Learning 3 MIN READ

Delivering Course Content Effectively: The Segmenting Effect

People perceive and conceive actions in terms of discrete events. They understand knowledge in clear chunks of information. This fact, makes us more concerned about our course delivery.

In online courses, words and pictures are involved- what is called Μultimedia learning. For an online instructor, an important question is what is the most conceivable technique to provide Multimedia learning.

Let’s see what does research has to say. Beege, Wirzberger, Schmitt, and Schneider investigated this year 56 studies in order to describe how teachers should segment multimedia instructions for a more useful content delivery. Here is what they found:

The Need for Segmentation

Learners organize information in their brains, making connections between pieces of verbal knowledge and images. By organizing selected data, the learner results in a coherent pictorial model in the learner’s brain as an output:

What is preceding this output is a long story, and what affects this process depends on many factors. When learners receive fast instruction, they don’t have sufficient time to organize the essential words and pictures into a mental model.

When multiple sources of information are in a learning environment, this may also hinder learning (split attention effect). For example, if an instructor uses excessive text on a video screen, this makes it difficult for learners to study both the text and the video.

This problem comes from a lack of content segmentation. When all information is included in one unit without a clear structure, and teachers teach in a fast manner, this inevitably results in lower learning performance.

What it the Segmentation Effect

The segmentation effect states that people learn better when multimedia instructions are presented in meaningful segments rather than as continuous units.

content separation flowchart example

Those segments should be coherent and learner-paced, that means that learners should have the option to skip certain parts they don’t want to study and jump to another part. This provides more time for processing the instruction and allows learners to adapt the presentation pace to their individual needs.

Benefits from Content Segmentation

As we described before, learners who receive instruction as a continuous unit may have more problems in organizing knowledge into their brains. What does content segmentation do is increase the salience of natural boundaries between events in a process or procedure (Spanjers, van Gog, Wouters, & van Merriënboer, 2012).

flowchart example

This is why learners are facilitated to mentally represent events. It is not a coincidence that in the study we mentioned earlier, researchers found that meaningful and coherent segments led to better test scores also in retention tests (after a period of no instruction).

Τhese positive results were mostly linked with learners with high prior domain knowledge. That means that if you have an audience that is already in an extend trained on your domain, segmentation is even more crucial. Think that learners are more satisfied when they can adapt the presentation to their pace.

Implications in online courses

The results of the research indicate to all online course designers that they should structure the content in meaningful chunks of information. This is how they will increase the overall, learning performance of your students.

For example, don’t create huge ebooks within your course where learners have to scroll down a lot to find specific information. You’d instead chunk your course content meaningfully into coherent smaller ebooks each of which explains just a few sub concepts that constitute one more broader concept.

A storyboard can help you achieve an excellent segmentation. Storyboarding is a useful technique, for your course design. Finally, give concrete titles to your learning units so that learners can discern between them and choose what to study.

Apart from accurate content segmentation, choose a platform that allows free learner navigation inside its content. Free learner navigation increases satisfaction, the sense of “owning” the learning process, and the sense of separate learning events. So, your platform should provide easy navigation from one unit to another and contain “previous” and “next” buttons.

So, we wish you good luck with content segmentation! If you found this article useful and are interested in more learning and teaching tips, stay tuned with our blog.

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Course Designer & Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Anthea is a Course designer and Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team. She holds years of experience in instructional design and teaching. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused in Modern Teaching Methods & ICT (Information & Communications Technology), she supplements her knowledge with practical experience in E-Learning and Educational Technology.