Summer Reads for Instructional Designers and Learning Professionals 2019

Summer’s a special time to read. Maybe it’s at the park, in a hammock, or under a tree. Or maybe you’re on the beach with the sound of the waves filling the gaps between the turn of the page. For me, it’s often listening to an audiobook while on a walk—something about it helps my mind drift into creative possibilities.

As instructional designers, summer’s a great time to explore related fields to stretch your skills and the way you think about design (and perhaps beat the dreaded design slump). †So, here’s a few books to inspire you.

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Learning from Stories

Have you ever lost yourself in a story? There’s nothing quite like it. The whole world passes by as you absorb the plot, setting, and characters. When you return (a little blurry-eyed) to reality, your whole perspective shifts to adjust to what you’ve experienced. After immersing yourself in the narrative, you have changed.

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Formatting eLearning Documents: Picture This

Images are a great way to add a little life to your document. Microsoft Word makes it especially easy to insert images into a document. But, with great power comes great responsibility, and you should stick with some basic principles when inserting images. If not, they can be overwhelming, hard to see, and difficult for a reader to interpret the relationship of the image to the text.

So, in this post, we’ll explore the basics of inserting and formatting an image and some little extras, like adding alt text to improve the accessibility of your documents.

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Bring Simplicity to Your eLearning Design

Each day, the amount of data created increases by about 2.5 quintillion bytes, and 90 percent of the data in existence comes from the past two years (Marr, 2018). Without a guide (or a friendly-neighborhood librarian), it’s impossible to sort through that much data on our own. It’s no wonder our learners struggle with information overload (“Information Overload,” 2019).

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Choosing Meaningful Names for your eLearning

Ever save a file with a random name, only to not be able to find it later? If only you’d named it something meaningful! The same can be said for naming your eLearning materials.

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Managing your Digital Toolbox

In the past I’ve talked about how it’s important to not let efficiency get in the way of trying to master a new skill or tool. Today, I want to expand on that a little bit and argue that sometimes, leaning too much into monetary efficiency is bad.

Yeah. Sometimes you just gotta spend money.

I’m not saying be frivolous. But rather try not to get locked into design patters solely by financial concerns. Let me explain.

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Formatting eLearning Documents: Table That Thought

We have a love/hate relationship with tables. On the one hand, tables organize information, especially when you need to make a side-by-side comparison or display data. On the other hand, it’s easy to get a little table-slap-happy, creating a choppy document that is difficult to view or read and is especially difficult for a screen reader. And let’s not even talk about the potential accessibility nightmare.

A table is a good option if you need to display dates, lists, or side-by-side information. Tables help us avoid using the Tab button, which can cause screen reader navigation problems. However, too much information or too many columns and rows are difficult to view and read in a table. So, it is best to revise your content or find a way to avoid using a table.

There are times when a table is the cleanest way to present the information, but a poorly formatted table is also difficult to distinguish visually. So, let me share some best practices for formatting tables in eLearning.

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Dear Instructor—Take This Test

The next time you sit down to write a test, to place a quiz in your online course, or send off a test key to your instructional designer, ask YOURSELF some questions:

  • Will the quiz motivate your students?
  • Can you explain why each question is on the test?
  • Are you using your test to promote learning?

Punitive to Positive

Which of those words has a better ring to it? Consider making the quiz a vehicle for delivering a sense of purpose and motivating your students.

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The eLearning Communication Loop

So, over the holiday break, in-between stuffing my face with food and watching holiday movies (yes, Die Hard counts), I took some time to catch up on my podcast backlog. Particularly, Limetown.

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Remove Barriers to Learning with Design and Plain Writing

Over the summer, we updated our online general education syllabus template using learning theory, universal design for learning (UDL), plain writing, and accessibility principles. Recently, Dave, Tara, and I presented this process at Continue reading “Remove Barriers to Learning with Design and Plain Writing”