Readings: E-Learning: Chapter 10


Chapter 10—Applying the Segmenting and Pretraining Principles: Managing Complexity by Breaking a Lesson into Parts (pages 204–220)

Complete the polls below, then read the chapter. Write your response by Thursday. Reply to at least 2 people’s posts. :heart: at least 3 that seem interesting, provocative, that you agree with, or otherwise wish to acknowledge. At least one of your responses should be written after Thursday when everyone has had a chance to post. Ideally, you’ll participate on at least three different days.

###A chapter in a book outlines and highlights the key terms/concepts of the chapter by including a section at the beginning of the chapter. This is an example of the __________________________.

  • Segmenting Principle
  • Redundancy Principle
  • Pretraining Principle

0 voters

###There are several instances of intense training sessions (yoga teacher training) when a learner is trained in intense weeklong sessions or the training is broken up over a longer period of time in shorter training sessions. The latter is an example of the _____________________ Principle.

  • Modality
  • Segmenting
  • Pretraining

0 voters

What to Look for

@Margaret_Schmidt @Mhere1

  1. Complete above polls prior (ideally) to reading the chapter.
  2. Briefly define the segmenting and pretraining principles in your own words and give an example of when each of these principles are best implemented.
  3. Also, briefly discuss whether your assumption of the principles prior to reading the chapter were correct/incorrect.

Segmenting is when you take a complex topic and break it down into smaller parts. This reminds me of a hierarchical analysis. You are taking a bigger complex task and creating smaller skills to acquire that will lead to knowing the entire system. When I taught English in the past, I would each diagramming of sentences. I used he segmenting principle when teaching diagramming. At the beginning of the year, the students did not know how to diagram a sentence at all. I would begin with a very basic sentence. ###Example 1:

Each time the students learned a new concept, I would add onto the diagramming lesson. So the first lesson would have been about a subject and a verb. Then, the next would have been about a compound subject and a verb. The third lesson would have maybe added a compound verb. The fourth lesson, maybe we would have gotten to prepositional phrases, so I would add to the original ideas.

###Example 2

At the end of the year, my students were able to diagram any sentence that they came across. I even had them diagram the preamble or lyrics to songs for fun.

To me, pretraining seems like you are trying to prime the pump. From a psychological point of view, this is a cognitive strategy. If the learner is a novice, the instructor needs to help the learner create a schema for what they are about to learn. Introducing the vocabulary before the instruction begins helps the learner to build up a basic knowledge. My teacher friend who is a math teacher has the students write down the vocabulary words and formulas that they are going to use each unit before the unit begins. She makes them take a little quiz on the vocabulary and formulas so that knowledge is firmly embedded into the learner’s mind before they begin trying to use the information to process the problems.

The poll was a great way to start the lesson, but I read the chapter before I read the assignment for this week, so the poll was easy for me.


When I think of e-learning modules I think of shorter training event that can be completed in one sitting. That, however, is not always the case. Be it the length of the training or complexity, segmenting training makes sense. Dividing the lessons into different segments that are all interrelated helps prevent the student from becoming overwhelmed. One big advantage is it provides natural breaks, a time that the student can reflect or actually walk away from the computer.

I can see this technique to be very useful when designing training that individuals are completing while they are working, like mandated training. Someone might have 45 mins available to dedicate to training and with segmenting could complete a couple lessons and come back at another time to finish. Without segmenting that individual might not even attempt the training because of the fear of not being able to complete the training to completion.

As C&M suggested the more complex the subject is, the greater the need to utilize the pertaining principle – covering key topics/concepts at the beginning that are covered throughout the lesson. This could led to an effective training platform, especially for novice learners.


Segmenting is taking a larger concept or lesson and chunking it into pieces that are manageable for the learner. This is very useful in asynchronous learning opportunities. Students can spend as much time as the need on each section before moving to the next concept. This is important when the information throughout the presentation builds. In other words, I have foundational pieces of information I have to understand before the later information will make sense.

Example of Segmenting from Big Kid Science

I think of pretraining as leveling the playing field. In other words, participants that have less experience than other participants have the same foundational knowledge before entering into the new learning. It gives participants an opportunity to become familiar with vocabulary that is needed to understand the lesson. It is particularly important with technical subjects and with novice learners.

For example, I might include a brief lesson of what the properties of multiplication look like with whole numbers as a pretraining before participants attempt a lesson on what the properties look like with fractions. This will help participants make connections, as well as, introduce the names of the properties before the lesson begins. It gives the participants something to hook their new learning to.

My assumptions about segmenting and pretraining were correct. I like how Clark and Mayer don’t try to overcomplicate principles by giving them a fancy name. When I think about segmenting, I think about breaking something into parts. When I think about pretraining, I think about training you need before you begin.


This definitely reminded me of chunking and strategically teaching a concept or text by breaking it down in to chunks.

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Without prerequisite vocabulary skills, your learner is lost. Thank you for giving the example of diagramming of sentences. My linguistics teacher in high school did that!


I totally agree; breaks are necessary for training, but they are also recommended during long testing sessions. The state department of education allows short breaks as part of testing accommodations for standardized tests.

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Segmenting is taking a large chunk of information and breaking it down into more manageable pieces. Think of it like taking pieces of the puzzle (the smaller bits of information) and putting them together to make the whole concept. Being in the medical field, I can relate to this by thinking of learning about the body. Instead of learning the entire body at once, it is beneficial to break down instruction based on organ systems. Breaking down the instruction can help the learner process the information according to well defined smaller categories.

It is much easier to think of the organ systems separately like this…

Than to see them like this…

Pretraining is when the learners know the basic key concepts before full instruction begins. Pretraining can help learn complex material more efficiently and can also help the novice learner have an idea of the objectives prior to the start of instruction. If pretraining is done, it can actually reduce the time spent on the information.

And I’ll admit that I read the chapters before looking at the quiz! But is a great way to start out the discussion. Clever idea!!


Segmenting principles are when you take a complex problem/lesson and break it down into smaller segments. This allows each piece to be more conceptually taught over a span of time. It is like going to the gym and trying to figure out how to use all of the equipment for the first time. The trainers walk you around and explain all the equipment in one hour and you leave having no idea what you just heard. The next day you read the step by step information yourself that is on the side of the equipment. You may only use three different pieces of equipment a day, but you will continue until all pieces are understood. You will understand them because you segmented the learning over a period of time.

Pretraining principles are when you introduce important/relevent concepts before the actual lesson. It gives background knowledge. It is like using an exercise video for the first time and being told that you need weights, yoga mat, step platform, resistance bands, or a stability ball. The pretraining principle would introduce the equipment and explain how each is used before the start of the video. Once the video starts, that information will need to be known to complete the exercises correctly and effectively.

The poll was easy to answer prior to reading the chapter because of the understanding of the word pretrain and segment. I liked the poll.


Segmenting principles helps an instructional designer maintain a complex lesson into organizes, digestible parts. You can break down large concepts into different segments so the learner can organize and follow the material better. Pretraining principle allows for the educator to introduce the key points of the material before introducing the larger more complex process. Pretraining is a great way to prepare the brain for a larger more complex amounts of information. Both of these principles are great at minimizing cognitive overload. By allowing instruction to be organized and segmented, it benefits the learner. Pretraining is a great way to prime the brain for more complex processes. My concepts prior to reading the chapter were generally in line with the segmenting principle, I thought that meant breaking down the learning content. Pretraining, I thought was more about introducing the instruction key terms before the learner enter the course environment or pretesting.


@nrhudson Did you answer the polls? Did you read the chapter ahead of time too? :grin:


@JMcDaniel I love your example with the different body systems and the corresponding graphics!


Pretraining principle teaches essential information related to the upcoming lesson to help the learner understand the material and decrease cognitive overload. I think the pretraining principle is very useful in helping orient learners to comprehend unfamiliar material or tasks. If some learners already know about the topic, it activates their prior knowledge, and if they do not, it starts building a knowledge base; either way, it helps learners build meaningful connections and decreases cognitive overload.

The Segmenting principle breaks long or complex lessons down to smaller lessons. This helps students learn the material better by not becoming as overwhelmed my the complexity or amount of content. It seems like common sense, but it is easy to forget. When I try to fit too much into a lesson, it isn’t uncommon to see my students become overwhelmed or just lose interest.

I am a big fan of both of these principles. I try to use both, and I have had success when I do.


I completed the polls prior reading the chapter. I thought the polls were a good idea to activate my engagement. I actually enjoyed reading this chapter.

Segmenting is presenting the instructional lesson in parts. This is a common strategy used with students with Intellectual Disabilities but has also shown great results with students with Attention Deficits Disorders and Autism.

In my field we began using this strategy with younger students using the words: first this, then that. You want students to acquire the skills one step at a time. Then, you check for skill or concept maintenance, before moving on into adding the next steps, allowing the student to process the parts without overloading.

When I read C & M’s (2011) description of the Pretraining Principle, I associated it with a methodology that recommends to start a lesson with a pre- lesson.

During the pre-lesson vocabulary or pre-requisite skills are introduced or reviewed. In my experience, teachers need to use this principle every time a complex concept is going to be introduced.

Due to complexity, sometimes a pre-lesson may be lengthy and could overwhelmed students, especially if you are teaching vocabulary words. Therefore, I believe the segmenting principle needs to apply during pretraining also.

I work with students who have specific learning disabilities and the type of way I prepare for pre-training depends on the students’ strengths and needs. However, it is difficul to decide on what to include in a pretraining activity when you are not familiar with the audience. The authors recommended to choose key concepts that the majority of the learners must know before the lesson.

C & M (2011) have backed up each chapter with results of studies with median effect of 1 and greater. I felt that my assumption about these new principles prior reading the chapter was close to the authors’ definition. I was glad to learn that I the teaching strategies I have been applying are also researched supported principles.


I agree with both of you. However, I was wondering how many of us have had an experience where an instructor felt that he or she did not need to implement pretraining because in his/her mind the learners already knew about the topic…

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I think that is a common mistake in instruction: both skipping pretraining because the learners already know the concepts or are supposed to know the concepts and skipping it because of time constraints, which is sort of ironic since learners probably will grasp the concepts quicker with the pretraining.


@Larene_R Did you submit an answer in the polls? What did you think of them?

I agree these principles are both great and probably easy to implement! They sure do seem like common sense ideas too.

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You are correct! Sometimes the main concern when presenting a lesson is time constraints.

At work we have deadlines to cover X and Y before Z. However, when you check the amount of time it has taken for example to re-teaching math concepts need to solve multiple-step word problems, then pretraining makes much more sense.

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@sjmasline Great examples of pretraining and segmenting principles! I can see where the slow transition of the diagram by the additions help your students visualize how the parts of speech concepts are related and connected. :grinning:

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Segmenting is dividing instructional content into smaller parts so that essential cognitive processing is not overwhelmed. Pretraining is providing key terms and concepts of content prior to instruction. These principles seem to be the most helpful when the content is relatively simple, and for low-knowledge learners.

My assumptions about the principles of segmenting and pretraining were generally correct before I read the chapter. They seem more intuitive than some of the other principles we’ve studied. I thought the segmenting and pretraining principles were similar to the study strategy of Preview-Read-Recall, which I’ve used extensively over the years to outline textbook chapters and read over key terms prior to reading for understanding.

I was surprised to read in C&M that research on the segmenting and pretraining principles is less developed than for any other principles in the textbook.