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Techniques to Increase Student Retention Using Microlearning

As education rapidly moves online, educators are starting to rethink teaching methods. Modern-day alternatives, such as interactive learning, real-time student collaboration and microlearning, are gaining popularity due to the fact that the way people seek knowledge and acquire skills is drastically changing. Specifically, through what medium are people learning and how they consume information. 

As mentioned above, today, microlearning is one of several highly effective methods. The key is that it’s no longer about the duration, rather, it’s about focus. Cutting out the excessive amount of information and creating bite-sized learning units, which are easier for students to digest, hence creating an effective learning environment that helps to prevent student burnout. And with its digital nature, microlearning content can be delivered in the form of a video – recorded or live – to fit today’s students better.  

So, how can educators deliver engaging, digestible and cost-effective microlearning content to students? Here are some helpful techniques to apply. 

What is microlearning?

Breaking down information into topical portions allows educators to quickly deliver lessons to students, once they’ve had the opportunity to discuss goals and expectations. Moreover, learners prefer this method to long-form courses because they can make good use of idle times between assignments and classes. 

Why is microlearning important?

Traditional booklets and practice worksheets are a hassle to update, leave room for errors and the repeated printing process is costly and not environmental-friendly. While microlearning, with its modular nature, is less resource-intensive and provides more flexibility for educators when it comes to creating and updating content, which helps to accommodate students’ unique requirements for learning. 

Who is using microlearning today?

To work around the modern attention span (human attention spans are decreasing!) and students’ busy schedules, short bursts of learning sessions, in fact, encourage them to give it their undivided attention and complete efforts. Plus, if these shorter sessions are delivered regularly, it creates good spaced repetition for students, which allows new knowledge to sink in and existing information to solidify. Because microlearning promotes an informal learning environment – in which many students feel at ease and are able to grasp small chunks of information, at their own pace, wherever they are and when they’re ready – it’s twice as engaging as traditional learning and is more efficient in transferring knowledge. 

How to get started using microlearning?

Long-form content very often leaves students overwhelmed, frustrated and feeling defeated. They end up with a lot of learning anxiety and retained little information. By cutting out all the fluffs (extraneous information or the nice-to-know things), educators can deliver relevant knowledge that students can absorb quickly and apply to solve their problems promptly. As mentioned above, when microlearning is combined with spaced repetition, students are exposed to the same information – simplified and bite-sized – over and over again. This carefully planned learning method helps them to develop multiple ways of retrieving knowledge, which aids in a faster recall. 

Positive changes to neural connections occur when learning experiences are active, and it’s even more important when students are seeking help online. Microlearning is usually defined as asynchronous learning, but educators could certainly use microlearning in synchronous environments. A common asynchronous method is to make a short recorded video with a few critical thinking questions for the students to work on (the entire exercise should take them 5-7 minutes at most to complete). While a synchronous activity could be a brief, live online session in which educators and students can interact with one another. This is highly beneficial because educators can provide feedback in real-time and students can get positive reinforcement of the desire performance or using a new skill. Plus, this is a reciprocal system, where educators can get feedback from the students and adapt their teaching strategies or provide additional information if there are questions. So, with either synchronous or asynchronous microlearning, educators can boost interactivity while maintaining focus.

Below are several microlearning apps that give students the opportunity to learn during moments they otherwise would not have been able to. 

TEDEd – Contains TEDEd lessons that are essentially short educational videos and everyone is welcome to create their own. 
Google Primer – A free mobile app that contains short, interactive videos to help learners hone their business and marketing skills. 
Simple Habit – An app that offers short, audio-guided mindfulness content developed by educators, on topics such as personal growth and work.
Kurzgesagt – A YouTube channel with brief, science-based videos that educate learners on popular topics. 

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