Sort, Chunk, and Prioritize your Content Candy


Preparing my costume and going door-to-door asking for candy was fine. But the real fun came at the end of the night: dumping all the loot onto the living room floor and sifting through it with my sister while evaluating our treasures.

First, we sorted the candy into piles of like treats: chocolates, hard candy, chewy, etc. But wait! What about the crossover candies like lollipops with gum in the center? Re-categorized and sorted again, this time by sizes, shapes, and colors. (Am I the only one who loved doing this?) Once sorted to satisfaction, the prioritization began. Which is better? Whoppers, Bottle Caps, candy cigarettes? (It was the 1970s.) No, I don’t want the raisins either. Put them in the give-away pile.

Perhaps this is where I first learned to gather, sort, chunk, and prioritize content for learning experiences. Here are four of the most important lessons I learned.

The Candy Lessons

  1. Gather the goods. Whether it’s candy or content, before you can sort it, you have to collect it. Some houses – er SMEs – have better goods than others. Some give more generously. And some give rocks. But you won’t get anything unless you prepare adequately and ask the right questions. Often an SME doesn’t know what you need. It is up to you to suit up and ask for what you need.
  • TIP: Do your research. Be prepared with the right questions.
  1. Evaluate the bounty. Review all the content. Sniff out any cyanide-laced Pixy Stix and check for razor blades. An SME may not realize that a simple copy-and-paste is actually plagiarism or that they’ve introduced errors in their haste. Don’t let their mistakes end up in your course.
  • TIP: Perform an internet search for phrases that seem either particularly well-turned or stand out as different from the other writing. Ensure your work is clean.
  1. Sort and chunk. Source content often comes as a hodgepodge of presentation slides, speaker notes (if you’re lucky), articles, and interviews with SMEs. Rarely is it well organized when received. Often it is even difficult to assess whether the content is useful for meeting the performance objectives. So dump it all out and begin figuring out what you have. Do you have two versions of the same presentation? Which one is most current? Are you missing information? Do you have a lot of company history info and not enough about how to use the product?
  • TIP: Organizing the content allows you to assess what you have and what’s missing.
  1. Prioritize. Next, determine what’s most important. What content is “need-to-know” versus “have-to-know.” Weed out what you don’t need. Did someone give you raisins? If it doesn’t support the performance objectives, out it goes. Whittle the “keep pile” down to what is most important to meet the training objectives.
  • TIP: SMEs often have a hard time letting go of “nice-to-know” training. Consider putting that information in a resources section for learners to access outside of the actual training.

With initial analysis done, you can add just the right candy into your design and scripting process.
Enjoy your treats!