Microlearning: it’s about what you need in the moment.

How do we make sure that the QI skills and knowledge you have ‘learned’ are readily available from your memory when you need them? Because the reality is that if you can’t access your QI knowledge quickly in a real-world situation (on your ward, in general practice, in your community setting) then you can’t be the improver you aspire to be. If you are fumbling through copious notes and resources from that learning course you went to last year – trying to remember how to use that tool which is on page one-hundred and something in the manual – then forget it: the moment has passed, your attention moves on, you lose the opportunity.

Remembering something you have learned is much more effective than trying to re-learn it. So, how do we optimise the ability to remember – to retrieve knowledge from memory – in the way we design our QI learning? Well, the evidence-base from cognitive psychology demonstrates that the spaced repetition of concepts over time helps with retrieval. As teachers, if we cover concepts more than once across contexts and repeat ideas in simple bite-sized chunks then we can help narrow the achievement gap. In a QI context that’s the gap between knowing tools and having a practical day-to-day mastery over them. Microlearning – short, focussed and flexible bursts of learning in 3, 5 or 10 minute segments – can help us bridge this gap between learning and performance.

And there are other advantages to the microlearning approach.

Imagine that you are a midwife. You have identified something you would like to improve on your neonatal ward. Premature babies get cold very quickly after birth but you’ve noticed that many of them are much colder than they should be. This prolongs their stay in hospital and means they have poorer outcomes. To better understand how often this happens you have decided to gather some data and need a QI tool to help you – let’s say a histogram. You know that you can access a histogram tool very quickly on your phone. The 3-minute tool you have in mind revisits the concept of histograms and gives practical tips on how to create one. There’s also a simple template that will help you collect and present your data – there and then. So, in the moment of need you can quickly and effectively accomplish what you need to do.



References: Make it stick: The science of successful learning by Peter Brown et al,.