Content chunking has been around since 1956, when Harvard psychologist George A. Miller first defined the concept. According to his research, short-term memory can only hold 5-9 chunks of information. This exact number is still debated by experts today, but the idea is to remember that people have a limited capacity in their short-term memory.
Content chunking, for instructional design, is the strategy of breaking up content into shorter, bite-size pieces that are more manageable and easier to remember. It’s a great technique for designing successful online training courses. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should! We’ve researched the benefits of content chunking for your learners—and you, along with a few tips for getting good results for when you try the technique yourself.
Here are 4 benefits (and tips) for content chunking:
- It’s easy to plan if you storyboard.
Storyboarding is an easy way to plan out your chunks of information before you start designing. It gives you a visual of what will be on each screen, showing you the overall organization and result of your chunking. For helpful storyboarding resources, check out: Thursday’s Trending e-Learning Topic: Storyboarding.
- Content chunking accommodates working memory.
Working memory is the active part of your memory system. “It’s like mental juggling,” says H. Lee Swanson, PhD, professor with the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside. “As information comes in, you’re processing it at the same time as you store it.” Keep this in mind as you’re chunking content—if you present too much information at once, your learners won’t remember it.
- You can build on your learners’ knowledge.
Content chunking forces you to prioritize the information you’re presenting in an e-Learning course. If you think about constantly building on your learners’ knowledge, you’ll make it easy to organize chunks of content logically. Plus, then your learners won’t get lost from a course that skips around or jumps ahead!
- Everyone benefits from bullet points.
Bullet points are simple, organized and they take advantage of white space! They make content chunking easy—for you, the developer, and for your learners to help them focus on the content. For more ways to keep your learners focused, check out this blog post: 5 Tips for Dealing with Distracted and Impatient Learners.
To learn more about how our brains work and how that effects your e-Learning development, read this blog post: 5 Strategies for Designing Brain-Friendly e-Learning Courses.
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Christie Wroten graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a bachelor's degree in English and Writing. When she's not writing about e-Learning, Christie enjoys traveling or playing piano and guitar.