Launching an online course is a long process. Brainstorming topic ideas is just one of the many obstacles that the course creator has to overcome. There are many other things she needs to consider, like the design of the website, effective storytelling techniques, outlining the course so that it serves the audience best and launching the marketing strategy, to mention a few.
An important aspect of coming up with new ideas to solve such problems is linking relevant information you already have to the problem you are actively working on. This ability – bringing stored information to the present moment – is executed by our working memory. According to Miller’s law and related studies, it’s commonly accepted that we can only hold around four to nine items in our mind at a given time. More than this is a cognitive overload for many of us. You can deal with the limited nature of working memory by chunking information, that is, breaking it down into smaller parts. A well-known example is chunking phone numbers into smaller groups so that we can keep them in mind easily.
Chunking is a very common tool used to improve learning. You can also benefit from it when generating ideas to solve problems and improve your business. By breaking down the components of a task, such as creating an online course, you can make it more manageable too. This is because you can observe the individual components of the whole challenge separately and see the relationships between them in fresh ways. Moreover, by combining and rearranging different components of your online course business, you can come up with novel solutions.
Let’s say our course creator wants to improve her instructional methods to better serve her students. To start with, she lists as many related elements, components, parameters, categories, etc., as she can think of, such as
- short attention spans
- student participation
- voiceover artists
- order of delivery of the content
- instructional models
She then takes each of these components one by one. Deconstruct each even further, search for more subcategories, list them and think about how each new part adds to the challenge. For example, she can deconstruct student participation into reflection questions and meaningful exercises, or the aspect of short attention spans could bring her to the concept of microlearning. What she can additionally do is place all of these individual parts into a matrix. She can then look for new combinations, like integrating reflection questions into a microlearning environment.
Thinking mainly about the overall process may cause us to miss an attribute which plays an important role in our business. Examining each component individually can open up ways to see things we were not aware of before.