Thriving Digital Connections: Energize Your E-Learning 

As nonprofits continue to bring more of their operations online, many of us have found that it’s not simply daily work that happens remotely these days––so do trainings and other types of learning that once used to happen in person, whether in a classroom or a boardroom. Today, our Thriving Digital Connections series continues with a look at the world of e-learning: we’ll introduce the concept of ‘micro teaching’, suggest strategies for boosting engagement, and we’ll highlight handy tools to help with anything from planning to delivering a great learning session! 

 

What is ‘Micro Teaching’?

Younger generations are not the only ones who have seen their learning transition from classrooms to platforms like Google and Zoom this past year. For many of us, the reality of remote working has meant figuring out new ways of delivering training modules and other important information during a digital meeting rather than a staff retreat or in-person group activity. 

With the threat of video fatigue looming large, this shift has also meant finding new ways to deliver lessons in ways that can be both engaging and easy to retain. Today, we are less likely to participate in 3-hour lectures or day-long retreats. Instead, we are more likely to be invited to self-paced and bite-sized e-courses that make content more digestible and accessible to learners. This, in essence, is the spirit of micro teaching. 

As the folks at EdApp write, “simply put, micro teaching involves scaling back the lesson material so that any given team member can absorb what’s being taught in small bursts. This method is a popular one not only because of the brevity of lessons, but because microlearning has also proven to help convert short-term memory to long term, meaning that delivering learning material in bite-sized chunks can be incredibly effective, if not the most effective form of learning.” Not bad for a strategy with ‘micro’ in its name!

Through micro teaching, information is distilled down to key topics through which learning is embedded incrementally and in modular form, each lesson building upon the previous one to facilitate long-term memory and concept retention. And micro teaching is beneficial not just for students but for nonprofits as well, as it can be applied to anything from staff onboarding, compliance trainings, covid-related or health & safety protocols, online retreats, product or campaign reviews, and lots more. If you’re curious about building a learning module using this methodology, check out EdApp’s article titled ‘How to make the best micro lesson plan in 4 steps’.


 

Tools & Strategies for Engaging E-Learning Experiences 

In addition to micro teaching, there are a number of strategies that can be adopted to boost memory retention and make lessons more inclusive and engaging. Here is a preliminary list of suggestions: 

 

  • Blend: a blended learning model is one where a mix of elements are incorporated throughout a lesson. These elements can include things like preliminary reading lists, short in-session check-ins, quizzes, peer discussions, breakout sessions, and other methods for brainstorming and gathering feedback as a group. (Keep reading for more on this!) 

  • Gamify: Another blending option is to experiment with gamification. You can introduce this element to reinforce learned content, test understanding, stimulate bonding among sub-teams or groups, and foster creativity. Gamification also gives you the option of assigning prizes, awards, certificates, badges and other recognitions to keep your audience coming back. Depending on your content, you could try platforms like Quizziz, Kahoot or Gimkit, some of which also offer rewards such as digital money that can be used to buy “powerups” and upgrades. Bonus: all of these sites let you search for existing question sets and quizzes that you can customize to fit your needs. 

  • Capture: What you say is just as important as how you say it, which is why accessibility is key. To appeal to all learning styles, consider making your content available in a few formats, for example, in the forms of downloadable transcripts, live captions, as well as video subtitles. In addition to built-in captioning tools like those found on Zoom, PowerPoint and Google Meets, to name a few, you can experiment with Clipomatic,  a smart video editor that automatically turns everything you say into live captions. 

  • Record: If what you’re sharing involves training your group or sharing step-by-step instructions about a new process, you can use Screen to GIF to capture demonstrations happening on your screen into a GIF that others can save to have as future reference. If you have announcements or a presentation you’d like to share, you can create a video to save valuable meeting time and circulate the video as a link that others can review according to their schedule. Loom is a Chrome extension that saves your screen recording as a link, making it easy to circulate videos and keep track of analytics. 

  • Showcase: Video is a powerful format for e-learning, and its applications are virtually endless! With Viewpure, you can share public videos from platforms like YouTube without having to worry about ‘clutter’ like ads, comments, or other suggested videos that may not be appropriate for your group members to see. Thanks to its ‘purify’ button, the site generates a new URL to make collective video watching and sharing more streamlined. If you’d like to collect responses to your modules, Flipgrid allows teams to submit short video responses, organizing the videos in a grid for easier navigation and access. 

  • Design: If you’re looking to introduce customized design elements, or have your group create designs are part of your learning session, try one of these rich platforms: Canva, Adobe Spark, Venngage. Their collections boast thousands of accessible templates, easy-to-use editing tool, and the ability to download files and collaborate through the cloud. If you’re looking to design an immersive learning experience, Google Tour Builder is another great option that allows anyone to create geo-located tours similar to those found in Google Earth Voyager. Looking for examples? Check out the gallery on the Tour Builder website to get started.

  • Interact: Looking to make your sessions more interactive? There is no shortage of other formats and media to experiment with! Listenwise is a platform that has aggregated public radio broadcasts on a wide variety of subject areas, making them searchable by category. By using their share button, you can integrate audio recording to any lesson, making learning more immersive. If you’re looking to integrate e-books, Project Gutenberg hosts thousands of titles in the public domain. If you’re looking for a tool to integrate images and create timelines, Timeline Generator may be the tool for you. Lastly, if you’d like a neat way to organize the multiple media components that make up your lessons, ThingLink can act as a digital lesson “hub” where all your elements are stored as a gallery walk or learning station, making it easy to centralize all content into a single place.
     

Further Reading 

  • Facilitating live direct instruction to in person and remote students (Explain Everything)
  • 4 ways to make your explainer videos more effective (Explain Everything)
  • TED-ED: TED's youth and education initiative, where reachers and students can share ideas and knowledge from around the world
  • Google Classroom, an introduction.
  • There's no going back to normal––there's only adapting to the new paradigm (Loom)

 

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