Loyola University Chicago

Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy

Chunking Materials

When planning the delivery of content to your class, it’s important to consider chunking the material for your students. Chunking is the process of breaking information up into smaller pieces that can be processed easily by a student's working memory. You probably already chunk your content to some extent in your face-to-face classes if you divide content up into weekly units or into content areas that you want to cover over a certain time period during the course. You'll want to consider chunking your materials even more in an online course, as students face more distractions in the home environment and it can be difficult to consume a full hour's worth of information when it's presented on a computer screen or via an audio recording.

There are two forms of chunking that you should be considering, chunking by concept and chunking by time. It's good to limit both the number of new concepts that you will be introducing to students at one time as well as the amount of time that students have to stay focused on new material. Students are sometimes heard complaining about “information overload,” which is essentially what happens when too many new pieces of information are presented to them at one time. Limiting your content to 3–5 new concepts at one time will give students a manageable, but not overwhelming, amount of information to store in their working memory.  This gives students the chance to absorb the new information and make connections with their existing knowledge of the subject. If possible, limiting the chunks of content that you are delivering to 10 or 20 minutes at one time will help them stay focused and engaged with the material.