Micro Lesson vs Learning Object

The concept of micro lessons seems to be the flavour of the month with educational forums, LMS start up companies and corporate training managers around the world, but is what most people describe really a micro lesson or learning object. The two concepts have really evolved together over the past 15 years. The concept of micro lesson has great appeal as it provides many benefits for the instructional design professional and corporate learning and development manager. The appeal can be seen from two angles. First, they are relatively easy to produce. Second they can be used multiple times or if required, just in time. They provide short and succinct information at times when the student, employee or sales agent needs it, but so do learning objects.

In 2008 I designed and implemented short micro lessons on communication. For example, rather than try and teach the whole transactional model of communication, I designed micro lessons on individual components such as the communication concepts of a "code" or "barrier".

At the time the bandwidth we had access to was so slow when compared to today's NBN that it took 30 minutes to down load a 5 meg POD cast file and then almost stopped the network if we wanted to play it. So I created PDF files with the information written like a lesson, i.e. with an objective, content overview and explanation and learning exercise, being careful to keep the information true to my single learning objective. At the end I included formative assessment questions that students were required to go on the Institute Learning Management System to answer. (The summative assessment was to follow in the form of a competency based holistic assessment).

Modern digital technology and social media has changed the distribution of information and the concepts of micro lessons have evolved to take advantage of this technology. YouTube and Vimeo amongst others has provided millions of experts with the opportunity to create a video to explain any concept you want to know about.

Learning objects on the other hand are presented as components of a lesson, they rely on the session narrative to make them useable in the learning process. Learning Objects are chosen or created to emphasise a piece of information or to build context, micro lessons standalone but may still incorporate multiple learning objects. In the above communication course example we created Pod Casts and put these on the Learning Management System to accompany our micro lessons. We considered these learning objects because they presented context and provided dialogue with the students, they were integrated into the overall instructional plan.

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