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How to Learn a New Skill in 5 Minutes


We all know that long-term success depends on continuous learning. But let’s be honest–a busy work and home life doesn’t exactly leave oodles of extra hours to play student. So how do you keep adding to your toolkit to stay up-to-date and valuable without pulling all-nighters? That’s where microlearning swoops in to save the day. It’s a learning concept that focuses on breaking down professional training into bite-sized chunks.

To take advantage of this phenomenon, Aquent Gymnasium created a series of video tutorials called Take 5. Each Take 5 lesson teaches a practical skill in less than five minutes. Currently there are 20 of these nuggets of knowledge on themes like web design, prototyping, user research, and career skills. In a bit, we’ll give you a taste (about 15 seconds of video each) of some of our favorites.

But first, let’s do a quick check-in with this educational approach.

Shorter Really is Sweeter

Microlearning is one of today’s hot topics in professional learning, but the concept isn’t exactly new. More than a hundred years ago, psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus presented his theory that learning works best when it’s spaced out in time and broken into small pieces. He found that without practice and repetition, students remembered only 24% of what they learned after 30 days!

And the concept isn’t exactly dusty, either. According to a recent article in the Journal of Applied Psychology, microlearning improves classroom retention by 17%. In a nutshell, microlearning offers you:

  • Brevity—Because education is broken into small bites, you can fit it into even the craziest of crazy days. It’s also less intimidating to get started.
  • Mobility—Learn a new skill on just about any mobile device on the way to work, before reading email in the morning, or between lunch and the one o’clock food coma.
  • Rapid knowledge transfer—Master one or two practical skills in a few minutes, like learning a small-but-powerful snippet of code or a time-saving keyboard shortcut.

Truth be told, microlearning doesn’t replace in-depth courses any more than speed walking 10 minutes at lunch will train you for the Boston Marathon—but it’s a great complement when you don’t have the time to take a full-blown course.

A Peek Into the Micro-Scope or The Best of Microlearning

Okay, now it’s time for the lightning round of the most popular Gymnasium Take 5 courses: the micro of microlearning! Most Take 5 videos teach a practical skill (or two) in its entirety and come with a hands-on exercise to reinforce the skill so you make it your own. Other Take 5 tutorials introduce a hot topic and provide one or more key takeaways.

Adding a CSS Gradient Overlay to an Image

Category: Web Design and Development

Applying a gradient effect to an image makes your website look so much better. But until recently, the only way to do it was with an image editor like Photoshop. This lesson shows you how to apply gradient with one line of CSS code. Take a look-see!

Instructor Jeremy Osborn created the design certificate program at Boston University and has written numerous books on web design, so he knows his way around teaching a mean line of code.

Five minutes spent with this course will give you:

  • Much faster implementation—Instead of editing 1,000 images on a website individually, you can push the change to all of them at once. Nice.
  • More efficient workflow—Searching for the original “artwork” in a haystack to implement again is no longer necessary when it’s easily accessible as a documented, single line of code.
  • Minimal learning curve—You don’t have to be a Photoshop geek to create this effect. Watch the video, do the exercise, and you’re good to go.
  • Browser support—Browser compatibility issues. It’s still a thing. But a copy and paste of one line of code is all it takes to preserve the original image for browsers that don’t support gradients.

Jeremy set up a CodePen project so you can practice creating this effect and then apply it in the real world.

Creating a Duotone With CSS

Category: Web Design and Development

Customizing gradient overlays and propagating them across thousands of images is pretty darn cool. But know what’s even cooler? Creating a hip visual effect like a duotone, with a few lines of code, and without having to know Photoshop.

A few minutes of your time will give you:

  • Quick mastery of mix-blend-modes—Creating these slick effects isn’t super intuitive in Photoshop, but you can learn the basics of creating this eye candy with just a few lines of code.
  • Skill reinforcement—Jeremy demystifies mix-blend-modes in minutes, and then you can practice your newfound genius with a fast and fun exercise.
  • Browser support—Arrgh, again with the browser compatibility issues. This lesson shows you how to keep the original images for underachieving browsers with a tiny block of code.

Creating a duotone with a bit of CSS is so easy you’ll want to play with this iconic effect’s endless variations. Try it out with the accompanying CodePen project from Jeremy.

Using Auto-Animate in Adobe XD

Category: Prototyping

In this Take 5, you’ll learn to create sharp, realistic animations, such as micro-interactions, in Adobe XD. Animation software like Radi or Google Web Designer? Completely unnecessary.

Give us five and you’ll get:

  • Faster, simpler animation design—Creating these effects in a prototyping tool versus an animation program is quick and enables you to dabble with color, timing, and other parameters.
  • Easy touchscreen prototyping—The auto-animation feature in Adobe XD lets anyone quickly mockup mobile user interactions like clicking and dragging.

If you use Figma for prototyping and design, take a look at the Take 5 for Creating Advanced Animations in Figma.

Using the KJ Method

Category: User Research

This tutorial explains the basics of the KJ Method, which helps groups achieve consensus. This innovative approach features a card-sorting exercise in which participants remain silent, followed by a group discussion. Yes, it sounds strange, but trust us…

This lesson shows you how to:

  • Level the playing field—Holding off on conversation lessens the effects of peer pressure, job titles, and different communication styles (like, um, Felix’s). The results? Everyone has an equal voice, the session moves along quickly, and even Felix (maybe) is happy.
  • Facilitate decision-making—KJ is especially useful for decisions that likely will involve strong opinions or debate. (I am not looking at you, Felix!) The silent card sort produces a set of facts, useful little things to drive the discussion when people eventually are allowed to talk.

A little weird? Maybe. Effective? You bet.

Storytelling for Designers

Category: Career Skills

A résumé or portfolio gets just 30 seconds before a reviewer decides to give it a closer look—or crumple it up and shoot a three-pointer. Longtime career and leadership consultant and principal of akathame, Lee Andrese introduces a few ways to boost your odds of making the cut.

In the time it takes to eat a banana, you’ll learn how to:

  • Feature your best work—Front load your portfolio or experiences on your résumé by presenting three to five recent projects that tell a compelling story. Remember, 30 seconds!
  • Lead with results—Whether they’re items on your résumé or projects in your portfolio, emphasize their impact on your organization or client’s business to really stand out.

It’s always a good time to give your story a tune-up. Check out related Take 5 tutorials like Knowing Your Audience and Crafting Your Story.

Build Learning Muscles on Your Schedule

Take 5 gives you the options of adding 20 skills in five-minute increments. Gymnasium also offers online courses (also free) based on your schedule. Full courses—3 to 6 hours of video instruction plus quizzes, assignments, and final exam—and Gym Shorts—an hour of video instruction plus a final exam. All courses are taught by industry experts like:

  • Brad Frost—Take Working with Atomic Design and Pattern Lab with the man who created Atomic Design! (How cool is that?)
  • Stephanie Hay—Learn Writing for Web and Mobile with the content strategy lead from Capital One. She has a way with words (and soon you will, too).
  • Aaron Gustafson—Enjoy Modern Web Design with this former manager of the Web Standards Project, who has worked with Major League Baseball, McAfee, and The New York Times.

Jumpstart your microlearning habit by choosing one Take 5 tutorial, then go from there. At one five-minute lesson per day, in well under a month your toolkit will be bulging with 20 new valuable skills. Are you ready to add to your genius?

Get started with Take 5!

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