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Microlearning: An Old Dog Draws His Line in the Sand

August 4th, 2018 by Michael Dyet

Line in the sand

Hmmm, have 90 minute lectures morphed into 90 second videos?

I heard a young colleague refer to microlearning in a conversation with a co-worker this week. I was passing the kitchen area at the time and whimsically wondered if it was something that involved a microwave oven. Turns out, in an offbeat kind of way, it does.

I came across the term again later in the week and decided to check it out online. Why? Because it had the sound of another latest/greatest, digital age innovation that would be imposed on me – a digital immigrant, Baby Boomer whose head is close to exploding daily with all the new technologies I am expected to learn and adopt.

Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts. The learners control when they are learning. It is specifically designed for Millennials whose attention span, the experts say, averages 90 seconds.

Microlearning is often delivered via video since Millennials prefer video over other mediums. Apparently, 70% of Millennials visit YouTube monthly. Monthly? I am certain that monthly was a misprint. Daily sounds more accurate. Video-watching is fast becoming an addiction.

Let me be clear. I have no objection in principle to the concept of microlearning and of video as the primary channel for it. If it works for Millennials, go for it.

But here is the thing that gets under my skin. I have 4-1/2 years to go until I can retire. (Yes, I am counting the days, hours and minutes.) Chances are good that, before I am able to sail off into the sunset, someone in the organizational learning field will decide that microlearning is the gold standard for everyone.

I am already being compelled to learn through various forms of e-learning such as interactive PowerPoint presentations and recorded webinars. No one bothered to ask me if that kind of learning works for me. For the record, it does not. My brain is not programmed to learn that way and revolts when forced to do so.

I consider myself well educated. I have a college diploma and a university degree and graduated from university summa cum laude. But back then, learning came in the form of lengthy lectures in large halls or by reading weighty tomes. You listened, took notes and read everything on the syllabus. A good attention span was a prerequisite.

I am well aware that life is for the young. Old dogs like me have to adapt as best they can or get out of the way. I would gladly get out of the way if I could afford to do so. Unfortunately, I cannot. I will have to hang in until 4:00 on the last day and hope the farewell cake they order for me is gluten-free and will not self-destruct in 90 seconds if not eaten.

Wikipedia says that microlearning is itself a metaphor for aspects of a variety of learning models, concepts and processes. But I must object. Metaphors are not meant to be shortcuts. They are meant to unlock understanding and unleash our minds to roam free.

In my book (yes, I still read books), microlearning sounds more like an anti-metaphor. I will not be getting on board with it. Consider this my old dog, line in the sand.

Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at www.mdyetmetaphor.com or the novel online companion at www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog.

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