Emtinan Alqurashi, Ed.D.
Do your students struggle to remember key points from your lectures? Research suggests that learners need to revisit information multiple times and in different ways to move it from short-term to long-term memory. 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). 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 utilizes small, well-planned units or activities in the form of short segments of content combined with micro activities. It is also known as bite-sized learning. Research on microlearning indicates its various benefits. For instance, a study by Giurgiu (2017) revealed that smaller chunks of content improved students’ retention of information and performance in an end-of-course test. Similarly, Liu, Wei, and Gao (2016) found that students’ interest in learning and understanding the material significantly improved.
Here are some steps for you to create effective microlearning and consolidate learning in long-term memory:
Break down your content
When creating microlearning, one of the main steps is breaking down the content into small bites. Microlearning is designed to avoid cognitive overload by delivering material in short, focused bursts. It has been shown to be more effective than longer sessions for retaining information and learning new material/skills, as supported by Hattie and Yates’s (2014) research. The goal is to introduce new information, immediately revisit it, and actively use the material to engage students and deepen their understanding, ultimately moving the information into long-term memory. Microlearning is achieved by creating micro activities for students to engage with. These activities can be used to start a class or unit, reinforce difficult concepts, revisit information in different ways, or end a class or unit..
When creating micro activities, it is important to keep them focused, small, and short:
- Keep it focused: Each micro activity should focus on a single learning goal, with a specific desired result in mind.
- Keep it small: Content should be broken down into smaller units containing micro activities that can be followed by short comprehension checks or low-stakes quizzes.
- Keep it short: Micro activities should be kept short, typically taking learners less than 5 minutes to complete on their own and less than 10 minutes for group activities. This approach forces instructors to focus on the most essential must-know information and identify what can be eliminated.
Examples of short micro activities:
When implementing microlearning, it is important to engage students with a variety of short micro activities. Some examples of micro activities include
- Introduction to a new concept (5 minutes)
- Think-Pair-Share (5 minutes for thinking and pairing, and 5 minutes for sharing)
- Jigsaw (5 minutes for individual reading, 5 minutes for group discussion, and 10 minutes for explaining to other groups)
- Mini-lecture or watching a video (5 minutes)
- Rotating stations (5 to 10 minutes at each station)
- Check for understanding quiz (5 minutes for the quiz, 5 minutes for post-quiz discussion)
- Wrap-up: Muddiest Point (5 minutes)
A useful resource for implementing micro activities is the paper titled “Mindful Moments: 50 Micro-Activities for Energizing the College Classroom”. This paper provides 50 techniques for engaging students in classroom learning, categorized into 5 minute papers, visual learning, critical thinking, assessment, encouraging student interaction, discussion and debate, and pop culture. Assessments in microlearning should be “for learning,” providing low-stakes mini-assessments to help students improve their learning. These assessments should be short but challenging and followed by feedback to reinforce knowledge, correct misunderstandings, and influence learning.
Microlearning, also known as bite-sized learning, is a teaching approach that involves presenting content in small, focused chunks to engage students. In a live online or onsite class, consider breaking up lecture time every 15 to 20 minutes. For asynchronous classes, divide content into small chunks and follow them with micro activities. Microlearning environments use easily digestible content to help information move from short-term to long-term memory. The aim is not only to engage students in small activities but also to help them retain information in the long run. So, remember to keep it brief, concise, and focused, and those micro steps will eventually lead to macro results!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Temple’s tool for recording and sharing “bite-sized” video content is Panopto.