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A Look at Microlearning With Dr. Peggy Semingson

If you’re a teacher and haven’t heard of microlearning, prepare yourself. It may be coming to your classroom soon.

Microlearning is a relatively new trend in education that is meant to accommodate shorter attention spans and make use of the abundance of technology now available. Rather than fear technology in the classroom, educators can embrace it and help their students learn in new ways.

What Is Microlearning?

Dr Peggy Semingson uses microlearning in her online courses at UTA

Dr. Peggy Semingson

Dr. Peggy Semingson, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Arlington, recently wrote an article on microlearning in higher education, but she says that this method can be used in K-12 classrooms as well.

“Microlearning consists of short bursts of information (microcontent), which is often followed by an opportunity to interact and retrieve information such as a short quiz or chance to post short written commentary,” she explains in the article.

Microcontent could be short vides, podcasts, mini-quizzes or digital flashcards. If it sounds intimidating, Dr. Semingson suggests trying it out and being open to new things.

“Microlearning content can be easily created through a few user-friendly tools such as podcast creation tools, video creation tools and interactive mobile-based quiz creation tools,” she says. “Many of these are no- to low-cost tools. I created my own microlearning podcasts on my mobile device at no cost.”

While Dr. Semingson uses these tools when teaching educators in the UTA online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction — Literacy Studies program, she says she wants her students to take the new knowledge and tools back to their own classrooms.

“Because I teach teachers, I’m hoping that they’ll take these ideas back to their own classroom, and some of them do. So that’s really encouraging.”

Are There Topics That Can’t Be Covered Through Microcontent?

There are a few areas that are too complex or involved to be properly explained through a short podcast or video lecture. Sometimes in-depth discussion is required or students must read a longer research article.

“Any kind of really in-depth conversation or a lengthy and complex research article doesn’t really lend itself to microlearning,” Dr. Semingson explains. “But if it’s just basic information or vocabulary, like conceptual information that students are reading and consuming and learning and maybe doing a short quiz, pretty much everything can be converted to microlearning except for those dialogues.”

Microlearning in Dr. Semingson’s Classes

Microlearning takes advantage of the abundance of smartphones and tablets

Dr. Semingson teaches entirely online at UTA. Because of the online format that caters to working adults with families, she uses microcontent in her courses.

“Most everybody has a smartphone or access to one. Or a tablet. And so I’ve been having my students make short micro podcasts,” she says. “So maybe they’ll write an essay, but then they’ll make a two-minute summary of their essay as a podcast, which is microcontent.”

She’s aware that her students sometimes have difficulty finding the time to do their assignments because of their other obligations and believes that microlearning can help solve some of these issues.

“Our students teach all day long. And they end up doing schoolwork in the late evening and weekends and in the cracks here and there, so that’s why I try to help them learn using their mobile devices because they’re not always in front of a computer, but everyone pretty much can access content through the Blackboard app. Teachers are just incredibly busy and need to have meaningful assignments so they’re not doing busy work.”

To read more on microlearning, check out Dr. Semingson’s article Engaging Non-Traditional Students with (Mobile-Compatible) Microlearning.

Learn more about the UTA online M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction — Literacy Studies program.

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