What is chunking?
Chunking refers to the strategy of making a more efficient use of our short-term memory by organizing and grouping various pieces of information together. When information is chunked into groups, the brain can process them easier and faster, because our working memory can hold a limited amount of data at the same time. So, chunking is useful when we try to memorize something complex, such as a 14digit number for example, or large pieces of information, like a course’s content, since the smaller pieces are easier to retain and recall.
Chunking For e-Learning
Even though chunking is a strategic concept, instructors shouldn’t forget that it does have its limitations. The more complex the concepts the brain attempts to absorb, the less our working memory will retain. If the working memory is full, the new information will just vanish. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just cut the length of the e-Learning course. It takes a more effective technique to make the process work, and it’s by structuring the e-Learning course’s content in a progressive way. This constitutes a challenge for e-Learning and consequently for the instructional designer.
Thus, before the creation of an e-Learning course, the Instructional Designer should ask himself a number of questions. What are the e-Learning course’s limits? How much and what exactly should appear on screen? What kind of strategies can I use to group information? All these questions fall into the concept of chunking and there are various strategies to successfully implement it and enhance the student’s learning potential.
3 Chunking Strategies
There are many chunking strategies, depending on the e-Learning course’s content and the information we need to break apart, but they all revolve around three major processes: classify the content based on what’s really important to learn, and then group and organize the information.
- Classify and prioritize the e-Learning course’s content
As an instructional designer you should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. You should know what’s really important and what can be left out. So, get rid of any unnecessary information and don’t flood your learners’ working memory with irrelevant, meaningless and useless content. Less is more.
- Efficiently group your e-Learning course’s content
Separate your e-Learning course’s content in modules and then divide them into sections. If your content happens to have various unrelated facts, try to group or incorporate them into the above mentioned sections. Try to figure out what they have in common and then connect them. When you successfully implement this strategy, your e-Learning course will be divided into topics and themes and your learners will stop feeling lost in a space of unrelated and seemingly irrelevant information.
- Organize your information
A successful instructional designer should carefully create the e-Learning course’s structure and the way it appears on screen. Not everything should or can be used in the same screen. The content should have a rational flow, starting from basic and broad concepts and then progressively advance into more complex ideas. Each concept should contain the right amount of information and can be supported by various resources, such as images, videos, audios, podcasts and other multimedia means that actually reduce memory demands.
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Christopher holds an MBA, and an M.Ed. (Learning Design) from BGSU.
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