chunking blocks

A hot topic in training and development is bite-sized learning. But what is bite-sized? 

If you are thinking about small candies and baked goods, you’re not wrong, so let me be more specific. What is bite-sized learning content? What makes content bite-sized and what should you think about when trying to create bite-sized learning? 

If you get a group of training professionals in a room and ask these questions, you will probably hear many responses centered around the topic of time. For example, they might say that bite-sized learning happens in three minutes, five minutes, or eight minutes. Some might say that bite-sized is an hour. The interesting thing about these responses is that they can all be considered correct in the eyes of the designers and end users. 

I am going to share my four-part strategy for creating bite-sized content. These are the things that I find most helpful to think about while shaping content. There are other things that can help make content bite-sized, but this gives you a clear and easy starting point. 

The four key principals I use to create bite-sized content are: 

  • minimize
  • chunk
  • space
  • time. 

Let me break those down into some tactical thoughts. 

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  • Minimize.  This involves cutting out the fluff, using less words, and focusing on only what you mean to say. It also can involve using media; why use a thousand words when you could use one image? It is often hard to minimize your own work. One of the hardest tasks is to cut things that you really like or that feel really natural but are not needed. It is often helpful to have others read your work and help trim the fat. 

  • Chunk. Chunking is all about ordering and grouping information into parts. The goal of this is to make content memorable and not overload working memory.  Learning is more manageable when it is in small parts; we can only hold a certain amount of data or thoughts before we reach cognitive overload. Cognitive overload can be hard to come back from when we are still being blasted with new information. 

  • Spacing. Once you have chunked your information you need to determine when to deliver each chunk, how much time passes, and what learners do during that time. Spacing often intimidates people. A keynote here is that spacing can be as simple as delivering small pieces of information and then allowing time for discussion or practice. 

  • Time. Time can be a trap. To avoid the trap, I assess the goals of a project to determine a target time before fully mapping out all of the content. To do this, try explaining what you want any given piece to include in its explanation. Time this out and plan on having your final asset take around that amount of time. If that time is too long, you can revisit the first three strategies until you find something you are more comfortable with. 

One caveat: If you are already in the development phase and are starting to think about creating bite-sized content, you are unlikely to see true success. For bite-sized training programs to work you need to start planning for it in the design phase. Your whole program needs to be designed with the intended goal of bite-sized content for the best results. Like many other aspects of instructional design beginning with the end in mind will save you a headache. 

I hope that you find this four-part strategy as helpful as I have. Creating bite-sized content can be hard for many people. As educators we want to arm our learners with every tool we can to succeed, and we want to make sure they hear all of our points. This can often lead to long-winded course content that derails the learning process rather than helping it. 

Please share with me what you found most helpful after you read this article! 

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