Being an Instructional Designer, one of my key skills is effective content chunking. In this blog, I will explain what content chunking is, why it is done, and will share some easy steps for content chunking.
What is content chunking?
Content chunking is a method of presenting information by splitting it into small pieces or “chunks”. A chunk of information is one that is self-contained and can be understood without further explanation. (Source: Chunking)
Why is content chunked?
In eLearning, computer screens and other electronic devices limit the view of long documents. There is a need for concise chunks of information to deliver effective learning in precise time. Chunking is done to:
- Make reading and understanding faster and easier
- Help learners easily assimilate new information
- Help learners form mind maps and improve recall
- Give bite-sized information to learners
- Make learning easy and manageable
How is content chunked?
Chunking is done at two levels.
- Course level chunking results in a course outline, which is done based on the learning objectives of the course.
- Screen level chunking is done to make the screen content easy for learning. This is done by breaking the paragraphs in a screen into simple sentences which are easy to learn and recall.
Steps for content chunking
Chunking can be effective and easy when you follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Chunk based on learning objectives
During course level chunking, you need to determine the proper flow of the content.
- Write the learning objectives for the course
- Chunk the content so that each learning objective is addressed by each lesson of the course
Step 2: Chunk to deliver one learning point/unit per screen
Chunk the lessons into screens, based on the key point that each screen must explain one ‘learning point or unit’.
- A ‘learning point’ or ‘learning unit’ is one chunk of learning that can’t be broken any further
- If the learning points are very small, you can explain more than one ‘learning point’ in a screen, but limit to 3-5 ‘learning points’ per screen.
Step 3: Identify need to know and nice to know information
You must also prioritize the information in the inputs and identify the ‘need to know’ and ‘nice to know’ information in every topic.
- ‘Need to know’ information is essential for the learners to achieve the learning objectives
- ‘Nice to know’ information will help learners deepen their understanding of the concept
- Place ‘need to know’ points on screen, and ‘nice to know’ information can be given in resources
Step 4: Use bullet points, key words, tables, etc.
Chunking at screen level is done to present the information in a way to make learning easy and effective. Screen level chunking can be done in many ways and it usually contains:
- Bulleted lists
- Short subheadings
- Short and crisp sentences
- Short paragraphs (even one-sentence paragraphs)
- Easily scannable text (with key phrase in bold font)
- Images (to support visualization)
Step 5: Miller’s principle linked to chunking
Miller’s law states that on an average our working memory can effectively process only 7 plus or minus 2 points at a time.
- While chunking, limit the number of points that you teach in each screen to not more than 9 (7+2 points)
- There are some exceptions, where you may have more than the suggested number of points, all of which are ‘need to know’
Follow these steps to reduce the cognitive load on your learners and make the eLeanring courses more learner-centric.