The National VET E-news shared this article, which is very useful of off-line and on-line learning, so I wanted to sahre it with you as well. Enjoy!
Content chunking is the strategy of breaking up content into smaller, bite-sized pieces that are more manageable and easier to remember. This is a great technique for designing successful online training courses.
The chunking concept was created by the Harvard psychologist George A. Miller in 1956. In his paper “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two“, Miller said that short-term memory could only hold 7+ or – 2 (5-9) chunks of information. Experts since then have different opinions on the exact number of chunks a person can remember, but the main concept is what’s important – people have a finite capacity in their short-term memory.
It is important for instructional designers to understand this when designing courses, particularly if designing for mobile learning (e-learning). E-learning content must be flexible and device appropriate; learners accessing this type of learning do so for its ‘anytime, anywhere’ flexibility. Content needs to be “chunked” or broken down into key learnings which can be delivered in small, accessible segments. Makes sense really doesn’t it? We need time to absorb each segment, and then to be able to practice the new information or skills.
Chunking should include:
- an introduction to the content segment, including learning objectives
- information about what materials students need before beginning
- instructions on how to complete the learning segment; and
- information about any evaluative processes, such as quizzes or assignments (making sense of the new learning)
1. Prioritise the information
Determine the content hierarchy of the course by choosing the main points, primary supporting materials or visuals and then secondary supporting materials. In addition, think about logical progression of content, so the course builds on the information that learners are covering, rather than skipping around.
2. Design for learners’ working memory
The phrase “less is more” is helpful when accommodating actual working memory. If you present learners with too much information at once, they won’t remember it. Only include relevant and carefully chosen content. Visuals are a good way to lessen the demands of working memory.
3. Go screen-by-screen
Plan what will be on each screen before you start designing. Each new topic, or chunk of information, should be on a new screen to keep the course organised and properly chunked. If this is done at the very beginning, try storyboarding to plan ahead.
4. Take advantage of bullets and numbered lists
If you have trouble organising chunks of content, bullets and numbered lists are easy ways to present the information clearly. People often don’t read every single word and skim content instead. Organising content into lists creates a concise presentation, and learners will still take in the content even if they skim.
Training providers may like to try content chunking during their next course development, and trial it with their learners to see if it benefits their students. You never know what you will find.