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Organize Content Effectively to Maximize Student Learning

It is time to set up a new eLearning course. That sounds simple enough, at least in theory.

  • Sit down, draw up objectives for what the course is expected to convey to students.
  • Get curriculum prepared to meet those objectives.
  • Prepare assessments to determine how effective you were in presenting information to those who participated in the eLearning course.

And you might think you're ready.... 

But, not really! 

You have to make sure your course is designed taking in consideration how students learn best. 

Research has proved that the order and organization of learning activities affects the way information is processed and retained (Glynn & DiVesta, 1977; Lorch & Lorch, 1985; Van Patten, Chao, & Reigeluth, 1986). 

Text-Organization Effect

The concept refers to the effects that the structural elements of the course have on the information learners encode and remember. This effect relies on the fact that learners’ comprehension is influenced by the text structure used to convey the information. Moreover, it says that our brains like the organization of information, which is why chapters, outlines and sections are highly recommended as an instructional method.

To properly organize and sequence content, you’ll first need to consider: 

Ok so now that you know this, let's get ready to learn all about organizing content effectively in your eLearning courses. 

There are two main ways to organize content:

  • Sequential: Sequential information simply means that information is presented in a list, or information is presented as though there is a problem followed by a solution. We learn how to cook by following a recipe exactly. We learn to read a book after we learn to recognize individual letters with many steps in between. There is a sequence to how material is presented and learned.
  • Non-Sequential: Learning non-sequentially can also be a natural way to learn and can work for eLearners because they are able to skip parts of the process that don’t necessarily pertain to them. 


Sequential Learning Structures

If you want to organize content sequentially, there are different ways to present information to students so they can maximize their learning: 

1) Description/List:

A list is an easy to recognize manner of presenting information.  You describe something by enumerating its features, characteristics, or examples. A list can provide information about how to open a pop bottle and how to split an atom. The list can be in sequence order, or it can simply include the information about what has to be accomplished.


2) Problem/Solution:

Presents why there is a problem, then introduce one or more possible solutions to fix the problem. The solution was to exterminate every rat seen on the streets of London. Why? The problem was that rats were blamed millions of deaths. Fortunately, when the rats were killed the fleas died to so the real culprits ultimately paid, but it may not make as much sense in the education process to begin by killing rats. 


3) Simple to Complex:

Providing students with simple information before providing them with complex information is a way to sequence things so that it makes learning easier.

Students unconsciously learn simple information first, and then they access their memory for that easy or at least easier thing, to start learning something more difficult. This is in part why college courses have a set of pre-requisites. A student wouldn’t start off taking a 500 level course most of the time. They begin with the 100 level course and work their way up to the more challenging information.

Our brains like hierarchy. Following this principle, you can design your screens starting with general and important concepts and then moving to, “explaining information in a hierarchical fashion.” John Medina says, “You have to do the general idea first. And then you will see a 40% increase in understanding.”


4) Familiar to Unfamiliar:

Similar to going from easy to difficult, familiar to unfamiliar starts with what the student knows, then moves on to teach them new information. This can be done by using metaphors, analogies, similes, comparisons and other methods often used in literature and writing to teach new information. However, math can also use this method of instruction as more difficult concepts and formulas are often “built” on prior or familiar concepts and formulas.

Read more: How to Teach Concepts (and Make Them Crystal Clear) in eLearning


Non-Sequential Learning Structures

In non-sequential or network structures, learners have to get meaning out of the information presented to them. Often, this information is presented through case studies and scenarios. These formats which a student should be able to use information they have to determine either what the problem is, or at least give them information to begin an investigation.

Read this article to learn more about structures used to create non-linear eLearning courses.


Once a format for presenting information has been chosen, it is fairly easy to move forward with the presentation of information.

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How are you organizing your eLearning content? Let us know in the comments! 



Selecting and Organizing Instructional Content 

Sequential and Non-Sequential Macro-Strategies

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