Teague's Tech Treks

Learning Technology and other Tech Observations by Dr. Helen Teague

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Teachers Tell All: Ten Tips for Online Course Success

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Curriculum Chunks Optimize Learning

Chunking content guides learning through content scaffolds organized in logical progression.  Our brains process information best through progressive and logical sequencing. Which is why in a play, Act I always preceds Acts 2, 3 and so on.

Karla Gutierrez at Shift’s eLearning Blog posted three ideas to consider when “chunking” eLearning content:

Consideration #1: Rank and prioritize content

Begin with your curriculum standards or Common Core standards. Then, Gutierrez writes, “organize information in a logical and progressive way by defining modules, then sections and finally topics. Start by separating conceptually related content in large pieces and use them as modules. Divide modules into smaller pieces, these will become your sections. Continue this process until the content divided into themes or topics.”

Consideration #2: Organize the content on each screen appropriately

Transition from one content point to the next. I think it is important to embed “back” and “next’ arrows for easier flow. I recently reviewed a course without these simple-to-add tools and the cumbersome navigation was distracting.  Gutierrez explains, “The truth is learners tend to scan content…they don’t ready 100% of what is on the screen. By chunking information you can get them to learn what it’s really important. So remember: start with basic and broad concepts and build upon them. If a screen seems to have a lot of text, strategically cut it into 2 different slides.”

Gutierrez provides 9 tips for organizing information at screen level:

  1. Organize content on the screen clearly, and in a logical flow.
  2. Place suitable amount of information (Short paragraphs of no more than 3 to 4 sentences is recommended)
  3. Use white space appropriately to increase the screen’s visual appeal.
  4. Preferably each paragraph should communicate a single thought or idea.
  5. Avoiding long and complex sentences is a must.
  6. The transition from one ‘chunk’ to another should be smooth.
  7. Use bullets and numbering to convey the main points.
  8. Break content into steps if possible.
  9. Rewrite, reorganize and synthesize your content when moving classroom based content online.

Consideration #3: Think in terms of the students working memory

Gutierrez cautions, “Remember that learners DO NOT want courses loaded with text-heavy, time-consuming content. Therefore, don’t include all content that is in front of you. Ask yourself first if you really need to include all the information.”

Once you determine what is the most relevant, add links to the remaining or extension content or create an infographic to convey information. Also, query students as the course progresses to ascertain their level of comfort and mastery of the information provided. This will greatly add to the effectiveness and longetivity of the inevitable re-writes “tweaks” of your course content.

3 Considerations when Chunking eLearning Content

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Hybrid Courses Preferred

Research validates what teachers already know: integrated instruct makes a difference in learning.
Source: University of Houston. “College Students Score Higher In Classes That Incorporate Instructional Technology Than In Traditional Classes.” ScienceDaily 25 March 2008. 31 March 2008 <http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/03/080324125154.htm>.

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