MicroLearning Effective for Remote Classrooms

Teachers face stiff competition for student attention.

The Digitally Distracted

How do we keep learners engaged? Students who aren’t paying attention are not learning. The attention deficit is extreme for the “digitally distracted” generation weaned on cell phones and video games. Gen Z users tap or swipe their phones up to 5,427 times per day. How do teachers compete?

New Application of a Proven Method

Microlearning methods are winning devotees for live remote classes. This teaching approach uses bite-sized chunks of content followed by activities that reinforce the learning message and keep learners involved.

More than 250 years ago Ben Franklin wrote, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” It’s no different today except that the competition for attention is way tougher. Teachers report video classrooms where every camera is turned off.

Adults abandon lecture content in 3.5 minutes. The attention span of children is far less. The antidote is to provide frequent activities that command student attention.

4-5 minute microlearning modules follow this pattern.

How long should these learning bites be? The ideal is 5 minutes or less for each message point. Tease the message, tell it, and test delivery in 4-5 minute modules. This formula is a proven success for adult and youth learning.  

The activities don’t need to be complex and demanding. They can be as simple as rating a video. picking an emoji to react to a lesson, or a simple yes/no question that stimulates thinking, such as “Would you consider Abraham Lincoln a risk-taker?” Repeated studies show that a simple physical motion such as lifting a hand to a keyboard changes brain state from trancelike to active.

The Metrics

Years of tracking online education performance show two results: Microlearning produces 3.6 times the time engagement and 30% better learning retention at two weeks, compared to 15 minute long linear video lectures. Instruction alternating with activity lifts every education metric across the board.

Shocking tricks are not necessary to keep student attention.

The Live Teaching Advantage

“Our first job as teachers is to make sure that we learn our students, that we connect with them on a real level, showing respect for their culture and affirming their worthiness to receive the best education possible.”

There is little relationship built using asynchronous methods. Students are expected to learn on their own. At the university level asynchronous teaching is effective, but younger learners look to teachers for support and encouragement.

Video conferencing provides opportunities to build student-teacher relationships. Trust and understanding are developed during live interactions. When students hit a barrier, they can get immediate help and move forward. Recognitionand encouragement are teachers supplied energy that are key drivers of studentaccomplishment.

Frequent participation provides the data by which teachers “read the classroom.” Using live microlearning and realtime data, teachers have a continuous stream of information about class progress and individua lparticipation. Even when cameras are off, teachers “see” what is happening in their class and adjust.


Live microlearning lifts participation levels by keeping students active. Using this approach, teacher scan reclaim best teaching practices and use their skills to better manage their classrooms.  

EdTech vendors must provide enhanced tools for teachers to apply microlearning techniques in live classes.

Randall Tinfow, President of V-SCHOOL, has been involved in corporate and public education for more than 30 years.