Student Writing English Teachers 2020-12-16 00:00

What Is Microlearning and How Can It Improve Student Writing Outcomes?


Have you heard of microlearning? This form of skills-based teaching breaks learning into bite-sized chunks for on-demand education. It’s a hot topic in the eLearning world and provides strategies you can use in the classroom.

Microlearning has the exciting potential to increase retention and boost grades. But before you ditch your current planning to go all-in microlearning, it only works for those small discrete skills you want your students to master.

So how does microlearning work, and how can you apply it to writing in your classroom? Here’s everything you need to know.

  1. What Is Microlearning?
  2. Microlearning as a Teaching Strategy
  3. How to Use Microlearning with Student Writing
  4. Benefits of Microlearning
  5. Final Thoughts

What Is Microlearning?

Microlearning gives quick answers to specific problems or questions. It provides just the amount of information needed to achieve a goal on demand.

Generally, microlearning means:

  • Short burst of time
  • Focused on a single, easily achievable goal
  • Narrow topic
  • Little effort to achieve success

It’s big news in the eLearning industry. Microlearning is used by course creators to develop training programs, not just for children, but across a whole range of disciplines and careers. Instead of long training courses, technology is used to teach skills in short busts with a very specific focus.

Microlearning, as the name suggests, should be short, but there’s no rule to follow on how long sessions should last. They can be anything from a few seconds up to fifteen minutes or more.

Microlearning as a Teaching Strategy

Microlearning is not meant to replace traditional teaching. It’s not designed to teach basic knowledge and doesn’t provide a lot of context or details. That means if you want your students to reflect, analyse, or compare, it’s not the best tool to use.

Instead, think about those small discrete skills you want your students to understand and use in their writing. Traditionally, you would weave these into a longer lesson as part of your expected outcomes for the entire unit of work.

With microlearning, each separate component gets its own session. That doesn’t mean just chopping your long lesson into smaller parts. Instead, identify each of those specific skills and plan microlearning sessions just long enough to teach each one.

Microlearning lends itself to spaced retrieval practice. This lets your students keep practising these same essential skills to better remember them.

How to Use Microlearning with Student Writing

Microlearning was designed for online learning. It uses technology to provide different learning formats such as video tutorials, podcasts, and interactive guides. But what about in your classroom? Can you apply microlearning techniques to the standard writing lessons you teach?

Let’s take something students often struggle to learn as an example: how to write dialogue. Your students’ first experience of dialogue isn’t suited to microlearning. They need to explore it, see it in books to understand its purpose, and experiment with using it.

But once the basic understanding is in place, microlearning is useful for teaching all those narrow skills your students need to write dialogue accurately themselves. Instead of general outcomes like "punctuate dialogue accurately," drill down to a very specific skill such as using capital letters inside inverted commas.

To find opportunities for microlearning:

  • Teach students the basic knowledge they need
  • Decide on an area to develop
  • Break it down into general skills needed
  • Drill down further to find the microlearning sessions

There are no rules about how you should deliver microlearning, just that you need a very clear, specific focus. It should be easy to measure if a student is successful at the end of the burst of learning.


What writing skills are suited to microlearning?

You’ll soon see that some areas of student writing benefit from a microlearning approach. It’s easy to find lots of narrow skills you need to teach for them to be successful.

These include:

  • Applying grammar rules
  • Punctuation
  • Changing tense and person
  • Active and passive voice

Microlearning sessions often pose a question that needs answering. This makes it easy for students to measure their success against the objective. For example, if you pose the question How do I change a verb from present to past tense?, your students can show they can do it at the end of the session.

Delivering Microlearning

Look at the approach taken by the eLearning industry to plan engaging and enjoyable microlearning sessions. Choose your activities carefully and make them as short as possible to achieve the goal.

You can use:

Don’t get distracted away from the purpose of the session. If an activity doesn’t quite fit, don’t use it. At the end of your session, every student should know the skill they were learning and be able to show if they’ve achieved it.

These microlearning sessions are perfect for you to drop into future lessons and use as home learning to keep developing their understanding.

Benefits of Microlearning

Students learn better in short bursts. A narrow focus means they easily achieve success and have clarity about exactly what they’re learning.

Students who keep practising the same skills over time learn better. The more they practice something, the less they need to think about it. It becomes automatic and frees up their working memory for new information.

Final Thoughts

Before you throw out your lesson plans, remember microlearning is not meant to replace the full learning experience. You can’t use it to teach basic knowledge. It’s also useless when you need a deeper reflective process. It works as one tool among many you’ll use in your classroom.

You can’t just cut your lessons into smaller pieces. Think of each microlearning session as a complete lesson with a laser focus on a specific skill or chunk of knowledge.

Will you be using microlearning in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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