A Practical Guide to Using Microlearning to Create a Learning Campaign

About six months ago we ran a series of blog posts on Learning Campaigns (here, here here and here). The central idea is that for microlearning to be effective you need to combine the microlearning event with an opportunity for retrieval practice. And, depending on your learning goals, you might want to include a final mastery exam at the completion of the campaign. In our most recent blog post (here) we explained why this combination of lesson, retrieval practice and (optional) assessment is required for long-term learning retention.

Several readers have asked us what this looks like in practice. In manageable terms, how do you structure a learning campaign? In this blog post we look at what it means to create a month-long learning campaign. This length of time is arbitrary of course. It could be three weeks or six weeks; it all depends on the topic to be taught (or reinforced).

Let’s look at creating one learning campaign focused on a single topic.

A campaign combines three elements:

  • A learning subscription to deliver content (microlessons delivered on a regular basis over time)
  • Adaptive questioning exercises to enhance remembering (these could also be in the form of games or contests)
  • An optional summative assessment

Let’s begin with an empty calendar:

Empty Calendar

Now we schedule the delivery of the first “issue” of the subscription. Think of a learning subscription as being analogous to a magazine. On a regular basis (say, once a week) the learner receives an “issue” alert in his/her Inbox. Clicking on the message takes the learner to the microlesson content. Microlessons can be any sort of content: video, podcasts, PDFs, snippets from courses with text, graphics and animation, etc. The main difference between a magazine and a learning subscription is that each issue of the learning subscription is built around a single learning objective. The green icon represents a subscription delivery on March 2:

One sub

We then follow up the microlesson with an adaptive questioning exercise (this could be a game/contest as well) represented by the blue icon:

sub and sprint

Note: Adaptive questioning exercises can last one or several days based upon the “retirement and spacing” criteria associated with the exercise. For example, a typical “retirement” criterion would be to answer each question correctly twice in a row. If you space the adaptive questioning sessions one day apart (recommended to take advantage of the spacing effect) the exercise will then last a minimum of two days.

This pattern repeats week after week for as long as necessary to cover the topic:

full calendar

And finally, you can end the learning campaign with an optional summative assessment (orange icon):

With test

Then in April we can select another topic for our next learning campaign.

Of course, depending on how ambitious you are, you don’t have to have just one monthly campaign at a time. You can have multiple concurrent campaigns, interleaving the content and assessments throughout the time period. (There are actually learning benefits to doing this.)

Learning is necessary but not sufficient; continuous learning is the key to learning transfer.

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