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1 Definition

  • “ Microlearning deals with relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities. Generally, the term 'microlearning' refers to micro-perspectives in the context of learning, education and training. More frequently, the term is used in the domain of E-learning and related fields in the sense of a new paradigmatic perspective on learning processes in mediated environments on micro levels.” (Wikipedia, retrieved 18:44, 24 July 2007 (MEST)).
  • [Microlearning] “ is a term used in the e-learning context for a learner's short interaction with a learning matter broken down to very small bits of content. At present this term is not clearly defined. Learning processes that have been called "microlearning" can cover a span from some seconds (e.g. in mobile learning) to 15 minutes (learning objects sent as e-mails). There is some relation to older concepts like Microteaching. Of course the notion of microlearning rises the question of adequate Micropedagogy and Microdidactics, as well as the problem of learning itself.” (Microwiki), retrieved 18:44, 24 July 2007 (MEST).)
  • [Microlearning] “ in a wider sense is a term that can be used to describe the way more and more people are actually doing informal learning and gaining knowledge in Microcontent and Micromedia/Multitasking environments (see Microcosmos), especially those that become increasingly based on Web 2.0 and Wireless Web technologies. In this wider sense the borders between Microlearning and the complementary concept of Microknowledge are blurring.” (Microwiki), retrieved 18:44, 24 July 2007 (MEST).

Related forms of learning are "just in time open learning" and "on the spot learning". Microlearning mostly happens in an informal learning and particularly in a life-long learning context, but not exclusively. museum learning for example is a form of microlearning.

Often microlearning is associated with mobile learning or more ambitious ubiquitous learning.

2 Forms of Microlearning

Theo Hug (2006:9) identifies various forms of microlearning and that can be identified through the following dimensions:

  • Time: relatively short effort, operating expense, degree of time consumption, measurable time, subjective time, etc.
  • Content: small or very small units, narrow topics, rather simplex issues, etc.
  • Curriculum: part of curricular setting, parts of modules, elements of informal learning, etc.
  • Form: fragments, facets, episodes, "knowledge nuggets", skill elements, etc.
  • Process: separate, concomitant or actual, situated or integrated activities, iterative method, attention management, awareness (getting into or being in a process), etc.
  • Mediality: face-to-face, mono-media vs. multi-media, (inter-)mediated, information objects or learning objects, symbolic value, cultural capital, etc.
  • Learning type: repetitive, activist, reflective, pragmatist, conceptionalist, constructivist, connectivist, behaviourist, learning by example, task or exercise, goal- or problem-oriented, "along the way", action learning, classroom learning, corporate learning, conscious vs. unconscious, etc.

3 Tools and instructional designs

Firstly, a lot of social software, e.g. shared production portals like Skillsfeed or simple wikis like this one provide bits of contents that can be used for learning.

To integrate microlearning activities, learners may use a personal learning environment.

3.1 The Kerres model

One important question is how to relate microcontents with some idea of instructional design. Kerres (2007:12) makes a point for personal learning environments and he argues that “the task of instructional design would imply to provide an arrangement of contents and tools that can be intrinsically interwoven with the personal workspace of the learner”.

Kerres (2007:12-14) defines a model that is somewhat compatible with more traditional instructional design models, but that is rather based on the German concept of "Bildung", that emphasizes the emergent and situated process of learning. It's in Daniel K. Schneider's opinion not a microlearning model, but a use of microcontents model.

Here is a summarized and probably slightly altered description version with some comments by Daniel K. Schneider.

  1. An elearning environment should be perceived as a "gate" to the internet as a whole but may include specially prepared contents (in particular assignments given to the learner).
  2. The learning portal aggregates (typically small) contents from the net and integrates them as an integral part of the learning environment. They are fetched by XML-feeds from other sites.
  3. Complex materials can be integrated as learning objects that contain learning materials as well as metadata describing the content, e.g. a sequences for delivering the content.
  4. Materials that are being produced within the learning environment should be offered as feeds for reuse at other sites on the net, e.g. for delivery on mobile devices.
  5. Learners and teachers / authors use the same tools for working with contents of various kinds, for editing and sharing documents, like weblogs, wikis, forum, pictures, calendars (e.g. see the list of web 2.0 applications. Teachers and learners actively participate in developing the learning environment - with small differences regarding administrative rights to the learning environment.
  6. Users (teachers and learners) use free tags or tags from a taxonomy to describe informations produced.
  7. Users can use tools of their choice to produce and work on content. Learners are encouraged to arrange their own digital work space and to integrate existing tools.
  8. There is a smooth transition between the personal learning environment and the environment people use for their work and other personal activities on the net. Teaching means observing, participating and evaluating the individual and social learning activities within the learning environment.
  9. The environment supports social group processes by making visible what tools the users prefer and providing direct access to these tools.
  10. The system supports community building by providing a full digital identity of its members (background, interests, competencies ..) including various workspace awareness tools reflecting personal engagements of each user.
  11. It should be attractive to become a member of the community. Registered users and members of learning groups should enjoy certain privileges. They have access to more information and gain more rights, e.g. to promote information to the front page and to comment immediately).
  12. The environment documents the learning activities and results automatically. Contributions become visible to other learners and the teacher, they can be included directly into an e-portfolio of the user (and the institution).
  13. Learners are encouraged to reflect their learning activities (Did I set appropriate goals? Did I make a sufficient progress?), for example with a Weblog.
  14. An elearning provider generates an added value to customers by supplying new and re-arranged (sequenced) (micro-) contents for the learning environment, assignments that structure the learning process and different variants of tutorial support (including examination and certification).
  15. Teachers provide a role model. They are actively engaged and show their presence in the learning environment, e.g. by using the tools the environment offers, by supplying personal information, by supplying materials and participating in discussions, by using a weblog and working on wikis. They react on feedback and error messages immediately.


Daniel K. Schneider thinks that this model may make too many concession to traditional e-learning. I can see the relation to micro-contents, e.g. the personal learning environment is defined as along lines that can be compared to the Toronto's school's knowledge-building community model where users indeed operate within a common knowledge space, only that extends to the Internet. But I don't really see the needs of content aggregation (point 2), to work with learning objects (they are really not thought in terms of a living document system). What strikes me most is the absence of microlearning in this model. (btw I may move this section to the personal learning environment article).

4 Links

  • Microlearning.org (Through this website you can find various online publications, e.g. the 2005/6/7 electronic proceedings of the Microlearning conferences).

5 References

  • Gstrein, S.: Bridging the Gap between Work and Leisure - the Integrated Microlearning Approach. In: Proceedings of IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning 2006
  • Hug, Theo (2006). Microlearning: A New Pedagogical Challenge (Introductory Note). in Hug, T et al. (2006).
  • Hug, T., Linder, M., Bruck, P. A. (2006), Microlearning: Emerging Concepts, Practices and Technologies after e-Learning. Proceedings of Microlearning 2005. Learning & Working in New Media. PDF, retrieved 17:42, 24 July 2007 (MEST).
  • Hug, T., Linder, M. , Bruck, P. A.: Micromedia & e-Learning 2.0: Gaining the Big Picture Proceedings of Microlearning Conference 2006. Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press, 2006. (There is PDF somewhere for this ...)
  • Hug, Theo (ed.): Didactics of Microlearning. Münster u. a.: Waxmann (forthcoming)
  • Kerres Michael (2007).In: Theo Hug und Martin Lindner (Hrsg.): Didactics of Microlearning. Muenster: Waxmann 2007 PDF