How Microlearning is Stopping Student Burnout Syndrome
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BY TIM MONSON
All through our early years and first forays into the world of education, we’re told time and time again that learning requires time, dedication, perseverance. We’re taught that it needs hours, and hours, and hours and while this is true in a sense, it isn’t the whole story. Indeed, many would claim that some of the most effective learning we can partake intakes the same amount of you need to make a decent cup of tea – just ten minutes out of your busy schedule.
That is the essence of microlearning; short bursts of learning which take between ten and fifteen minutes. While it may sound like the latest buzzword in educating, it’s nothing new. Indeed, teachers have been utilizing microlearning for decades. It just didn’t have the catchy title back then.
A typical example we can all relate to is the use of flashcards. Most of us can remember these squares of cardboard being brought out in high school language lessons, for example, and the combination of words and pictures proved to be a quick and straightforward way of getting a concept across. Today, flashcards aren’t just analog tools – they’ve very much entered the digital realm – and they work on the idea that information can sometimes be best imparted in short, sharp bursts. For example, some of top-notch educational blogs on writing use some of microlearning concepts, such as flash cards or data visualization for better comprehension.
What Exactly Is Microlearning?
Educators are always on the lookout for ways to help students bring the information they’ve already learned into new, memorable forms of content. Microlearning is a fantastic way of getting students to use their knowledge, and retain it in their volatile memories.
With just a few ten-minute bursts, students are shown to be more efficient at reiterating concepts and information they’ve been learning, thanks to the hyper-focused and easily digestible format that forms the heart of microlearning. It’s most visibly useful in the worlds of chemistry and mathematics when formulae need to be memorized and utilized, but the concept can also be used efficiently in a wide range of disciplines. Creative, innovative, and very much student-friendly, this new approach is taking the world of education by storm.
Microlearning has also proven to be naturally applicable in the world of social media, too. Tools like Twitter and Snapchat, which base themselves around ‘flashes’ of content – short, sharp, easily consumed – have been critical to its spread and influence, as students are taking to their social media accounts to share their microlearning materials. No doubt university professors and faculty members will be following en masse before too long.
There’s more pressure than ever before to succeed, and workloads piled onto students often drive them to the breaking point. As studies become more complex, more time-consuming, and ultimately more stressful, approaches like microlearning – which breaks education down into small pieces – may be the solution to the perils of burning out or facing exhaustive overload. Microlearning repeats information in small chunks and allows busy students to synthesize what they’ve learned. They’re more able to connect the dots and utilize their knowledge in context, and it doesn’t strain the brain to the breaking point in the process. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?
Videos, social media posts, quick puzzles; all of these things are fitting the needs and schedules of today’s busy students far more efficiently than slaving through piles of textbooks. What’s more, as microlearning is mostly a digital approach, the materials can be easily accessed anywhere: in the pub, on the bus, in the bath; the options are endless, and don’t require sitting in dusty libraries all day long!
The Power of Social Media for Microlearning
Social media is the key that will facilitate the rise of microlearning as a discipline. Sites like Facebook have replaced traditional conduits of communication and education alike, and have formed the landscape with which today’s students are most familiar. Indeed, students today engage in microlearning on social media all the time, without necessarily realize they’re doing so. The quick instructional video – whether for baking a cake or conducting a science experiment – is a familiar site on your Facebook wall, and allows lots of knowledge to be imparted quickly, comfortably, and in any setting.By encouraging the use of social media as a learning tool, educators and students alike can utilize sites and systems they’re already highly comfortable with – yet another reason why this approach is tackling the issues of student burnout.
Experts in this field have identified three specific features of successful microlearning. By integrating these things into your studying schedule, you too can avoid that all-consuming sensation of burnout, and study more efficiently for your course or degree. It should:
◾Offer opportunities to increase and deepen the retention of information
◾Stimulate and create active communities of learners
◾Increase the engagement of students, and thus deflect burnout
One of the easiest ways to kickstart this approach is for students in a particular class to establish a course hashtag – #19thcenturyliteratureinLondon – for example. By using this hashtag on Twitter, students can share resources, thoughts, stimulate discussion or share recommendations. The result? Fun, engaging, shareable content which will encourage thought and study outside of the classroom.
This approach is spreading quickly, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Before long, we can expect to see microlearning becoming a crucial part of university life… and considering the effect this has on avoiding student burnout, that can only be a good thing.
Tim Monson is a freelance writer, PhD, student and an active adherent of implementing digital technologies in education.
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