Say you’re designing an e-learning course and you’ve got all of your content pulled together and ready to go. You’ve sifted through your materials and you’ve sorted the “nice to know” from the “need to know”. Now, you’re ready to start laying out the content in your course…. but you’re feeling a bit stuck.

You’re thinking: how do I organize this content? How do I decide what to present first, and what to present last? How do I make sure I don’t overwhelm my learners with too much information at once? Order and organization is very important for humans. You want to set up your learners for success and present content in a way that can help your learners focus on what they need to know, and not get confused by how the content is organized.

So if you’re wondering those exact questions, don’t fret, simply read on to discover four simple systems you can use to organize the content in your next course.

Alphabetically

This is often a straightforward and logical way of organizing content, and since we all learn the alphabet at a very young age, it’s an intuitive and traditional system for organization. This system lets learners easily find specific information. This works particularly well for presenting textual content such as terminology or keywords.

For example, you’re presenting your learners with industry buzz words and their definitions. It would make perfect sense to present those buzz words in alphabetical order.

Categorically

Sometimes the best way to share your content is to break it up into categories, particularly when there’s a lot of content that seems a bit overwhelming when shared all at once.

For example, say you’re creating an e-learning course for a sales team about all the products available in an organization. Instead of having all the products presented at once, which could be intimidating and scary for a learner, you can break them up into categories: Electronics, Outdoor Living, etc. and let them explore smaller and more manageable sections at a time.

Order of Importance

Another effective approach for organization content is to place items in order of importance, remembering that learners are probably focusing more at the start of your course, and losing steam (and potentially interest and attention span) as the content progresses. Remember this and place your most important content up-front.


For example, if you’re developing a product course for your sales team, would you present the 500$ Rust-proofing kit as your first product, or would you start by showing them the 30,000$ car. Probably the car, as it’s more important and would lead to much more income.

Sequentially

When sharing a process or a task, it’s a great idea to share this information sequentially. It makes more sense for the learner if they view steps 1-2-3 in that order, than if they viewed the steps backwards or in a mixed up order. Showing a sequential order can help learners retain the order of the process when they have to carry it out themselves. Anything that happens over a timeline or period of time can usually be organized sequentially.

For  example, your e-learning course will train the sales people on how to close a sale with a customer. It would make sense to share that process in a chronological order, starting with how to approach and greet the customer, how to handle objections, and finally, how to close. Going about this process in another order could be detrimental to the learning process by confusing your learners.

Remember, let the subject matter guide you. Did you notice how I organized the four methods of organization in this article? That’s right, I placed them in alphabetical order! Do you have any systems that you use for organizing content? Let us know in the comments. 

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Peter Rushton
Anna Veach
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Anna Veach