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Get Inspired: Five Examples of Good Microlearning Design

 

In my last blog post, I introduced a few characteristics of good microlearning design: 

  1. Sessions should be short (5-10 minutes or less).

  2. Sessions should be focused on one task or concept

  3. They should have no more than 10 seconds of introductory material.

  4. They should be genuine— in other words, they should feel relatable and personal.

  5. They should be accessible, compatible with multiple platforms, and searchable. Learners can learn while at work, on their lunch breaks, on the bus, at home, on their laptops, via Chromecast, etc.

  6. The sessions should have easy controls to pause, skip back 30 seconds, or rewind (so learners can follow along, take notes, etc.). If in text or another format, the sessions need to have equivalent functionality. 

I've found five examples of microlearning that demonstrate these principles.

 

1:  How to Make Your Own Nut Butter

This video provides a short tutorial on how to make homemade nut butter from pecans and almonds.

5-10 minutes Yes Clocks in at 4 minutes and 6 seconds.
Focused on one task or concept Yes I think the section with the blender could have been trimmed back a little bit, but overall, the video is focused enough for me to give it a "Yes" in this category. 
10 seconds of instruction (or less)  Yes In fact, there's barely any introductory material at all. 
Feels relatable and personal Yes The conversational tone and background music lend a lighthearted feel. 
Accessible from any internet-connected device Yes This video is hosted on YouTube™, so it's accessible by smartphone, PC, and tablet. 
Learner-controlled pacing Yes YouTube™'s desktop and mobile functionality allow learners to easily pause and back up. 

 

2: Extra Credits: Achievements

The Extra Credits series of YouTube™ videos explore concepts in video game design; I often turn to them for new ideas about designing e-learning. This example talks about using achievements in gameplay.

5-10 minutes Yes Clocks in at 4 minutes and 51 seconds.
Focused on one task or concept Yes It's not a performance-focused video, but it only discusses the topic of achievements in video games. 
10 seconds of instruction (or less)  No There's about 45 seconds of background information up front, so I can't say that is aligns with this suggested practice. However, the intro is presented in a fun way; therefore, learners are more likely to stay tuned in for the more applicable content later. 
Feels relatable and personal Yes Uses an animated style and simple, fast-paced imagery to help illustrate concepts. 
Accessible from any internet-connected device Yes Hosted on YouTube™, so it's accessible by smartphone, PC, and tablet. 

 

3: Duolingo

This multiplatform language learning application has social media integration and elements of gamification. Can it also be an example of microlearning? I think so.

5-10 minutes Yes 5 to 10 minutes is generally enough time to complete one lesson, and often enough to complete two or three. 
Focused on one task or concept Yes Each lesson usually focuses on a set of 8-10 related worlds. For example, Spanish Basics 3 introduces, pan, como, comes, agua, leche, bebe, bebo, and bebes
10 seconds of instruction (or less)  Yes It takes just a couple seconds to launch a lesson from the home page. 
Feels relatable and personal Yes The Lingot Store, discussion pages, and social media integration help learners personalize their experience and connect to a larger network of language students. 
Accessible from any internet-connected device Yes Duolingo has a web app for desktop users, but learners can also complete lessons via mobile app on iPhone®, Android™, and Microsoft® Windows Phone®.  
Learner-controlled pacing Yes Learners have complete control over how quickly they progress through the curriculum and each individual lesson. 

 

4: Udacity

Udacity is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), but many of the videos and exercises that make up a given lesson from an Udacity course are good examples of microlearning. For this blog post, I've reviewed the first few lessons from the Android Development for Beginners course.

5-10 minutes Yes The first two videos clock in, respectively, at 2 minutes and 5 seconds, and 1 minute and 23 seconds. 
Focused on one task or concept Yes The first video provides a brief overview of how far the 25-hour curriculum will take learners, and the second discusses the importance of tenacity when learning something new. 
10 seconds of instruction (or less)  Yes I can launch a new lesson with just a few clicks, and each video gets right to the topic at hand. 
Feels relatable and personal Yes Dialog between the hosts gives each short video a conversational tone, and learners can use forums to connect with other learners. 
Accessible from any internet-connected device Yes Udacity is available on the Web, but also has Android™ and iPhone® apps. Perfect! 
Learner-controlled pacing Yes Learners control the pacing of each lesson and how quickly they progress through the curriculum. 

 

5: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

In closing, I'm going to add one example that might be more controversial. My favorite feature of the Dictionary.com app is the Word of the Day notification, which I receive each day, usually while I'm having breakfast. It's a short, convenient way for me to learn words like "otiose" and "ubiety" (two words from this past week).

5-10 minutes Yes If it's a word I don't already know, I open the app through the notification tray and read the definition. After listening to the pronunciation a few times and reading the example sentences aloud, at most I've spent 3 minutes. 
Focused on one task or concept Yes One word is given at a time. 
10 seconds of instruction (or less)  Yes Each entry is organized exactly like a dictionary: definition first, then example sentences. There's virtually no wasted space or time. 
Feels relatable and personal Yes The site and app track my recent searches, my favorite words, trending word searches, and links to topics. 
Accessible from any internet-connected device Yes Available on the Web, but also has Android™, iPhone®, and Microsoft® Windows Phone® apps. 
Learner-controlled pacing Yes I can set my notification preferences, and it's up to me whether I decide to access the word that appears in my daily notification. 

 


 

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About Author

Ellen Burns-Johnson
Ellen Burns-Johnson

Ellen Burns-Johnson has over a decade of experience in the education and training industries. She has crafted the instructional strategy and design for dozens of major initiatives across diverse topics, from classroom safety to IT sales. Emphasizing collaboration and playfulness in her approach to creating learning experiences, Ellen’s work has earned multiple industry awards for interactivity and game-based design. Ellen is also a Certified Scrum Master® and strives to bring the principles of Agile to life in the L&D field. Whether a client is a Fortune 100 company or a local nonprofit, she believes that the best learning experiences are created through processes built on transparency between sponsors and developers, empirical processes, and respect for learners. Outside of her LXD work, Ellen plays video games (and sometimes makes them) and runs around the Twin Cities with her two mischievous dogs (ask for pictures).

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