Some educators are turning to short online learning activities as a preferred approach to engage students.
Take SpacedEd. It offers students the chance to “learn most anything in 3 minutes a day.” Originally developed by Dr B. Price Kerfoot, a Harvard Medical School professor, for medical school students, the method has been proven through 10 rigorous studies to increase knowledge by up to 50% and strengthen retention of concepts up to two years.
SpacedEd feeds short bits of info to users in small spurts of questions and answers. Learners browse a directory of courses ranging from medical subjects to bartending, music theory and fantasy football. “Courses consist entirely of questions and answers. They are sent to you in small amounts (typically 1 or 2 a day) on a regular schedule via email, the Web or RSS … Questions repeat based on answers … Get a question wrong and it repeats sooner. Get it right one or more times in a row and it is retired from the course. Retire all questions to complete the course.”
This method is based on two psychological findings: the spacing effect and testing effect. The “spacing effect” refers to the finding that “information which is presented and repeated over spaced intervals is learned and retained more effectively, in comparison to traditional ‘binge-and-purge’ methods of education.” In other words, learning over extended time periods works better than cramming. The “testing effect” refers to the finding that “the long-term retention of information is significantly improved by testing learners on this information. Testing is not merely a means to measure a learner’s level of knowledge, but rather causes knowledge to be stored more effectively in long-term memory.”