A Creative Education Avenue for Microlearning

A Creative Education Avenue for Microlearning

This article originally appeared in Training & Development magazine, December 2018 Vol. 45 No. 4, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development.
By Rik Bair

This article originally appeared in Training & Development magazine, December 2018 Vol. 45 No. 4, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development.

A Creative Education Avenue for Microlearning

By Rik Bair
Although microlearning has been referred to as an emergent learning strategy that is ideal for filling knowledge gaps or providing a burst of instruction for a needed skill in a timely manner, one might propose that microlearning is not emergent (Shank, 2018). It is rather the repackaging of prior learning concepts with a sexier name than some of its predecessors, such as ‘learning objects’ and ‘chunking’. Looking beyond the hype of the microlearning moniker, it is important to define what type of learning the instructional designers are working to achieve.
Division of Continuing and International Education

 

Characterising microlearning

For this discussion, microlearning instruction is characterised as a short event with typically one objective. The content in a microlearning unit assumes any manner of forms, such as a video, quiz, game, Ted Talk, or simply a person guiding the learner to perform a new task, where the learner is acquiring knowledge or a skill. In whichever manner the training occurs, the focus is on a narrow concept or topic that enables the learner to benefit with an immediate result. Another added benefit is the short time needed for the learner to gain the new concept, skill or knowledge. Instead of investing in a macrolearning unit for a more formal training, this far less disruptive solution fits better into a busy learner’s schedule.

Implementing microlearning

Microlearning is an obvious tool for instructional design at all levels to meet the various learner needs. There has been a rise in the number of universities and organisations that have been partnering with businesses to provide small bursts of various lengths of learning units the past few years. The implementation of microlearning could serve as a unique technique for a learner who is considering their higher education options

Under the scope of filling knowledge gaps, the authors are pursuing the use of microlearning through a "taster" effect that provides higher and continuing education learners the opportunity to gain knowledge about a program before spending a substantial sum of money and then feeling trapped in a program that did not turn out to be what they initially perceived.

Thus, this is not for every program topic at the university level but would serve as an introduction of sorts to programs that are mystifying through normal course descriptions. The instructional design of these microlearning units is with the intent to engage the potential learner within the chosen topic. The learner should acquire a concept from the program and perform or simulate a simple task using what they just learned.

Demystifying university programs

For example, if a learner were looking for information on a geospatial technology program, they might go to the program website and experience uncertainty about the depth of what they would be learning and what they would actually do in the working environment once acquiring this certification or degree.

In this example, a microlearning unit could place the learner in the role of a city or county commissioner whose task is to determine whether the current size of the police force was adequate. The learner would be provided with geospatial maps showing data such as housing costs and the number of crimes committed by groupings in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Through analysis of the data, the learner would submit a recommendation to the commission based on already provided options, and then instantly receive feedback on their recommendation.

This working taster provides the learner with a sample of what geospatial technology is and how it might be implemented so they can make an informed decision of whether or not to enroll in the program.

Division of Continuing and International Education

Engaging international students

Another example that currently is taking place as part of an international continuing education outreach involves a partnership with the University of Miami and various sports clubs in Brazil.

The University of Miami is targeting clubs with the largest memberships first and introducing a program track that begins with microlearning units. In conjunction with kinesiology professors, the instructional design team has created five topics as introductory units in which club members could enroll, including sport marketing and promotion, sport injuries, sport conditioning, sport nutrition, and public relations and event management.

The concept is to develop a partnership where the club members can be introduced to online certificate programs offered by the University of Miami that would benefit the teams and the businesses that support them. Members can enroll in any, or all, of the five microlearning units and get a taste of what learning would be like in the certificate program.

Upon completion of all five units, the learner earns a certificate with both the university and club logos. The learner can then decide if they would like to enroll in a full certificate program in one of the topics introduced and, as a result of the microlearning process, clearly understand how the learning will take place and what will be expected.

Because the target audience is composed of club members, the marketing costs are nil because the clubs engage their membership to promote the learning opportunities through social media.

A meaningful experience

In both examples, a key to the microlearning design is to engage the learners with a meaningful experience that implements some critical thinking elements. The experiences are informational with the inclusion of a small project or simulation that allows the learners to engage with the content.

The learners also get to preview the focus of each program and how it may benefit or interest them prior to investing in it financially. This complete experience builds a better understanding that could result in a stronger partnership with, and retention of, some university programs. If the learner completes the microlearning unit and decides against the topic, then through critical thinking, they save time and money.

Division of Continuing and International Education