One of the most important design considerations is to determine the order of learning materials and how the components will be grouped together. There are different approaches you can use to structure your learning materials and this will be influenced by a number of factors including your target audience, subjective discipline, and preferred pedagogical approach. There are different ways in which learning materials can be structured, for example:
- From simple-to-complex
- Historical sequence or timeline
- Modelling the sequence based on the learning process, for example Gagné’s nine events of instruction
- Models which allow learners to determine their own sequence based on prior knowledge or mastery of the materials covered
- Internal logic of the subject matter
- Progressive sequencing where learners may be required to master certain concepts before they will be able to proceed with more advanced topics
Sequencing facilitates how the information will be processed in relation to achieving the learning outcomes for the course. Most educators are able to sequence learning materials intuitively and in practice this is an iterative process. As the course design matures, it is common for educators to restructure and resequence the materials as new sections of the course are developed. Here the wiki model is ideal because the order of the individual wiki pages listed on the course outline page can be resequenced easily.
Chunking refers to dividing and grouping the content into manageable units of information.
When developing online materials, it is also important to restrict the amount of information to be published on individual pages to avoid unnecessary scrolling. Increasingly, learners are accessing their materials using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, which further restricts the amount, type and structure of information which can be displayed.
Chunking also needs to consider the number and frequency of learning chunks, especially when designing for cohort-based delivery. In organisations where degrees, courses and units are structured by notional learning hours, the division of course materials will need to take this into account. Many courses structure the chunks according to what can reasonably be completed in a single learning session and this can be used as a basic guideline.
Once you have determined an optimal structure for the subcomponents of your course, we recommend that the sequence be applied consistently across the learning materials of similar type for your course. An inconsistent structure will complicate the navigation structure of your course materials and make it harder for learners to find their way within the learning materials.