Microlearning - The Silent College Revolution

What is Microlearning?

Studying online has brought many hardships for students, and most will agree with me when I say that we are generally more worried about meeting the assignment deadlines, instead of learning something new.

My start to college education was completely thrown upside down by COVID. I am currently a freshman at USC and took all my classes from Dubai. With the time zone difference and not knowing my classmates in person, I was pretty confused and disorganized at the beginning of the semester. However, as days went by, I started to incorporate new ways of organizing myself - anything from to-do lists to establishing morning routines (which usually happened early afternoon due to the time shift…).

Beginning my freshman year of university online, I was coping with a new reality of remote-only studies. Over time, my studying pattern became what one would describe as typical microlearning. Microlearning is loosely defined as a method for short-term learning activities to boost studying efficiency and retention. Studies have shown that students learn more deeply when they are focused on a subject for a short period of time, with a more personalized approach. After reflecting on this behavior shift, here are some of the benefits I noticed.

1. Increased efficiency

Microlearning allows you to prioritize your studies and assignments, and focus on areas that you might be struggling with. Many of us have a hard time managing our time (I’m just as guilty of this as anybody else). However, this is where microlearning comes into play. You have the liberty to prioritize each of your assignments, which helps you learn faster and organize your work.

2. Allows personalization

With micro-learning, you can create a much more personalized approach, which enables you to customize a course to your needs and skills. This approach has proven to be very effective and beneficial when it comes to studying for finals especially! There is no ‘one size fits all’ learning approach for all students. Let me give you a specific example of how I used microlearning to personalize my business class, which is considered a ‘weeder class’ (stressful/tough class) at USC!

I was often given over 50 pages to read each week and had other assignments on top of that. I was all over the place, and had no idea where the start! However, the first thing I did was to compile all my readings into one place and start from there. There were often instances where I would get stuck in the middle of the readings and forget what I read the day before. After facing this issue a couple of times, I decided to look for online tools that would help me create a personalized learning approach for this class. After trying out a few tools, I eventually went with, Polar mostly because it had the simplest workflow organizing my readings, highlighting, and creating flashcards directly from my highlights. With my final being cumulative over the semester, I was required to know everything from the book. I knew reading each page again would be a waste of time. Instead, I decided to make flashcards for each important concept and only reviewed those before my final. And guess what. I rocked the final (keeping in mind this is considered a ‘weeder class’, this was a great accomplishment for me!)

3. Aids focus and retention

While studying online during COVID, many of us tend to get overwhelmed with the number of assignments and readings for classes. It can be very difficult for us to remember what we’ve heard or learned in class. There is a vast amount of scientific research indicating that micro-learning helps us with attention and retention. Specifically, the research indicates that the use of microlearning makes a person at least 17% more efficient with their work. And let me tell you something: Numbers don’t lie!

4. Requires less time

You don’t need to spend 80% of your time on homework anymore! Organizing myself with a micro-learning mindset allowed me to cut down the time on assignments more than ever before. This in return, opened up time to focus on other study materials that required my attention or just to take some extra time to recover.

5. Reduces Mental Fatigue

As students, we want to get the full student experience which is usually not just classes. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance offers a myriad of benefits such as increased productivity, strong mental and physical well-being, and time for other activities/hobbies.Research shows that microlearning helps us reduce our mental fatigue and stress by helping the brain focus on information logically and efficiently.

Getting started with micro-learning:

Getting started with microlearning is relatively straightforward. You don’t need to make any major adjustments in what tools you use, just how you use them. Here are some of the tools I use for microlearning:

Polar allows you to organize all your readings and supports EPUB, PDFs, and web pages. You can also create flashcards anywhere you like. Plus, this tool is free for students! With Zotero, it becomes much easier to collect, organize, and cite your research. Most of you reading this would already know about Quizlet: a fast and efficient way to create flashcards. Lastly, Grammarly is also a very useful tool to help you with your writing and grammar skills.

Posted on: 2020-12-11