Nanolearning: A Little Content Goes a Long Way

Author: Kimberly Gier - November 1, 2021

Students benefit from small, focused lessons that are accessible by a mobile device.

Is less more when it comes to content delivery for learning? Supporters of nanolearning, a strategy in which learning is delivered in bite-sized lessons no more than two minutes long, say it increases retention, helps teachers individualize instruction, and may help address learning loss. 

The idea that shorter lessons might increase retention is not new. The concept of microlearning, lessons broken down into 15-minute chunks focused on a single area, was first described in the 1960s, and had some successful classroom implementation in the 1990s. Since then, studies suggest that the average attention span has decreased significantly, making what once served as a short lesson now seem impossibly long-winded. Nanolearning attempts to meet students where they are by delivering lessons that focus on one or two specific objectives in a format no longer than the average viral video. 

But nanolearning isn’t just about brevity. Successful nanolearning takes advantage of technology to individualize learning by delivering content that students need or want to know when they need or want it. In this way, nanolearning mimics the way that much learning takes place outside of school—if you have ever searched the Internet for an article or video showing you how to tie a tie, cook a new recipe, or use Excel to do exactly the calculation you need right now, you know the benefits of the on-demand style of learning that nanolearning supports. Students using a nanolearning platform will be able to find exactly what they need to know to complete a project or browse for content that catches their interest. 

For K–12 education, nanolearning need not replace the traditional classroom methods of delivering learning but can work alongside them. Teachers can use nanolearning lessons to target skills and objectives that a particular student needs to improve, assigning personalized content to each student during a portion of a class period without requiring the whole class to review all the material in a chapter. This strategy can help address learning loss and help students “catch up” on missed lessons. A menu of nanolearning lessons can offer students different entry points to a topic keyed to various reading levels, prior knowledge bases, or student interests. Nanolearning lessons can be created or curated to fill in gaps in textbooks, tie concepts in the curriculum to current events, or provide students who have mastered existing material a way to encounter more advanced content and stay engaged with the class. 

Finally, nanolearning is a natural partner for mobile phones and devices. By using interactive nanolearning lessons that are delivered via mobile devices, quality learning can be made accessible anywhere, anytime. Searchable nanolearning lessons can support students in completing homework assignments. Scheduled nanolearning lessons can give students a chance to engage with classroom topics before or after class. Browsable nanolearning lessons can pique students’ interest with a tight focus on a fun or novel aspect of a topic. By putting short, focused bites of content into the hands of students wherever they may be, nanolearning can help students get interested, stay engaged, and review information easily. Contact CSA Education to find out how we can help you create and use nanolearning content in your classroom!

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