6 Bite-Sized Learning Myths You Should Be Aware Of

Popular Bite-Sized Learning Myths Debunked

“The true scarce commodity of the near future will be human attention.”

Aptly describing the alarming rate at which our attention span is plummeting, these wise words by Satya Nadella, direct our thoughts to the latest buzzword of the corporate jungle –microlearning. Microlearning or bite-sized learning refers to breaking a large chunk of subject matter into smaller and simpler modules to accelerate learning.

According to the research by John Sweller, who is an Australian educational psychologist, the human mind has limited capacities of learning and retaining new information. Upon exceeding those limits, there is an increased risk of mental overload meaning that the information will not be processed by our brain and hence will never be a part of the long term memory. In the corporate training scenario it would imply that the substantial resources utilized on training new employees would simply go down the drain owing to the paucity of memory retention. To combat this issue, bite-sized learning was introduced to facilitate better learning amongst employees.

Studies indicate that when a large content was broken down into smaller, simpler fragments, it enhanced information retention by more than 20%. Moreover, micro-learning sessions provide increased opportunities for interactions between the trainer and learners. This pedagogy aims at creating a platform where learners readily process relevant information and reflect upon it cogently.Even though it has gained much popularity and some obvious notoriety in the past few years, there still exist some misconceptions about this leading-edge learning paradigm.

Even though it has gained much popularity and some obvious notoriety in the past few years, there still exist some misconceptions about this leading-edge learning paradigm.

Let us take a deeper look into each of these and try debunking the myths about microlearning that continue to cloud our judgement:

1. Bite-Sized Learning Is All About Slicing Up A Subject Matter

As the name clearly suggests, bite-sized learning indeed seems like chunking up information and then conquering each simplified module to enhance learning. But, it’s not all just about that. Microlearning has more far-reaching implications than just splitting up a complex material and handing it out to learners, expecting the miracle of optimal learning.

The designing of such simplified modules is much more intricate and detail-oriented since each segment has to address and explain an entire thought. It must equip the learner with the skills to handle one complete task. The module has to be simple yet thorough, organized, and in cohesion with the entire stretch of training. At this juncture, merely fragmenting the subject matter may become counter-productive to the desired outcome of longer retention.

2. Bite-Sized Learning Is The Same As eLearning

The "e" in the eLearning refers to electronic learning. It roughly covers up every form of learning that is imparted via electronic devices and the Internet. This type of learning tethers the learners to their desk since it’s carried out mostly through laptops or desktops. The learner needs to have a fixed location and the curriculum could be vast or broad-based. This key factor marks the striking difference between eLearning and microlearning. Even though these two are generally used interchangeably, the fact that the former can have large and complex matter, while the latter sticks to imparting simpler, segregated topics brings out the clear distinction.

3. Every Subject Matter Can Be Bite-Sized

The good news is that bite-sized learning is consistent with the "70-20-10" model, that is 70% percent of the learning is by doing a job, 20% is informal learning and 10% is formal learning. The bad news is that not every subject matter or training module can be incorporated into bite-sized modules. Bite-sized learning inherently refers to isolating chunks of a large material. Hence, such a module will not be beneficial when it is essential to have a holistic view of the subject. It often defeats the purpose when training about new software or a language. It is impossible to comprehend someone mastering Japanese only by short bursts of knowledge or understanding microbiology through 5- minute podcasts.

Even though microlearning has established itself as the go-to strategy when it comes to effective training or teaching, it often fails in categories which require detailed and in-depth understanding.

Nevertheless, there are many critical employee-training modules which can be effectively taught by incorporating micro-learning format. These could include training sessions on time management, health and safety compliance at workplace, or conflict resolution.

4. Bite-Size Learning Is Just A Passing Fad

Fad is defined as a short-lived trend that garners a widely-shared enthusiasm. Bite-sized learning, just like every other radical invention of this digital age, has often been criticized as a technological fad which will eventually fade out. Contrary to this conservative notion, a recent study has revealed that 94% of learners prefer learning modules under 10 minutes. This, coupled with an exponentially busier lifestyle and sharply declining attention spans, clearly implies that bite-sized learning is here to stay.

It perfectly fits the modern corporate culture, allows increased retention, facilitates learning on the-go, and is easier to produce and manage. The important thing to note here is that bite-sized learning has to be perceived as more of a tactic than as a strategy, and needs to be executed in conjunction with other training pedagogies to ensure effectively learning.

Moreover, the advantages of microlearning are not just limited to the corporate or professional sector. This form of learning is also helping students in through their coursework by presenting academic content in concise yet engaging manner. Today there are numerous micro-learning tools which help students in conducting research for their school or college essay needs. Without these tools, many students had to turn to essay writing companies like Lifesaver Essays. But with these useful tools, they can now be self sufficient and write their own essays. Understanding the added benefits of bite-sized learning, many popular learning platforms are increasingly adopting this technique in designing learning module. Online platforms such as Udacity and Duolingo are best examples of large-scale integration of micro-learning techniques for enhanced learning on-the-go. A few of these tools are mentioned below:

A few of these tools are mentioned below:

  • Apps, such as TED-Ed, which is basically a growing library of short animated videos, provide students unique perspectives on different processes and events and help them establish a clear line of scientific thought. This helps them find a basis for essay writing. They also provide succinct relevant information which can be further expanded by the student in their essay.
  • Venngage Infographics present to learners large chunks of information in one visually –appealing image. This is often the condensed version of detailed topics and hence helps students get a glimpse of the overview, flow of ideas, and relevant information –all at one place and thus enables them to build a similarly organized essay.
  • Microlearning apps such as BookWidgets make seemingly mundane topics fun and interesting. Usually, when students are asked to submit a paper, they lose interest and enthusiasm right from the beginning since they do not find the topic easy or fun to understand. BookWidgets caters to this need by presenting eye-catching images and relevant information in a simple and approachable manner. Such just-in-time tools help student concentrate and draft essays while enjoying the essay writing process.

5. Bite-Sized Modules Have Set Time-Limits

Assuming that since the content is bite-sized, the time spent on learning should be less and fixed is a mistake. The capacity to learn, comprehend and retain different information differs from trainee to trainee. For one, it might be a 3-minute task but for the other a 15-minute ordeal. In actuality, bite-sized learning modules do not have a fixed deadline for completion. Such a module is a complete topic imparted in a concise and to-the-point manner but it never enforces a rigid timeline for the learner.

By not having to adhere to rigorous deadlines, the learner gains autonomy over the learning process. And for professional caught-up in busy schedules, this factor is a blessing. When employees are given the opportunity to choose and design the learning paradigm around their own schedule, they are motivated to learn more. It transforms their smartphones/tablets into textbooks. It diminishes the concept that learning cannot happen beyond the limits of the training room.

6. Bite-Sized Learning Encourages Passive Learning

Generally, such modules are provided to the trainees in form of short videos or podcasts. This raises an important point that since the learners are not engaged in the traditional classroom manner, the involvement with the new subject matter is least. This will happen if the modules are watched as one watched VHS tapes for relaxation purpose. But the bite-sized modules are not one-sided as assumed by this theory. In fact, they are highly interactive in nature and often keep the learners on their toes. High level of user-engagement is created via frequent questionnaires, checks, quizzes, and scenario-based learning. These interactive elements not only ensure active learning but also measure the learner’s performance which gradually increases their retention rate.