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Microlearning from the KM perspective

This article appears in the issue February 2014 [Vol 23, Issue 2]
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An interesting new trend in social learning is the use of microlearning in the knowledge management context. Microlearning addresses focused domain areas in a successive pattern, e.g., understanding new jargon or vocabulary, or process mastery in companies, or refining activities that require precision and discipline.

Microlearning acquires special significance in today's digital workspace and ubiquitous mobile connectivity: It can be delivered online, in small chunks, and at the learner's choice of place, pace and device.

In a world of micro-narrative such as SMS and micro-blogging (e.g., Twitter microlearning fits in well with the emerging digital media landscape. A number of tools are also becoming popular as mobile and cloud platforms for microlearning, e.g., Knowledge Pulse.

Microlearning can be seen as a blend of quiz questions and flash cards, but goes beyond into playful learning (gamification), cooperative learning (crowdsourcing) and blended learning (integration with top-down learning).

Frontiers of microlearning in the context of knowledge management were explored at the annual Micro-learning Conference held in Austria for the seventh year in a row, drawing participants from across Europe, Asia, the United States and the Middle East.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the conference, from a KM perspective.

1. Connected learning is a 21st century skill. The global knowledge economy demands that learners develop 21st century skills. That includes connected learning and collaboration right from the classroom to the workplace, according to Jon Price, Intel's  program manager for research and evaluation. Microlearning can be seen as a structured form of connected learning.

2. Knowledge workers are not just consumers of content but also creators of knowledge assets. Students and learners can create their own storyboards for knowledge activities ranging from language learning to process execution, and become peer educators in their own right. "Learning is about constructing knowledge, not just acquiring knowledge," explains Isa Jahnke, professor of interactive media and learning at Umeå University in Sweden.

3. The 21st century workplace is marked by continuous social learning in knowledge networks. In process-oriented, self-directed learning environments, skills like reflection and knowledge maturing are valued. Work-integrated learning and reflective learning lend themselves well to microlearning modules, says Stefanie Lindstaedt, managing director of the Know Center in Graz, Austria.

4. Creating learning objects for your colleagues is like a badge of honor for knowledge workers. Knowledge workers not only ?can create authoritative podcasts or blogs, but also can design a range of mini-courses based on microlearning pedagogy. Designing courses that become useful and popular can be a form of "award" given not just by your supervisors and managers but also by your peers, according to Ilona Buchem, professor of digital media at Beuth University in Germany.

5. The microlearning model drawn from cognitive educational frameworks blends well into the world of mobile learning on smart phones and tablets. Early digital models of microlearning were based on the desktop and laptop environment, but can be extended and enhanced via mobile, explains Marco Arriga, project manager at the Italian National Research Council.

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