Thursday, September 12, 2019

Bite-sized Lessons - A Message for Third-Level?

An interesting ad popped on my Facebook feed this morning - it was from who were advertising bite-sized language lessons that last 10-15 minutes, with the tag line "you'll always find time for them". I like the sound of such short lessons, my own YouTube Channel contains short "How To..." videos of about 5-10 minutes length - this seems to work well for casual learners. I signed up for Babbel, but there is just one short free lesson - the rest are not free :-(

If you search for "Bite-sized Lessons" there are quite a lot. At the top of my search was Hub Spot who are enabling learners to "get bite-sized chunks of learning as you have your morning cup of coffee" - lessons are from just 4 to 20 minutes. asks the question: "Have you ever taken a productive trip to the bathroom?" and tells us about Google's "testing on the toilet", which consists of topics such as testing for code.

Want to learn Irish? Duolingo offers learners to "Learn Irish in just 5 minutes a day"!

Learning in bite-sized chunks is nothing new - my view is that if someone wants to learn something fast, they will Google it and choose a quick way to learn. So content providers have recognised this and are even pitching "learning on the loo". With a vast quantity of educational material available for free on line, it is no wonder that the likes of YouTube and Wikipedia are becoming the first port of call when you want to learn something. Yet Universities and Colleges continue with timetables with classes that are one to four hours long. My shortest class this semester is two hours long, and my longest is four hours. Certainly not "bite-sized"!

Breaking a class up in to bite-sized chunks is awkward when the timetable is measured in hours. A solution of 15 minute bite-classes would be chaotically impractical. Instead of having a two-hour lecture followed by a two-hour tutorial (as in one of my classes), my practice is to break it up by trying to get students to engage in practical work as often as possible. For example, my on-line Programming class is basically just one big lab, with very little presentation/lecture involved.

At third level, we have vague broad Learning Outcomes at the module level. A 10-credit module might have as little as 3 or 4 learning outcomes for 12 weeks of classes. We usually don't go any deeper by outlining learning objectives (note different word) at the class level, and certainly there is very little (in my experience) use of learning objects at a bite-sized level.

More about Learning Outcomes vs Learning Objectives in my next post.

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