Recently, I read this post by Peggy Semingson. In it, she discusses the concept of microlearning in online education. She defines microlearning as:
Microlearning consists of microcontent that is delivered via an electronic device, including but not limited to a mobile device, app, learning management system, computer, and/or laptop. The goal is to “chunk” learning into smaller bits of content so as not to overwhelm the learner.
While you can apply microlearning to your online courses, you can apply them in F2F situations as well. When I read Peggy’s article, I realized I had been utilizing a broader version of the concept in my F2F classes and would now be thinking about how to apply it in my online ones.
So, what does microlearning look like in F2F? Well, think about it in terms of chunking. When I taught F2F, my classes met once a week for two hours and fifty minutes. What was I going to do with that time? Well, obviously, the first thing to consider was what I wanted students to focus on and (hopefully) learn during a single session. Then, I needed to consider how I would use the time to get us there. This is where chunking came in.
I would chunk learning segments into experiences that ranged from 15 minutes all the way up to 45 minutes. Fifteen minutes might represent a video followed by a 10 minute discussion. Then, we would shift into our next chunk of class time. A 45 minutes stretch might seem too long to be a chunk, but within that 45 minutes I would break it down into smaller bits. For example, while the entire 45 minutes might be focused on learning one or two concepts, The first 10 minutes might be a lecture, the next 20 might be small group or independent work, and then the last 10-15 minutes could be a debriefing. So even with a 45 minute spread we are shifting and doing different things. Nothing is the same for a straight 45 minutes.
I had all of this written out on a sheet of paper in a notebook that I used for the given class. Actually, I had it written out in two places. First, it was documented on our class website in the overview section where I described what students could expect to happen on a given day. They could see the chunks of class and what we would do within it. However, I didn’t write down how much time would be devoted to each chunk. I had that sketched out in my notebook (I’ll talk more about my teaching notebook next week).
I have never directly solicited student feedback on my approach to how I structure class. However, comments have inadvertently made their way to me. These include:
I was worried about what we would be doing for nearly three hours! I thought I would be bored, but we’re always doing different things in class. We never did the same thing for too long.
Class always goes by fast because we always do a number of things. I appreciate how things were switched up and how we got to do a variety of activities in a single session.
This class is engaging! I love all the different things we get to do.
Honestly, I like it too. I like that we change things up and move around and engage with concepts in different ways over the course of a class. So while chunking, and microlearning, is certainly important in online classes, it’s a useful concept in F2F ones too.
How do you use chunking and microlearning in your classes? How would you like to? Tell me in the comments or tag it on twitter at #teachingacademia