Microlearning is a concept keyword given to activities and content that has been designed to communicate quickly and effectively.
Dr Marius Foley and his colleagues teach communication design, and use scenario-based and project-based learning activities in their courses. They develop microLearning content and activities to help their students engage at whatever time might be best suited for them. Marius’ approach to #microLearning has been to produce a series of 1 minute or less videos, uploaded and arranged in Youtube, and other relevant and useful content of equal brevity is added to the video page’s title and description, as well as the final web page that the video is displayed in. The videos are designed to work on mobile phones with limited connectivity or battery life, and can be viewed without sound.
Obviously microLearning is a design consideration that is relevant to a wide range of topics in Marius’ communication design courses, so it goes without saying that the teachers of those courses need to demonstrate design thinking in their teaching. More broadly though, microLearning is a useful approach for communicating concepts to large numbers of people at varying locations and times, and to aid them in completing tasks in a series of bite-sized activities. microLearning compels a content designer to think about the variety of contexts and situations for the users of the content, including all other information competing for their attention, and to break messages down to their key concepts. Ultimately the #microLearning content is presented it in such a way so as to be attractive, accessible and usable in all those situations and contexts; and connected to other content or activities for those who want to go further.
- Start with imagining a range of situations and environments that affect the end user. Marius tended to imagine mostly a mobile situation with content made attractive and accessible on any smart phone. Marius’ went further and imagined users on public transport with limited and interrupted connectivity, low battery life, and some without headphones.
- Decide on the formats most useful to those situations and contexts. Marius decided that even in the situations he had imagined, video would be the format that could communicate the most information within the shortest possible time. He did however include descriptive text around the video in case playback was not possible; subtitles in case sound was not possible; and links to the same information but in other formats in case video was not preferred.
- Determine what needs to be communicated and in what way within the chosen format. Marius elected a combination of screenrecordings (to demonstrate software in overview) and a presenter speaking through concepts (so as to demonstrate pronunciation and their use within a conceptual context). The videos were designed for distribution on Youtube – so as to be assured of a reliable and efficient playback; with subtitles for those who needed text or could not play sound; useful titles and descriptions to offer further information around the videos if they couldn’t be played at all.
Dr Marius Foley (Lecturer, School of Media and Communication)
Leigh Blackall (Educational Developer, College of Design and Social Context)