How To Deal With Too Much Content In Your eLearning Course

how to deal with too much content in eLearningOne of the interesting realizations of working in eLearning is that not having enough content is rarely a cause of concern. The problem occurs mostly when it comes to having too much content and not knowing whether you need to cover everything or what content can be easily dropped.


Knowledge has no end. When people are well-acquainted with something, it’s natural for them to pour it all out. What many SMEs don’t realize is that in an attempt to teach everything, the content can become overwhelming for the learner. If too many slides, images, and knowledge are packed into a single course, focusing on core content and, most importantly retaining the information becomes difficult. In the end, if learners can’t understand the actual message, retain the information, and transfer learning to the job, what’s the point of creating the course?


This is where instructional designers come into play. It is our job to make genuine efforts to ensure our eLearning courses aren’t heavy-packed with information and only teach what is relevant to the learner. It is also important to note that your courses should not be so long that the sheer length puts off people from even attempting to start it.

Break It Down Into Digestible Parts

If the entire course is too much to take in one go, the most logical choice is to divide it into parts. The human brain is not equipped to deal with too much information at once. When faced with long courses, even the sight of it might dissuade your learners. Even if they go through it, they might quickly lose interest. They might even finish the course but find themselves unable to recall anything once done.

One way to remedy the situation is to turn to microlearning. Instead of creating a one-hour-long course, how about creating four fifteen-minute lessons? The key here is to focus on one objective per lesson and clearly indicate the expected outcomes. Short lessons will allow learners to come back to the course whenever they want and go through each part at their own pace. After all, it’s much easier to find 15 minutes in your busy schedule than carve out an entire hour!

Another way you can break down content is by simply focusing on the key part. Remove anything that is not absolutely needed or important. To eliminate the non-essential content, you’d have to do the Must-know, Need-to-know, and Nice-to-know exercises. Since most of the time, instructional designers do not know the content inside and out, consulting with SMEs is essential to ensure each objective is covered in its entirety.

Additionally, make a clear path for the course. Even if you decide to keep it long, break lessons into sub-lessons. The learner should be able to track down the core concept for every lesson and know which part they want to focus on.

Add Reference Text

You don’t have to explain everything within the course! You can provide additional links and supplementary information that would help your learners focus on core content and review additional information as the need arises.

Not only that this approach will help to eliminate cognitive overload but it will also allow those who want to learn more about the topic to explore it further while keeping the learners who just want the basics happy.

Edit and review the course until you have the most significant part of the story and until all of your objectives are covered. Then, link your content to videos and PDFs that explain the topic further or provide valuable but less relevant information.

Show Not Tell

Do you know how writers are regularly taught to show their story and not tell it? No surprise it applies to eLearning and courses too!

Instead of making a course with huge blocks of texts or bullet points, just tell stories and use examples. You can also consider creating infographics, images with enough visual content for readers to understand what you are trying to convey.

Again, you’d most likely need to consult with your SMEs here. After all, they have all the real-life examples and stories you need! So, talk to them and them and then turn their stories into video clips, scenarios, or simulations.

Form A Bonus Portion

This is similar to directing people to reference text. Instead of throwing them to another link, first, take a good look at your course. What part of the information can the learners go without? Is the information still important, even if not immediately? If yes, you can organize it as bonus content. Here, you add information or explain previous content to make it crystal clear for your learners. Most learners respond positively to bonuses as they don’t perceive them as obligatory or essential to their understanding/application of the material.

Simply Cut It Down

Go through the course yourself from a student’s perspective. If you find some sections boring or hard to concentrate on, so will other students. Also, asking for a second opinion can help you eliminate redundant or unclear content. While SMEs should definitely review the course for content and accuracy, it is beneficial to have someone with no knowledge of content review the course.

Be sure to keep a list of all the content you cut out. All your nice-to-know content does not need to go to waste. Instead, consider creating another course for either more advanced learners or those who want more in-depth content.

Final Thoughts

It is a good idea to create a detailed outline for your course. It is much easier to narrow down your content when you have a heading for each lesson with clear topics and examples.

At first, it might be hard to determine how much content to include in the course, but carefully analyzing your content and working with SMEs can help you determine the right amount of content and avoid cognitive overload.

If you want to learn more about cognitive overload, organizing your course content, and creating instructionally sound digital courses, join my Instructional Design for eLearning program here!

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