What is nano-learning?
Nano-learning is a highly targeted learning method designed to help people understand subject topics through smaller inputs in short time frames. Similar to the concept of ‘bite-size’ learning or ‘chunking’, it breaks down complex topics into digestible chunks.
The idea is to deliver short and simple concepts in an engaging format. The age of TikTok, SnapChat and YouTube has somewhat proven this as an effective method for content consumption through social media. People want information quickly and concisely, so that they can move onto the next. Nano-learning replicates this style by providing modules that teach one skill within a much larger topic or theme in under 2 minutes or less.
The difference between micro-learning and nano-learning
Microlearning is like the big sibling of nano-learning. It’s the same idea but focuses on a single learning objective and delivering it within 3-5 minutes.
Information and/or skills are broken down into ‘learning capsules’.
- Exercise / question
Many companies are now using multimedia nano-learning within CPD sessions for their employees. Both methods aim to combat screen fatigue and distractions such as notifications and alerts that we regularly encounter in a modern-day working environment. Due to social media, digital devices and even television, we are bombarded with content on a regular basis, which is argued to cause an increase in stress and a decline in attention spans. So, is it worth implementing in today’s classrooms?
Can it be applied to the classroom?
The question is, are colleges using this method already in their own way? Focused learning objectives are set at the beginning of each lesson, and subsequently the topic, theme or skill of the day is broken down into individual tasks. BBC Bitesize has been using a version of this method for decades as a useful revision tool and the results are effective. However, these can usually last 10-15 minutes each. Is it worth going further into the micro and nano realm?
It’s suggested that nano-learning provides a myriad of benefits. It aims to keep attention levels high; increase intake and retention of information; improve productivity and aids the ability to learn. If you look into attention spans, it’s being suggested that our ability to concentrate is declining, and that we’re unable to absorb information for long periods of time – throwing the current traditional classroom into question. But we need to ask ourselves, are our attentions spans plummeting at such a drastic rate (with some reports claiming it’s now at 8%) or are we just getting better and faster at capturing attention through technology and multimedia formats?
The trick to nano-learning is incorporating multiple forms of media within one session. Video, image, text and audio all being used coherently to create engaging content. It can certainly be an effective online learning tool, ideal for remote learning situations. It also fosters the ‘learn anywhere’ approach that is growing in popularity within the education sector. However, can it work within the current curriculum and standards educators must adhere to? And would our examination process work effectively as an assessment for this new style of learning?
Blended learning and the future of education
The difficulty of bringing this method into the classroom is time and an element of digital savvy. If the key to nano-learning is multimedia, then educators will need to create videos, source images, write text and record soundbites and mini podcasts. Granted, they’ll be down-sizing the resource, but when you’re trying to teach up to 5 different classes a day, 5 days a week over an entire academic year, alongside the usual rigmarole of college-life, the workload looks to increase. That being said, nano-learning may mean nano-marking, with peer-led assessment and feedback surveys being more accessible.
Perhaps the answer is a blended approach. Starting off slow, both micro and nano-learning can be adopted into a lesson plan, working alongside other traditional styles of teaching, rather than acting as an alternative. It can certainly remain an effective revision tool or be used for reinforcement, as it gradually grows into an feasible classroom strategy. So, who’s spearheading this new, digital-based method?
Effective nano-learning in the classroom
EdTech companies are already creating nano-learning coursework for businesses, either as a part of their employee induction programme, or as an upskill strategy for certain topics within their industry. This could be the answer to allow colleges to start exploring nano-learning within their own pedagogy. Although it may be an investment, if this is the future of learning, perhaps this initial outlay will be worth the overall outcomes for their pupils.
Effective nano-learning in the classroom would look something like this:
- Identifying a student’s needs and the learning skills they need to improve
- Considering the learning objective and breaking it down into what they need to know to reach the objective
- Each skill is then capsuled into pellet information and delivered through multimedia formats
- Skills, knowledge and understanding is assessed through their response by survey or peer feedback
Nano-education does look like an appealing method for learning. It could also shift the focus from remembering information, to building successful learning habits and developing new skills.
The focus looks to move towards learning to ‘learn’. How can we do this differently in our current college systems to reflect an ever-changing world? Will teachers become content curators? The need to become technologically wise will increase exponentially and the photocopier may become a relic. The future of education certainly looks to be an interesting landscape with boundless potential.
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About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.