If multiple reforms of national education struggle to modify school learning in depth, the professional world did not wait to profit from new technologies and to transform itself.
E-learning, MOOC, videos, Wikipedia, social learning, email learning…. It should be said the path to knowledge has changed. With the rise of smartphones, and the omnipresence of the internet, access to information must be instantaneous, easy and fun.
Microlearning or learning by “small chunks”
Partisans of multitasking, digital natives would have seen their attention shifting from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013 according to a study published by Microsoft in 2015 (Attention spans, Consumer Insights, Microsoft Canada).
Even though it has been disputed, this study follows a trend which is globally supported by the majority: Zapping or choosing by measure of attractiveness. Favoured by boom of the internet, the most interesting contents are just one click away, without having to spend hours in a classroom or following a training online. Owing less to a deficiency of attention, it’s the relevance of the contents and their priority which serves to maintain or lose the attention of its audience.
The world of training has been significantly impacted by this trend. The courses have to be relevant, well-paced and engaging to promote the enthusiasm of the learners. In this context, the emergence of micro-learning acts as an evidence: replacing long arduous lesson with heavy content, by short easily “digestible” contents and stimulating learning in the process.
Indeed, according to Hermann Ebbinghaus, an information which is not repeated often is easily forgotten. This german psychologist of the 19th century lined up a curve of forgetfulness representing the decline of memory retention with time. This curve shows how information is easily lost over the course of time, unless this new learned knowledge is consciously recalled and revised. Micro-learning, with the repetition of small increments allow thus a much deeper and lasting assimilation of information.
Based on the concept of micro-learning, several websites and applications offer to their users some learning pathways which are both entertaining and daily, more suitable to their way of life.
Foreign languages with general knowledge, Micro-learning for everyone
The examples of the platforms and applications of micro-learning are manifold, here are 3 which caught our attention.
Duolingo : Learning a language at the rate of a few minutes per day
Duolingo is a mobile application dedicated to the learning of foreign languages through playful and short daily lessons.
Each user defines the number of lessons to undertake each day and earn points according to the number days within the objective has been reached. With the slightest deviation, it restarts from zero.
Duolingo uses other techniques of gamification to stimulate the engagement of the users. Quiz and prizes paces learning. Finally, the application incorporates also the notion of the curve of forgetfulness: The level obtained from the previous lessons decreases automatically over time (just like memory), forcing the learners to revise them.
And the method works ! The application claims more than 200 million users subscribed across the entire world and 25 million daily users for 19 distinct languages.
Project Voltaire : the no.1 grammar upgrade for handicapped and people having a hard time with grammar.
Project Voltaire offers a training path of individualised grammar, playful and effective. With the aid of a powerful grammar corrector, quizzes, personalised training, memorial anchorage, and certifications, Project Voltaire offers a myriad of services, useful to both to enterprises and individuals.
Forget dictation and nasty grammar ! Project Voltaire offers to its users the ways to correct their mistakes while optimizing their training time. At one’s own pace !
Curiosity : An application to improve one’s general knowledge.
More general than the two previous examples, Curiosity is a mobile application which proposes learning a little bit more every day, in various fields like history, new technologies and as well as psychology.
The application responds to the questions which we have always asked ourselves and works on the ideas received:
- Is lactic acid really the cause of muscle aches?
- We are not born with emotions
- What is the first English word ever?
- Did you know that the Earth’s crust keeps on expanding ?
Micro-learning in enterprises
If micro-learning works so well for individuals, why not introducing it to the enterprise as well ?
Using the adequate format (email, application, platform,…), it is absolutely possible to split professional training in short lapses, incorporating it easily in the hard-pressed professional lives of the learners.
Highbrow : Courses in every field, at the cost of an email a day.
It’s the bet that Highbrow made across a series of 10 daily emails. Launched on a simple format of newsletters (people choose to subscribe to the newsletter corresponding to the subject which they wish to explore), Highbrow has expanded and hence offers subscriptions to enterprises.
Highbrow encourages a learning culture in enterprises, and tackles every subject, as various as the management of a project, marketing, philosophy and arts.
SPARTED : Mobile learning gamified in enterprise at SPARTED, is a new format of a mobile application which has been retained for its interactivity and its practicality (always in the pocket!). Micro-learning remains at the heart of the solution, the application uses also social learning techniques and gamification to stimulate the engagement of the learners.
Training campaigns are developed by the enterprise on a back-office dedicated or proposed as turnkey solution on a training catalogue for mobile learning, ready to use for more global subjects- harassment at work, management techniques… And the solution is well appraised!
New generations are equally as interested as elders to improve their knowledge- if it’s not the case. But the formats have to evolve to adapt to new tools and paces of life. At the expense of a few minutes per day, microlearning offers the flexibility which is absent in many formations.
Chief marketing officer at SPARTED, I am an expert on mobile and micro-learning.