George A. Miller of Princeton University propounded the theory that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. This is referred to as Miller’s Law.
As an Instructional Designer, my recurrent challenge is to convert pedantic content into a crisp and engaging eLearning course for my learners. I also need to keep in mind the fact that the average human mind can retain only a limited number of things at a time and strive not to overburden their cognitive ability.
I am sure you will agree with me that this is one of the major challenges faced by many instructional designers.
Although this is a common problem, its solution is quiet simple. The key to engaging learners in eLearning and helping them retain content is to chunk content.
In this blog, I will provide a few helpful tips and pointers about this simple, yet effective tool – chunking.
Chunking is breaking down content into smaller, easily manageable pieces, which form a part of the whole. Care should be taken to avoid distorting the content or its message in the process.
Content chunking is deemed effective when content is presented in such a way that it facilitates knowledge assimilation by the learners, engages their attention, makes the content self-explanatory and more importantly ensures that huge quantities of content is chunked into small, visually appealing, and logically meaningful content.
Chunking in eLearning courses is done at the course level and screen level. At the course level, the content is divided into units, topics, and subtopics. At the individual screen level, there are a number of techniques to chunk content effectively.
The easiest and most efficient ways to chunk content are using:
- Bulleted lists
- Formatted text
I will provide examples from a few courses of how huge amounts of text were chunked through these techniques.
Lengthy paragraphs can be chunked into bulleted lists by grouping them appropriately and converting the sentences into phrases.
In situations where statistics are to be explained, using tables is a good practice. They facilitate precise presentation and minimize the chances of misunderstanding.
Presenting content with visual analogies is an effective method to present it in an easily identifiable manner. In the screenshot shown below, the seen and unseen behaviors of people are compared with an iceberg.
Interactivities can be used to present content that is a part of a logical group but can also be presented as stand-alone content when segmented. It is important to ensure that disparate content is not grouped together.
In the screenshot shown below, the dry, mammoth content on Policies was converted into a ‘Click-on’ interactivity with common introductory content about the policy and the individual segments were presented as ‘Click on Images’ with appropriate titles.
Remember that Facts and Principles should not be chunked because they are to be presented in their entirety.
I hope these techniques will give you more ideas on how to proceed with chunking. Do share other ideas you may have about chunking content.