In today’s digital age, learners’ brains are under siege from an overwhelming deluge of information. Our trusty smartphones alone have become Swiss Army Knife-like tools, packed with a dizzying array of functions, which we use obsessively throughout the day, without realising the strain on our cognitive abilities.
As a result, our brains are becoming more adept at filtering out irrelevant information and focusing only on what’s truly important. Multi-tasking and constantly switching between tasks is proven to be slowing learners down by involving more cognitive effort, meaning that new methods are needed to address this.
In response to this growing need for bite-sized chunks of information, a relatively new trend has emerged in learning and design pedagogy – micro-learning. Micro-learning involves breaking down complex topics into small, easily digestible pieces of information designed to be absorbed quickly and efficiently; stand-alone units of study that can be viewed as many times as necessary, whenever and wherever the learner has the need.
As micro-learning gains momentum, it is expected to have a significant impact on the design of educational resources. By leveraging the principles of micro-learning when designing education materials, publishers and education brands tap into this shift and maximise the impact of each learning opportunity, leading to better understanding of the content.
Revolutionising learning through bite-sized design strategies
With such rapid changes, comes a multitude of questions. What implications will micro-learning have for traditional long-form content in education? Will publishers and educators alike be compelled to adopt new approaches in response to this shift? Moreover, as educators are already deconstructing existing materials into smaller, more manageable portions, are there actionable design strategies that can be implemented to facilitate this process even further?
When working with designers to create your educational content, there are strategies you can employ to allow learners to absorb and retain information more effectively, leading to better learning outcomes.
Breaking down complex topics into smaller pieces and making better use of page design features to help break this content down into easier to read chunks is essentially what all educational materials are trying to achieve. There are some simple solutions that can be applied with little effort and cost that would greatly enhance even long formatted content to help a learners attention span when using these resources.
In longer form content you should add in sub-headings, bullet points and drop caps to visually guide the reader through larger pieces of texts. Pull-out summary boxes for key concepts can be used as anchor points for learners to engage with and help break up content into memorable chunks.
Generally having less text on a page helps everyone to navigate content better – shorter line lengths aid readability and heighten overall accessibility. Digital platforms are perfect for this kind of content, which can later be expanded upon in a component that might be better suited for long-form examination of a subject.
Use of icons to aid the learner in navigating different elements of course materials is something educational publishers have done for years – but with attention spans diminishing there are even more reasons to ensure these are aligned to current learners’ understandings of what the icons are representing. For instance, a CD as an audio icon is now wildly out-of date and will disengage a user if they don’t understand it.
Design also needs to get to the point much much quicker. Decorative icons, or images just for the sake of having them can be distracting, creating visual clutter at a time when publishers are striving to make more accessible content.
Using engaging imagery alongside the text goes without saying – but all too often there can be a disconnect with the leaning objectives because of where the image is placed in relation to the content. Ensuring all imagery is serving a meaningful purpose and is engaged with at the right time is paramount to the micro-learning model.
To optimise the efficacy of educational resources, it is imperative that the bite-size material is meticulously crafted with utmost attention paid to the design elements. The visual aesthetics must be captivating and engaging, while the navigational structure should be intuitive and user-friendly. With content appearing on multiple platforms, visual cohesion will be key for learners to identify content and create visual connection between lessons for higher cognitive thinking.
Using multimedia tools to enhance learning experiences and integrating personalised learning paths into curricula creates memorable moments for learners to help content stand out.
Most importantly, the content must align seamlessly with the intended learning objectives to ensure that learners are able to internalise and apply the acquired knowledge with ease. Such a well-executed approach to micro-learning design can be the difference between a merely satisfactory educational experience and a truly transformative one.
Micro-learning, from our perspective, is the future of education and information processing. It’s a revolutionary trend in learning and design pedagogy that has the potential to transform the way we learn and process information. Micro-learning’s ability to break down complex topics into small, easily digestible pieces of information makes it an effective tool for improving engagement and retention. As educators continue to embrace micro-learning, we can expect to see significant changes in the design of educational resources in the years to come, making learning more accessible and enjoyable for all.
At emc design we are constantly thinking about the best way to deliver content to learners. In an evolving educational landscape this means being creative, innovative and unafraid to take risks to be at the forefront of this revolution.
Let us know what trends in micro-learning you’re spotting in the comments below!
emc design is a specialist design agency dedicated to working within the publishing industry. Our dedicated UK team works offers a full suite of pre-press services with creativity at the heart of everything we do.