2.3 Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory

One way that you can help information transfer from short-term to long-term memory is to reduce the cognitive load (Sweller, 1998) for the learner. When information is presented in a complex, confusing, or overwhelming manner, it creates unnecessary cognitive strain on the learners’ short-term or working memory and diminishes the learners’ ability to consolidate the information into long term memory. So, how do you design a digital media product that does not create cognitive overload?

gears in head


Chunking is the process of breaking up the content into small, learnable blocks of information.  When designing educational materials, it is important to “chunk” the content so that it does not overwhelm the learners’ short-term memory.  If you include too much information in a video, podcast, or online tutorial, for example, the students’ working memory will be overloaded and information will be lost rather than transferred to the long-term memory. Following the Rule of Three will help you, and your students, design more effective digital media products.

Return to Learning With Digital Media

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Continue to Mayer’s Learning Principles

Continue to Mayer’s Learning Principles