Let’s Break It Down
Think for a moment about all the ways you break things down to make them more manageable, or even possible. You don’t tackle a major project in a single day. Instead, you break it down into a project plan with weekly tasks. You don’t save for retirement all in one year. Rather, you set aside money over time. You don’t eat a bar of fancy chocolate in one bite. Instead, you use the handy pre-cut squares to savor it piece-by-piece. Segmenting information in order to process it better and recall it more easily is similar.
It is good to think about training content in a similar way. It is beneficial to break content up, let the learner take a piece, digest it, and come back for more when he or she is ready.
This is called segmenting. It sounds fancy, but segmenting just means presenting material in manageable chunks.
What are the benefits of segmenting training content? Smaller pieces let learners process and understand one thing before tackling the next. This makes the learner’s cognitive workload more manageable, which frees up space to put things into long-term memory. As trainers, long-term memory is just where we want that content to go. Practically speaking, segmenting helps learners fit training into a busy schedule. A series of 15-minute trainings are generally easier to fit into a busy multifamily professional’s schedule than sitting for a 2-hour course.
There are lots of opportunities to segment content.
Break courses into modules. Think of these as mini-courses. Consider using a standard structure: an overview with clear learning objectives, content, practice and a quiz. A key thing is to make each module feel coherent, with a clear beginning and end.
Break modules into topics or sections. Like chapters in a book, these are simple, logical groupings of the module content. This allows the learner to get the lay of the land (like a table of contents) and progress through the module content in manageable pieces.
In lessons, break complex demonstrations or explanations into shorter parts. Rather than show a 2-minute demonstration on closing the sale straight through, break it up into bite-size parts. Show one strategy in each part, then let the learner pause, reflect, review and move to the next part when he or she is ready.
How big is a manageable chunk? Right now, there isn’t much research on how large or small a segment should be. Simply use your judgement and experience. The point is to break down complex things into smaller parts to lighten the load on the learner.
It is hard to learn when feeling overwhelmed, or like the training is moving faster than our brains or schedules can handle. Segmenting, at many levels of training, can help break things down and free up the space to let real learning happen.