Record Lectures that Make an Impact with Chunking

Paper clips in messy pile then organized Paper clips in messy pile then organized
By: Kelly Lovell  &  Gracia Ostendorf     E-Campus Logo

What is Chunking and Why is it Important?

Academically speaking, chunking is essentially the breaking down and selective grouping of the content you want your students to learn. OK, but why is that relevant to the higher ed classroom? Our working memories have a limited cognitive load. This means that we can only mentally digest a certain amount of content before mental fatigue and overload sets in. Studies show that when learning new information, chunking can ease our cognitive load, allowing students to better process information.

What Does Chunking Look Like in the Virtual Classroom?

Chunking can be applied to all types of content in your classroom: written texts, videos, lectures, etc. Chunked text looks a lot like this webpage… informational headings and sub-headings, paragraphs of related information, bulleted lists, etc. Chunking a lecture (or any oral presentation) is usually done with visual aids like a PowerPoint presentation. These visual aids are key to helping your students sustain focus and retain the information.

When creating content for the virtual classroom, you may be tempted to recreate these same visual aids and record lecture videos that take up the full 90 minutes that a face-to-face class would use. However, research also shows that when it comes to instructional videos, shorter is better. More specifically, instructional videos should be no longer than 15 minutes.

Tips for Chunking Recorded Lecture Videos

15 minutes or less?! At first, that may not seem like enough time to cover anything. Especially given the amount of time available for lecturing in the face-to-face environment. Here are some tips for chunking lecture materials that lead to efficient, recorded lectures that will make an impact:

Organize Your Material Ahead of Time

There are a few types of presenters…those who go in with zero prep-work, completely ready to share their knowledge off the cuff, those who make lists of the most important topics to cover, and even those who write out every word ahead of time. No matter what your usual presentation type may be, when chunking your lectures, at least a little bit of prep-work can go a long way.

Separate Out and Create Individual Videos for Review

We often begin lectures with a brief review of the previous class. With recorded lectures, students have the ability to go back and rewatch any previous lectures on-demand. Therefore, this review should be short and -- more importantly -- draw a clear connection to the new information.

Identify the Critical and Supporting Lecture Information

Ask yourself, "What is the most important information I want students to learn from this content?" This is the critical information of your lecture and the starting point of your chunked & recorded lecture planning. By focusing on the most important information, you can begin to see the supporting pieces of information -- the pieces that come together to make the whole -- that you will also need to include.

For example, the critical information in this article is providing tips for readers to develop an understanding of how they can employ a chunking technique in their video lectures. If this article only contained the first supporting section (What Chunking Is and Why It’s Important), readers wouldn’t walk away knowing the critical piece of how to do it themselves!

Sequence Your Chunked Information in a Logical Order

Once you have identified the main and supporting content you will cover in this lecture, take a step back and see where there is a logical progression.

For example, this article started out by explaining what the word “chunking” meant before talking about why it’s important or what it has to do with lectures in the online environment. By positioning prerequisite information (like vocabulary meanings) first and building on top of it one piece at a time, you set students up for success.


While it may be a new way of thinking about and formatting your lectures, chunking can greatly enhance your students’ learning. With a little bit of thought and preparation, you’ll be able to record chunked lectures that allow students to better process information and improve satisfaction with their learning experience.


Berg, R. (2014). Leveraging recorded mini-lectures to increase student learning.

Burch, B. (n.d.). Video length in online courses: What the research says. Quality matters.

Lizarov, A. (2019, September 10). The role of chunking and cognitive load theory in the post-industrial world. EdLab, teachers college columbia university.

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