective than a single longer session in retaining information. The idea here is to introduce new information, immediately revisit it and actively use the material/concepts/skills in order to engage students, deepen understanding and move it to long-term memory. Microlearning happens when we create micro activities for students to engage with, these can be used to start a class or unit, reinforce difficult concepts, revisit information in different ways, to end a class or unit.
When creating micro activities, it is important to keep them focused, small, and short:
In microlearning, you want to break down your content and engage students in a variety of micro-activities. Some examples of micro activities are:
A great resource is a paper titled “Mindful Moments: 50 Micro-Activities for Energizing the College Classroom” which discusses 50 techniques for engaging students in classroom learning. The activities are divided into different categories including 5 minute papers, visual learning, critical thinking, assessment, encouraging student interaction, discussion and debate, and pop culture. Assessment here should be “for learning” not “of learning.” This means that you provide low-stakes mini assessments to help students improve their learning and do better. These assessments can intersect with class activities, or not. Either way, they should be meaningful, short but challenging, and followed immediately by feedback. Feedback is important at this stage to reinforce knowledge, correct misunderstandings and thus influence learning.
Microlearning or bite-sized learning are teaching strategies to engage students with content in small, very focused chunks. In live online or onsite class, think how you could break up lecture time every 15 to 20 minutes. In asynchronous class, think how you could divide your content in small chunks followed by micro activities. Microlearning environments are designed using digestible content to allow information to move from short term to long-term memory. The goal is not just to engage students in small micro activities, but to also help them to eventually retain information. So just remember, keep it small, short and focused, and those micro steps will lead to macro results!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Temple's tool for recording and sharing "bite-sized" video content is Panopto.