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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Microlearning and the Brain

Interesting idea for thinking about how to classify useful learning.

Microlearning and the Brain
Microlearning is effective for hard skills but detrimental when it comes to people and emotional skills.    by Todd Maddox in Clomedia

Microlearning abounds in the learning and development sector. However, there is confusion around the term’s use, and many incorrectly identify it as simply “short duration training.”

Microlearning is more accurately defined as:

An approach to learning that conveys information about a single, specific idea in a compact and focused manner.

A learning technique that operates within the learner’s working memory capacity and attention span, providing just enough information to allow the learner to achieve a specific, actionable objective.
For example, if a personnel manager was interested in obtaining information about unconscious bias, they might watch a brief piece of video content focused on the definition of unconscious bias and how it can affect leadership behaviors in the workplace. The information would be presented in two to three minutes and would convey a single idea with as few “extras” as possible. The short duration, singular focus and limited extras ensure the learner’s attention span and working memory capacity are not exceeded.

The overwhelming majority of L&D vendors market microlearning as a major component of their offering, as well they should.

Microlearning offers an ideal approach for engaging the cognitive skills learning system in the brain. The cognitive skills learning system is one of at least three learning systems in the brain that includes the emotional learning system and the behavioral skills learning system. A schematic of these three systems, along with the relevant brain structures, is displayed below.

The cognitive skills learning system relies on the prefrontal cortex, is limited by working memory and attentional processes, and is the primary system in the brain for learning hard skills. Combine microlearning with testing and targeted retraining that is spaced over time and you have a tool that speeds the transition from short-term memory in the prefrontal cortex to long-term memory in the hippocampus and fights against the brain’s natural tendency to forget. This allows you to train hard skills for retention. ... " 

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