Primary tabs

Effectiveness of segmentation instructional strategy in online learning modules: Are 10-minute modules the best solution?

May 19, 9:45 AM – 11:15 AM

So-Young Oh
NYU School of Medicine


This study evaluates the effectiveness of the segmentation principle applied to online learning modules as measured by learning outcomes and level of student acceptability.

 The objectives of this study are to:

• Examine the effectiveness of “10-minute” modules
• Improve learning outcomes of online modules using appropriate segmented designs
• Provide strategies for  applying segmenting Designs into online learning within the medical curriculum.


Using an online learning module for first year medical students on the topic of tuberculosis and inflammation, we conducted a randomized controlled trial comparing three different levels of segmentation in the instructional design. 165 first-year medical students were randomly assigned to three treatment groups. Each group completed a differently segmented model on the topic of TB and Inflammation, as follows:

1.Segmentation with learner-controlled “Next” buttons- students completed a traditional 60 minute module that consisted of nineteen subsections. The content is presented in a linear way with ‘next’ buttons.

2. Segmented as mini modules with very short pauses-students completed six modules of 10 minutes each. There were no required pauses after each module, but the process of loading each section after the previous section had finished required roughly 5 seconds.

3. Segmented as mini modules with longer pauses-students completed six modules of 10 minutes each. There were required 30 second reflective pauses at the end of each mini module.


All measures were incorporated into the online learning modules.

• Knowledge change was determined through comparison of equivalent pre- and post-test scores. 12 questions were asked as pre- and post-test items.
• The acceptability was measured through 9 questions.

In order to determine whether the segmentation design introduced differences in learning outcomes among three groups, we conducted an analysis of covariance.

• n=117 ( first year medical students)
• 104 completed both pre- & post-test
• Similar prior-knowledge: no significant baseline difference between groups

In term's of knowledge gain, there's no significant differences between groups (p=.75)

The grouped median revealed that students spent considerably more time completing one long module (86.5 minutes median), compared to several short modules (65/ 5 minutes; 60 minutes) presenting the same content.

The acceptance rate was high (more than 5) for all three groups.


Conclusion & Discussion

Segmenting design should be applied based on:
• learners’ characteristics (prior knowledge, level)
• learning context (requirement, schedule, home vs. in-class)
• learning content (degree of complexity)
Mini modules may enhance:
• efficient learning
• easy access
• flexible path
We plan to conduct a follow-up research re; the flexible path of mini modules.

Aronson, I.D., Marsch, L. A., Rajan, S., Koken, J., Bania, T. C., Computer-Based Video to Increase HIV Testing Among Emergency Department Patients Who Decline. under review.

Marsch, L.A., W.K. Bickel, and M.J. Grabinski, Application of interactive, computer technology to adolescent substance abuse prevention and treatment. Adolesc Med State Art Rev, 2007. 18(2): p. 342-56, xii.

Marsch, L.A., Bickel, W. K., Grabinski, M. J., Badger, G. J., Applying Computer technology to substance abuse prevention science: Results of a preliminary examination. Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse, 2007(16): p. 69-94.

Dillon, R. F., & Steinberg, R. J. (1986). Cognition and instruction. New York, NY: Academic Press.

Mayer, R. E. (2010). Applying the science of learning to medical education. Med Educ 44:54

Triola M. M., Huwendiek S., Levinson A. J., & Cook D. A. (2012). New directions in e-learning research in health professions education: Report of two symposia. Medical Teacher 34:1, e15-e20. Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. (1999). Cognitive principles of multimedia learning: The role of modality and contiguity. Journal of Educational Psychology 91(2), 358–368.