Microlectures turn lessons into interactive snippets

Take a 60-minute lecture and cut it down to 60 seconds.

Remove some details, excess verbiage and anecdotes. Only the key concepts remain.

This is a microlecture, an educational tool in place at San Juan College, a community college in New Mexico. It was designed and recommended for instructors to engage students using the Internet.

Quick classes

A microlecture is a one- to three-minute lecture that highlights key concepts and introduces activities. It intends to teach students how to synthesize information through the assigned readings, papers and class activities.

Source: San Juan College

“It has nothing to do with attention span,” said David Penrose, who designed the program and is a senior instructional designer for SunGard Higher Education. He also manages online services at the college.

“It has to do with (instilling) curiosity, creating passion and … putting the student in charge of their own learning in the context of others.”

Penrose said the lecture is intended to direct and engage students in active learning with tiny bursts of information.

The microlecture does this by highlighting important terms, then assigning other activities such as a research paper or group discussion to reinforce the learning, he said.

“The microlecture doesn’t have answers, but begins to ask you the questions,” he said. “Anything outside the lecture are activities that help shape you into the passionate learner and the scholar.”

The microlecture has not reached MSU, and some students and professors are skeptical of the format.

But the university could be open to the idea, if executed properly.

MSU academic specialist Phil Schertzing said he cannot imagine how a professor can hit all the main points of a lecture in one minute.

“It would be challenging to try to encapsulate sufficient information in the one minute that would be meaningful to point the student in the direction to an actual interactive learning experience,” said Schertzing, who also teaches online classes in the School of Criminal Justice.

Schertzing said he worries some students might not be ready for this type of learning environment.

He said the self-directed research will not benefit everyone.

Interdisciplinary studies in human resources and society junior Jackie Dabkowski said it would depend on how the lecture was run.

“I don’t know if I could get a whole amount of information in 60 seconds,” Dabkowski said.

“I like the lecture having everything being explained to me first and then doing the project or homework.”

Other students, such as business freshman Rachel Mika, said the hands-on learning environment would be effective as opposed to having students fall asleep all the time in class.

“I’d actually teach myself the material instead of regurgitating the material for the test,” Mika said.

Shorter lectures also are supposed to be educating and entertaining to the listener so he or she doesn’t get bored, but is still learning, Penrose said.

“It’s not the traditional way we’ve done things,” Penrose said.

“But wouldn’t you much rather have every single student passionate about your subject area rather than whether or not (they) memorize the crap you talk about in class?”

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