In my book, Course Design Formula®: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online, I use the process of building a house as a metaphor for the process of building a course.
Watching the fascinating series, Tiny House Nation, on Netflix recently, I realized that building an online course is not just like building ANY house.
Building an online course is, specifically, like building a TINY house.
The reason for that is that the limits of working memory are very small. Working memory is the aspect of cognitive processing needed to take in and learn new information.
Research (and experience) have shown that we can only hold about 5 to 7 separate things in our minds at the same time. (That's one reason telephone numbers have 7 digits).
Trying to absorb more than a very limited amount of new information at the same time, quickly becomes overwhelming, causing the learner to tune out and stop learning.
The reason an online course is like a TINY house, is that the limits of working memory are very narrow.
So when designing an online course, it’s important to work within very tight design limitations, because you have a very small amount of cognitive processing space to work with.
What makes Tiny House Nation so fascinating is the process the builders and craftsmen use to make very small spaces work so elegantly for the specific needs of the people who will be living there.
The builders conduct extensive interviews and create customized structures (such as staircases with built-in storage cabinets, or a butcher block table that transforms into a ladder). The customized structures make use of the small space and enable the home’s occupants to fit the things that are most important to them into their available living quarters.
The key to living well in a tiny space, is customized LIVING DESIGN.
The key to creating an effective and engaging online course, is customized LEARNING DESIGN.
If you haven't already seen Tiny House Nation, or have missed some episodes, check it out!
Watching host John Weisbarth and design expert Zack Giffin solve seemingly impossible challenges, is awe-inspiring!
Here are just a few of the things they have made work in tiny homes:
Customized course design will help you create effective lessons that stay within the limits of working memory, keeping your course participants actively engaged and learning.
If this idea sounds intriguing, you are welcome to schedule time with me to talk about your specific project goals.
Expert instructional design lets you pack a lot of learning into a little space!