In the landscape of digital learning, there’s an emerging trend that’s hard to ignore: the rise of microlearning. While traditional search engines such as Google used to be a primary choice when seeking information, more people are instead turning to hubs like TikTok or Instagram for bite-sized educational content.
Microlearning offers information or instruction in small, focused segments – something that our shorter and shorter attention spans crave.
The rise of microlearning speaks to a larger appeal for the ability to pause, replay, and resume learning whenever desired. The short, focused bursts of content are not only engaging but also immensely effective. Acquiring information in smaller, more digestible chunks also allows retention rates to skyrocket.
Why microlearning’s popularity Is growing
We can look to Generation Z to observe the growth in popularity of simplified learning. Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z are between the ages of 11 to 26. These young individuals are transitioning through pivotal educational stages such as middle school, high school, and college.
Google executive Prabhakar Raghavan recently shared how Gen Z has changed the way that they search for information online. “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram,” he said.
An inherent familiarity with technology and the anticipation of immediate access to information, however, isn’t exclusive to Gen Z; both Millennials and Gen X also share similar preferences. They too seek to learn swiftly and effectively without an overwhelming level of commitment or workload. Post-pandemic, many people now prioritize more autonomy and flexibility in their daily lives, including in their approach to learning.
Microlearning is often characterized by brief learning sessions lasting less than 10 minutes, but this isn’t a strict guideline. Any educational content that distills information into a concise format can qualify as a form of microlearning.
Here are some specific examples of microlearning platforms and formats:
Infographics and Guides
These are typically visual representations of information, data, or knowledge presented quickly and clearly. A great example is the Reddit subreddit r/coolguides. You can learn about everything from making your own spice blends to replacing vehicle fluids.
Many people turn to YouTube to search for a specific question they have about a product or process instead of reading a lengthy manual. Common searches include how to tie a scarf, how to build your own bed frame, or how to change a car tire.
Social Media Storytelling
Short video snippets or photographs can do more than just answer questions, they can also bring together the chapters of a larger story. In an effort to educate and engage younger adults about the Holocaust, an Instagram account called Eva Stories details the life of Eva Heyman, a young Jewish girl who documented her experiences during the Nazi invasion. The story is told entirely through Instagram Stories.
Challenging your understanding of a subject through testing can be illuminating. Research underscores the impact of quizzing on enhancing long-term memory. While reading offers initial exposure to information, quizzing validates our grasp and recall of the content. You can test your knowledge at a bar’s trivia night, doing a crossword puzzle, or studying for a particular personal goal with a quizzing app like Pocket Prep or Lumosity.
Interactive Tours or Maps
Advancements in camera technology have created the ability for anyone to visit historical sites without having to be physically present. You can virtually enter the Great Pyramid of Giza or explore a handful of World Heritage sites, all from the comfort of home. Google Earth and Street View are also quick ways to get a feel for a physical environment without having to be there in person.
Many people are applying microlearning to their reading. Companies like Headway, Blinkist, and getAbstract offer condensed versions of popular books allowing readers to grasp the main ideas and concepts in a fraction of the time it would take to read the full text. Many of these services cover a book’s key takeaways in less than 15 minutes.
The value of microlearning on our cognitive load
Microlearning offers a refreshing approach to discovering new information that doesn’t feel overwhelming or overbearing. It can serve as an instrument of inspiration and ignite a newfound curiosity or passion to delve into new topics.
From considering a new career change to deciding on tonight’s dinner, the thought of sifting through vast amounts of information to reach a decision can be daunting. By streamlining and distilling the information into bite sized chunks, we free up our cognitive bandwidth to tackle more complex subjects directly.
As technology and online social platforms continue to evolve and shape the way we access information, microlearning stands out as a beacon of modern educational practice. Whether you’re a Gen Z student or a Millennial professional, the allure of microlearning is undeniable.
Embracing it means not just staying updated but truly understanding and internalizing the world around us. Dive into the world of microlearning and you’ll find a path to knowledge that’s as engaging as it is efficient.