Last month I attended a life sciences learning conference. By far, the most discussed topic was microlearning. Everyone – learners, trainers, management – has jumped on the microlearning bandwagon. We have decided, en masse, that our learners will learn best when they are presented with their learning in short chunks.
Vendors, of course, are no fools, so each day sees the launch of a new microlearning platform. In fact, one vendor has actually tried to patent the word “microlearning”!
And– the patent attempt aside — this is all well and good. Lots of research shows that our working memory is quickly overloaded and that learners tend to rapidly forget the majority of what they learn in long learning events.
So, what could be wrong with chunking our learning into five minute nuggets? Nothing really, but it is only one step in an effective learning process.
There are several keys to leveraging microlearning into a successful learning experience. The first is to thread together the individual learning nuggets into learning subscriptions. Learning subscriptions enable you to leverage schema creation and the spacing effect to create effective learning.
Think of a learning subscription as analogous to a magazine subscription, where each “issue” arrives on a regular basis (e.g. once a week). Each subscription is dedicated to a topic and each “issue” of the subscription may contain one or more learning nuggets, typically organized around a learning objective within the topic. (This is the technique our learning platform, Intela, uses.) The structure would look something like this:
By creating sequences of learning nuggets you aid the learner in creating mental schema, and can use future issues of the subscription to reinforce learning from previous issues. It is important to remember that the spacing effect only takes place when the learning is reinforced over time.
So, bottom line: Delivering a microlearning nugget does not stand on its own as an effective learning strategy. For effective learning, use the research-proven principles of the science of learning and create spaced learning experiences with learning subscriptions.