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‘Chunking’ and interactivity

Read about the ABC Learning Design process and how to create course content in bitesize 'chunks'.
Woman with smartphone sitting on a bench near a bike by a park gate.
Building your online course using small, bitesize chunks of content will help your learners to stay engaged. It will also help your learners acquire and consolidate new knowledge and skills more easily. And, it will make the content production process more straightforward and efficient for you and your team!

As easy as ABC

ABC Learning Design is a method that allows you to work with your team to design a storyboard for your course in a short, collaborative workshop, which usually takes just 90 minutes. It was developed by Clive Young and Nataša Perović at UCL based on Professor Diana Laurillard’s six learning types from her conversational framework.
Have a look at our ABC learning types and activity examples to familiarise yourself with the definitions and types of activities you can create in the online space.
ABC has now been used in over 80 universities around the world to design and redesign courses and programmes, both on campus and online. The workshop was first developed as a hands-on, card-based exercise, but now also runs successfully online using a digital storyboard.

What are the benefits?

The six learning types allow you to create learning sequences that follow a key technique used in digital education: content ‘chunking’.
This ‘bitesize’ approach has many benefits to online learners:
  • Create a positive user experience on any device.
  • Reduce cognitive and information overload.
  • Enable separation of ‘need to know’ and ‘nice to know’ content.
  • Facilitate information retention and recall.
  • Help learners to grasp new ideas and steadily build on skills.
Person playing interactive game on a tablet device © Robo Wunderkind (2020) CC0.

What does it look like in practice?

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Let’s look at an example. Imagine you have an existing 15-slide presentation that you would like to use in your online content. It is likely to be packed with information that is too dense for learners to process, retain or apply. Instead, this could be chunked into:
  1. Acquisition – a 3-minute video to explain the theme or concept.
  2. Investigation – a research activity in which learners practise critical thinking skills.
  3. Discussion – a forum to encourage reflective thinking and peer-to-peer learning.
As you can see from this example, chunking allows you to incorporate more opportunities for your learners to interact with the course materials, each other and the teaching team.
Designing active learning and interactivity like this into your course also allows learners to continuously reinforce learning, and steadily build on skills and knowledge presented through readings and media.
Learners who learn actively are much more likely to feel empowered on their journey, stay engaged and focused, and stick with your course until the end!

How to chunk content

Chunking doesn’t just apply to course design; it also applies to the materials themselves. To show you how you can approach this, have a look at the two versions of the same reading content about consumer behaviour in the ‘Downloads’ area.
Version 1 doesn’t use chunking and version 2 has implemented chunking techniques.
What do you think the impact on learner engagement is between the two versions? Consider format and appearance, ease of comprehension, clarity and focus. Feel free to share and discuss your thoughts about the two versions in the comments below.
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