Micro-learning: what an effective micro-course is

Maxim Prikhodko, Studyx founder

Micro-learning is one of the key trends in 2017 for the entire online learning. However, despite this the question "what is a micro-course?" still remains one of the most popular among investors to whom we present our company. That's why we've put together our more than one and a half year experience of training thousands of employees of real companies to highlight the main elements of a successful and effective micro-course (if you can't wait to see how it looks just click here).

A micro-course in our understanding is not only a certain "size" and format of educational materials, but also a special way to structurize these materials into the course itself. In Studyx micro-courses for the first time testing is used not only for periodic knowledge control, but also as a methodological tool for continuous knowledge acquisition measuring and subsequent content adaptation. That's why the basis of the course is a set of micro-lessons, each of which is equipped with a test that verifies the understanding of the material studied in the lesson.

Fig. 1. An example of a micro-course structure

Usually a course contains from 2 to 4-5 lessons, less often up to 10. As practice has shown, this number of lessons (2-4) is enough for an effective presentation of the material taught to employees during an one-hour training. At the same time to master this ammount of information as an online micro-course an average of 18 minutes is required, which is 3.3 times faster than training with the help of an instructor (the data is obtained by training more than 3,000 employees of different companies). Another important factor of the positive effect of learning through Studyx micro-courses is the rise of the coverage of employees involved in training to 100%, which is physically impossible in the case of geographically distributed companies, or demands significant time and financial expenses for traveling of a regular trainer.

Fig. 2. "Pharmacy arithmetic" - our biggest micro-course (10 lessons)

Usually, we do not limit the number of attempts an employee has to take the test after studying the lesson. And not because we do not know how to do it. On the contrary, the unique capabilities of the testing platform "Argus-M", which underlies Studyx micro-courses, allow us to use the tests not just as a questionnaire with a fixed set of questions for which we want to know the answers, but as a full-fledged methodological tool that solves the learning challenges, delivered to us by the client in the framework of the course. In particular, for each lesson an extended bank of questions is prepared, from which 2-5 questions are randomly selected for monitoring. Thus, repeated attempts to pass the test lead only to a deeper acquaintance with the material, thanks to new questions, and better consolidation through repetition. At the same time, the employee does not remain "one on one" with errors - in the final statement he sees the correct answer, a short explanation, has the opportunity to return to the lesson and ask the instructor supervising the training.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the tests in the structure of Studyx micro-courses can be used not only for current knowledge control, so there are situations when limiting the number of attempts to pass them is necessary. Based on our experience, the most typical are the following cases: preliminary and final testing, as well as collecting feedback in the form of a survey.

Fig. 3. An example of the structure of the micro-course "Duspatalin"

Preliminary testing is used to determine the initial level of knowledge of employees. Thanks to the testing platform "Argus-M" it is possible to use a single database of test questions for preliminary, final and intermediate knowledge control, controlling test parameters using flexible settings. This allows you to get really comparable results of the knowledge measurement at the beginning of the course and in the end of its study, forming a transparent and justified picture of the progress of employees. The final testing allows to obtain one more additional measurement for the whole volume of the received knowledge and to use this information both for forming groups and the curriculum of full-time trainings for those who "fell behind", and for analyzing the quality of the course and its adaptation with the aim of increasing efficiency.

Collecting feedback is a good opportunity to interview employees and learn their answers to important questions for the course without "pressure" in the form of fear of making a mistake, as well as ask them questions about the content of the course and their impressions of this form of training. This information is also extremely valuable for further improving the course and identifying the moments that cause difficulties for employees.

Fig. 4. An example of the structure of the micro-course "Gefilus"

One more confirmation of the effectiveness of the chosen approach is the share of completed courses, which is 80% and an order of magnitude higher than the similar value for the now popular MOOC courses. A typical picture of the course studying is as follows:

Fig. 5. Dynamics of Studyx micro-courses studying

In order to reach the mark of 80% of employees who completed the course you need an average of 1 week, after which the training supervisor with the help of Studyx's analytical reports uses "pinpoint" impact on the heads of departments and their employees and in 1 more week brings the number of completed course to 95% of the total number of employees who took part in the study of the course.

In addition to the structure of micro-courses and outstanding analytical capabilities, another aspect of success is the format of the training materials used. This is another very popular question about how we understand "micro" as applied to content. In our work while creating Studyx micro-courses, we adhere to the following rules:

  • video lectures - duration from 2 to 5-6 minutes;
  • animated videos - duration from 1 to 5-6 minutes;
  • animated presentations - the size of 5 to 10-15 slides;
  • test lessons - from 650 to 1300 characters with spaces;
  • test - including from 2 to 5 questions;
  • question bank - not less than 10 questions for eash lesson.

We are often asked if it's enough to take an hour-long video lecture and cut it into fragments for 5 minutes. Unfortunately no. This approach is similar to the desire to upload a PDF version of the textbook into the LMS, expecting that this will give some qualitative changes in the online learning process. In a changing world, micro-learning becomes an effective tool for solving a multitude of tasks, however, like in many other areas, the desire for maximum results requires special preparation of quality teaching materials. Therefore, we can not fail to mention the third component of success - the methodology of Studyx micro-courses and the skill of its implementing team, successfully and efficiently packing "long" knowledge into compact micro-formats.

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