Our accelerating world is affecting many areas of our lives, and our learning habits are no exception either. According to research, the average human attention span is dramatically reduced (with its eight seconds, it is less than that of the goldfish with nine). There is also a growing need for autonomy, flexibility, personalization and the use of technology in learning as well.
How can Learning & Development keep pace with these trends and meet the new expectations of learners? One of the possible solutions is to offer the given curriculum in several smaller units, instead of long study materials or lectures.
Microlearning & Bite-sized Learning – Differences & Similarities
The two terms that are often confused or used as a synonyms in this domain are bite-sized learning and microlearning. Even though the two methodologies are very similar, they differ significantly in some aspects.
First of all, what is common in the two methods is that both are short and concise, while ensuring that they are long enough to adequately cover the learning objective. They should be involving and action-oriented, and help learners practice what they’re learning.
However, while bite-sized learning is conceivable in both synchronous and asynchronous, online and offline learning forms, microlearning is typically used as an asynchronous online learning element, utilizing the advancements of modern technology.
Although both can be completed in a short period of time, a microlearning unit is usually not longer than 2-7 minutes, so learners can literally consume them at once. Thereby making them an ideal mode for personalized learning or learning “on the go.”
Microlearning Must be Very Concise, Bite-sized Gives More Flexibility
A microlearning unit is self-contained – has one, well-defined goal and can be interpreted independently. Because of its typically asynchronous character, the learner can use a micro unit anytime and anywhere. It’s critical to understand that chunking a longer module into smaller pieces without adapting them to microlearning principles will not make them microlearning. By doing so you only achieve greater frustration and lower satisfaction of your learners. The logical structure of a one hour module cannot be simply split in ten times six minutes and work the same way.
In case of a bite-sized unit this rule is not that strict. Thanks to the often synchronous nature, we can start a topic in one short, 2-hour training session and continue in the next event. Or we can follow with a custom built asynchronous element, which has a clear objective, but is larger than microlearning.
Smart, conscious chunking is key in the case of bite-sized learning as well as microlearning. The difference comes in the way they connect – microlearning must be able to stand alone, while bite-sized counts with connection between multiple elements.
Not All Bites are Created Equal – Bite-Sized Learning Differences
Bite-sized learning means short, focused, synchronous or asynchronous learning units that aim to achieve a specific goal or outcome. This is understandable so far, but how small a bite should be?
The length of a bite-sized unit ranges from a few minutes to a maximum of 2 hours. For a synchronous event such as a virtual course or classroom training, a two-hour session is also considered bite-sized compared to the usual one or two-day length. For asynchronous elements, like webcasts or classical elearning materials, however, this time is much shorter.
Bite-sized Learning or Microlearning? Win with Both!
Is microlearning better than bite-sized learning? Or is it the other way around? We don’t think either.
At DEVELOR we use both in development programs. They can be excellently used not only to support the impact of learning by providing content in an easily digestible way, but also to meet the participant expectation of bigger flexibility and personalization.
The key of success in the new learner-driven reality is to consciously choose the method and adapt the curriculum accordingly. As a Learning & Development professional, you need to be able to understand the advantages and shortcomings of these methods and use them to your learners’ advantage.
Building this unique blend of regular, bite-sized, micro, synchronous, asynchronous, online or offline learning elements into a comprehensive program is a challenge. But for us at DEVELOR, it is probably the most beautiful, most exciting part of the program development phase with our clients.
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