Writing a learning short for micro-learning

Learning shorts as a useful teaching tool when sharing knowledge and teaching others. This post briefly describes what a learning short is and how to write one.

May 15, 2024

Part of the aim of the Seedcase Project isn’t just to build software; the aim is also to spread knowledge and teach others on concepts within research data engineering, research software engineering, analytic programming/coding, data management, and open research practices (like FAIR data).

One tool we use as part of our teaching strategy is called micro-learning or micro-lessons (which we call “learning shorts” or “shorts”). Learning shorts are short, focused lessons that are designed to teach a single concept or skill, with minimal or at least explicitly described prerequisite knowledge.

This post describes a bit more about learning shorts and how to write one.

What is a learning short?

A learning short is based on the concept of “microlearning”, which is a method of teaching that breaks down learning content into very small, very specific bits of information. The length of a typical learning short is very short, only taking a few minutes to read. We aim to keep shorts concise, with a reading time under 10 minutes.

The concept of using microlearning for teaching arose acknowledging the limited time we have in our modern, busy, information-overloaded world, as well as from the science of learning that shows “less is more” when it comes to long-term learning outcomes. Microlearning can also fit nicely into a broader “learning campaign” strategy, where a series of connected and diverse learning activities (like shorts, multi-day courses, or seminars) are used to achieve a larger learning goal by encouraging behaviour and culture change over a persistent, longer period of time.

Learning shorts template

The shorts/ folder of the learning section contains a template for writing these shorts called _template.qmd. See the template to learn about the structure.

You can refer to existing shorts to use as a guide and for inspiration for how to write the individual sections. We won’t go into too much detail for each section, but will highlight a few:

  • Learning goal: This is the most important part of the short, aimed to inform the reader of what knowledge or skill will they gain. It should be as simple and short as needed to convey the learning goal. It should be written in a form based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (or a similar structure).
  • Lesson content: This is the main part of the short, where the core teaching content is written. It should be broken down into sections (with several headers denoted by ###). Try to make use of visual aids like images, diagrams, and tables to help explain the content. If it is code based, make sure to show the actual code.

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