LOEX 2021: day 1

It’s LOEX time! 🙂 I am always on the lookout for input, but I don’t think I have ever been craving a conference more. I was fortunate enough to gain a seat at LOEX in 2019 in Minneapolis, and it was such a great experience. So many interesting breakout sessions, so little time.. This year, due to the pandemic, the whole conference is digital. In most ways, that’s perfect for me. No transatlantic flight and jetlag, and at 175 $ for four days of conference, it’s a steal. The only challenge is the time difference, of course.

As per usual, I’ll write up my notes from the conference here. The blog posts tend to be long as I prefer to sum up each day, rather than do one blog post per session. This time, I’ll probably have to write up more blog posts later, too, as I will not be able to watch everything in real time and due to the fact that one of the conference days falls on a holiday here. I’ll probably be watching most of the sessions on video later.

Yesterday (Norwegian time) was the first day of the conference this year, and I was looking forward to the plenary talk, but unfortunately for me, I had miscalculated the time difference, and I missed the whole thing. Silly mistake. I only managed to attend one breakout session, and I’ll be writing about it here.

Microlearning by Yvonne Mery from the University of Arizona

The session started by talking about what microlearning is, and the difference between macrolearning and microlearnning. Mery described how microlearning differs from macrolearning with the following examples:

MicrolearningMacrolearning
Learning to order a meal in RussianLearning Russian
Learning to cook a dishLearning to cook Russian cuisine
Learning to play a songLearning the piano
Learning to use the PubMed clinical queries featureLearning to search for health information

The characteristics of microlearning are that it should be quick to learn, memorable, quick to apply, small chunks, narrow content and easy to access. Although there are variations on what people consider the maximum length of a lesson, most agree that is should be maximum 15 minutes long. Mery suggests 10 minutes max.

Microlearning is closer to the natural way to learn for students now. They are used to small chunks of information (f.ex. through social media, tiktok etc.), and they are busy. It is easier for them to engage with short tutorials. This also means that it is easier for us to make them, as short tutorials are much more manageable for us.

screendump from the session showing the entry page for the Getting started tutorial.
Screendump from the session.

Andragogy theory (adult learning, Malcom Knowles) gives us an idea on how adults prefer learning. Our learning materials should be self-directed, self-paced, always accessible and without fluff. In plain words: just give them what they want (something Thill (2012) called the concierge kind).

Mery noted that not all kinds of subjects are suited for microlearning. Particularly will it be difficult to teach highly complex subject matter in this way. Another issue with microlearning is that, due to the smallness of the chunks of information, it can seem very fragmented, and it can be hard to see the connections.

At the University of Arizona, Mery and her colleagues wanted to look into microlearning, and they used the model of TED Ed to build tutorials. The idea is to give the students chunks of information starting with an overview and then going into more specifics. The students can self-enroll and they can take the tutorials in the order they prefer, but the tutorials go from “Think” to “Practice” to “Do” and “Lean more”, like TED Ed. The content has a CC licence and can therefore be adapted by anyone.

There are various tutorials, and they have even made microlearning videos to use for their Makerspace. The students need to be certified to use some of the equipment there, and they do the video tutorials to be certified. The librarians at University of Arizona have just started a new test of sending tutorials as text messages to the students. They have only just tested it, so no results as to success is ready yet, but the initial feedback from students are overwhelmingly positive. The tutorial goes on for six or seven days, and every day during that period, the students get a text from the library with some information and a task to be done. Very interesting! Mery said, however, that the service they had used for this (Arist) was very expensive and that they would probably have to find another vendor or service if they were to keep on sending texts.

Mery ended her talk by giving us some tips if we are interested in starting our own microlearning initiatives. She said that it is useful to use backward design when you plan. By starting at the end it is easier to plan the content because you know what you want the students to learn. Get rid of the fluff, Mery said. Focus on what the students HAVE to learn, not what could be useful. Make a whole tutorial, not just a single video. Keep it informal and friendly. Make sure to focus on usability and feedback – and don’t go at it alone. Even microlearning tutorials have to be maintained and updated, and it is easier to spot the weaknesses if you are a team.

Comments

It was a very interesting session. We have learned over the years that we have to keep videos short, not have too much text on websites etc. And yet, things are always shifting. A few years back, everyone wanted short video tutorials, but now they are saying (we just performed a survey for a project we are working on) that they prefer short texts rather than videos. I guess we just have to keep asking what they want and try to give them content in the format they want – but also keep in mind that no two students are alike and that we have to give our lessons and tutorials in various forms to suit various learners. Am I right?

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