A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Instructional Design

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Mixed Nuts: Atypical Classroom Techniques for Computer Science Courses

Unlike lecturing and giving homework, these unorthodox techniques can also keep students attentive and target preferred learning styles. This article presents some experimental and anecdotal evidence to support the theory that the use of these techniques improves students' learning in an introductory Computer Science (CS) class.

Stamm, Sid. ACM Crossroads (2004). Articles>Education>Instructional Design


Modified Information Theory: A Tool for Analyzing Classroom Communication   (PDF)

Information theory began as a mathematical study of the process of communication. Originally associated with telecommunications, information theory proposes that information is the number of messages required to completely reduce the uncertainty of the situation. To apply this postulate to telecommunications, Shannon and Weaver developed a model which describes the communication system as a source formulating a message consisting of signals to be transmitted over a channel (where they are distorted by noise) to a receiver.

Miller, Jefferson D. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Education>Instructional Design



Moodle is a web application used in educational settings. Moodle provides a place online where students and teachers can come together to teach and learn. A Moodle site is divided into courses. A course has users enrolled in it with different roles, such as Student or Teacher. Each course comprises a number of resources and activities. A resource might be a PDF file, a page of HTML within Moodle, or a link to something elsewhere on the web. An activity might be a forum, a quiz or a wiki.

Hunt, Tim. Architecture of Open Source Applications, The (2013). Articles>Software>Instructional Design>Open Source


Moving from Knowledge-Based to Performance-Centered Learning   (PDF)

Combining training and documentation departments was the first step in one organization's move to true support for its clients' performance. This paper explores some of the success factors of that move and examines briefly two projects that exemplify how successful performance-centered learning support can be developed.

Hillegas, Julian and Alice Preston. STC Proceedings (1998). Articles>Education>Instructional Design


Moving Instruction to the Web: Writing as Multi-Tasking   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study evaluates the effectiveness of presenting Web-based assignments within the technical communication service course. Current research on using the World Wide Web (Web) and Internet as a teaching resource investigates online writing courses, Distance Education (DE), and hypertext authoring. The literature indicates good reasons for moving instruction to the Web, but there is little description of why this migration is needed in terms of the kinds of learning achieved through Web-based writing, nor is there much specific discussion of what type of useful instructional space can be built with the Web. This study is intended to provide support for centering more instruction within the environment of the Web. This article describes a study using a Web site designed for technical communication instruction. It defines the types of learning students experienced when using the site and presents samples of student work representing a wide range of skill development, both traditional and digital, that support moving instruction to the Web in immediately useful ways.

Kramer, Robert and Stephen A. Bernhardt. Technical Communication Quarterly (1999). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Online


Observations on Entrepreneurship, Instructional Texts, and Personal Interaction   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article explores the complexity in Rohan's observation that "although texts in progress create community, this function hasn't value; in the world of business works in progress must be free" [1, p. 130]. To do so, the article describes the history of the development of the paper sewing pattern, discusses the role personal communications with consumers played as the genre evolved, and offers observations on the kinds of instruction provided by sewing machine and pattern companies. The extent to which gender and authority are connected in communications between consumers and corporate authors is explored. The article concludes by observing that once a genre is sufficiently established to become a standard, two changes occur: industries adopt authority for only certain types of necessary information, and women's authorship becomes anonymous, corporate, and personal exchanges with consumers are curtailed to save the expense.

Durack, Katherine T. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2003). Articles>Collaboration>Instructional Design>Gender


One Perspective: Blurring the Distinction Between Writer and Trainer   (peer-reviewed)

In a recent round of discussion on an American Society for Training and Development chat list, corporate trainers discussed the diverse skills they needed to do their jobs well. Requests for assistance and advice evidenced the trainers’ concerns about their writing skill levels. In my own position as a corporate trainer I found myself training in classrooms three days a week and writing the other two. Handling new projects meant not only training the participants but also developing the materials that would be used. At the same time, existing materials needed updates or corrections to remain current with policies, procedures, and technology. The reliability of such information professionally affected the training department to a large degree. Consequently, writing and updating training-related documentation became the primary responsibility of the training department. Our role as trainers had expanded to include information management.

Van Dyne, Jenna. CPTSC Proceedings (2000). Articles>Writing>Instructional Design


Online Documentation in Reference-Based Instruction: A Practical Model for Integrating Help Systems Into Product Training   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Companies can improve customer satisfaction while reducing training time and product support costs by integrating online documentation with product training. Online documentation can be designed to be not only the reference at the point of use but also the primary instructional medium used during training. This use of the online documentation during training increases user acceptance of it and helps develop the required skills for its use. This expanded role for online documentation provides new opportunities for technical communicators to add value to their roles within their companies. This article defines reference-based instruction and outlines its benefits. It describes how reference-based instruction can be incorporated into an instructional system design (ISD) and provides specific examples of learning objectives and student exercises. It lists guidelines for how to structure usability tests for Help systems, and finally, it advises how technical communicators can use reference-based instruction to ex

Hughes, Michael A. Technical Communication Online (1997). Articles>Documentation>Instructional Design>Education


Overview of a Distributed-Hard-Drive-Based Educational Plan   (PDF)

Although empirical research indicates that media selection may not impact learning a great deal, results are inconsistent and sometimes contradictory. We have done recent studies indicating that inconsistent results may be caused by the extent to which educational developers are modifying the genres within which they typically teach – e.g., converting lectures to essays and converting demonstrations to posted instruction sets. Typically, the instructional developers who significantly modify their educational genres do so because digital media (usually designed for dissemination on the Internet, CD-ROM, or DVD) preclude the large format heuristics we accept as necessary in our traditional classes. New technologies, available this year, seem to provide a solution for this problem. In recent studies, we have successfully placed traditional educational genres on very large, external and/or removable hard drives which we combine with Internet technology to overcome the bandwidth problems we faced in the past. Because this involves a unique, step-by-step process of examining educational materials, re-combining them into external drive technlologies, and then developing new distribution methods, we call the process 'Distributed Hard Drive Protocol.' This paper describes six new, protocols we have developed for educators, trainers, and archivers.

Hailey, David E. and Christine E. Hailey. Utah State University (2000). Articles>Multimedia>Instructional Design>Education


Paradigms Restrained: Implications of New and Emerging Technologies for Learning and Cognition   (peer-reviewed)

Mary B. Shoffner, Marshall Jones, and Stephen W. Harmon survey a broad range of educational technologies, including those mechanical and those philosophical, and conclude that it is the underlying pedagogical philosophy, and not the delivery mechanism, that most affects what students learn.

Shoffner, Mary B., Marshall Jones and Stephen W. Harmon. Journal of Electronic Publishing (2001). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Online


The Perils of Passion in the Classroom   (PDF)   (members only)

Discusses the intricacies of burnout and how to recognize, prevent, and cure it.

Campbell, Alexa. Intercom (2009). Articles>Education>Instructional Design


Problems with Training (And What to do About It)

Through years of suffering through the American education system, I was implicitly taught that learning, and therefore training, required large numbers of people sitting in neat little rows, listening to dispassionate people ramble away on mediocre and predictably boring lessons.

Berkun, Scott. ScottBerkun.com (2006). Articles>Education>Instructional Design


Putting A College Course Online: A Development Log   (PDF)

The high dropout rate for many online college courses is due in part to a failure to adapt teaching materials and methods to the medium and to user needs. The author joined an intensive instructional design project and developed an online college course using WebCT with courseware development software. Constructivist pedagogy and today’s instructional technology are a good match, giving online instructors the conceptual and practical tools they need to construct a rich learning environment. The emphasis on user analysis and meeting users at the point of need inherent in technical communication is also vital to the success of online learning.

Pringle, Mary Margaret. STC Proceedings (2002). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Online


Rapid Instructional Design: Does it Really Work? The Pros and Cons   (PDF)

A leading manufacturer of medical diagnostics products contracted with the consulting group, iDesign & Delivery to develop an e-Learning program for laboratory specialists. The medical diagnostic company is moving to e-Learning programs as a way to reduce expenses associated with classroom training such as development costs, travel expenses, and instructor-led training costs. The e-Learning site needed to provide all of the required training for the laboratory specialists. This training was previously delivered as instructor-led, classroom training, or ad hoc mentor-guided training. Additionally, the requirement of the e-Learning site to be a portal to other sources of knowledge was also part of the client’s vision. A rapid instructional design process was employed by the iDesign development team to meet the aggressive schedule outlined by the client during the proposal phase.

Sutton, Kristen. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Education>Instructional Design


Rapid Prototyping

The idea of rapid prototyping as it applies to instructional design, is to develop learning experiences in a continual design-evaluation cycle that continues throughout the life of the project. This cycle, known as the spiral cycle or layered approach, is considered to be iterative, meaning that products are continually improved as they cycle continues.

InstructionalDesign.org. Articles>Usability>Instructional Design>Methods


Readers' Comprehension Responses in Informative Discourse: Toward Connecting Reading and Writing in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A qualitative study using reading protocols suggests that when readers of informative documents understand conveyed information satisfactorily, they make direct confirmations and positive comprehension evaluations. When readers are uncertain about the accuracy of their understanding, they guess, make assumptions, or render the text's language into their own words. When readers' understanding is impaired, they ask for more clearly established links or relationships in the text, or they pinpoint some ambiguity or lack of resolution. When readers' understanding is unsatisfactory but not impaired, they request additional information. In addition, readers make evaluative suggestions that introduce, focus, emphasize, or reiterate their other comprehension-related responses. The response patterns isolated in this qualitative study indicate the need for specific quantitative research and suggest some directions for developing reader-based heuristics for informative writing.

Roberts, David D. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1989). Articles>TC>Instructional Design


Recognizing Diversity: Teaching Professional Writing Courses from a Social Perspective   (PDF)

Teaching professional writing courses from a social perspective enables instructors to recognize students’ own diversity and encourage students to consider cultural and gender diversity in designing effective communications Several teaching strategies will and instructors in their curriculum integration projects Revising courses to focus on diversity presents challenges which the instructor can meet by monitoring students’ response to the material and adapting teaching strategies as needed.

Scheffler, Judith A. STC Proceedings (1995). Presentations>Education>Instructional Design


Recreating the Technical-Writing Classroom on the World Wide Web   (PDF)

Many of the limitations inherent in technical-writing instruction on the World Wide Web can be overcome by intelligently designed web sites. Web-based instruction here refers to courses, in either the corporate or academic setting, where most ofthe instructional materials are supplied over the WorId Wide Web and where students and instructors communicate and exchange writing projects through e-mail. Acknowledging that few instructors have the expertise or technical support to create such web facilities, this paper makes available annotated Per1 source code for instructors ’ use or customization.

McMurrey, David A. STC Proceedings (1997). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Online


Reflexive Pedagogy

Self-reflexivity can help students and educators identify the “what” and the “why” of student learning. Reflexivity is not to be confused with reflection. We often reflect on our teaching, and we ask students to reflect on their learning. Reflection is a wonderful tool. It is, though, a tool for “after the fact.” We reflect at the end of an assignment or at the end of a course. We identify what we learned and how we can possibly do differently next time.

Hara, Billie. Prof Hacker (2010). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Theory


Research Points the Finger at PowerPoint

If you have ever wondered why your eyes start glazing over as you read those dot points on the screen, as the same words are being spoken, take heart in knowing there is a scientific explanation. It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at you in the written and spoken form at the same time.

Patty, Anna. Sydney Morning Herald (2007). Articles>Presentations>Instructional Design>Microsoft PowerPoint


Reusability 2.0: The Key to Publishing Learning

What would you do if you had to develop and deliver personalized training to 900,000 employees, located in 34,000 different locations globally with a complex set of variables that changes training on a location-by-location basis? The key is reusability 2.0. While technology-delivered training has become mainstream in many organizations, most are still not fully leveraging the power of reusable learning content to meet their instructional needs.

Chapman, Bryan. Xyleme (2007). Articles>Content Management>Instructional Design>White Papers


Rhetorical vs. Instrumental Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Survey and anecdotal evidence indicates that universities do not prepare students well for writing in the workplace. One important reason for this failure is that rhetorical theory dominates the teaching of technical communication in the academy. Though extremely influential in the academy, rhetorical theory is inappropriate for teaching some kinds of important workplace communication (instructions, online documentation, computer-human interfaces, indexes), and it does not address important skills that practicing technical communicators need. Instrumental discourse differs from rhetoric in its purpose, in its absence of reasons and argumentation, in its task-oriented approach, in its emphasis on accessibility, and in its emphasis on economics. As a result, instrumental discourse is much more appropriate for the genres and skills that practicing technical communicators use, and it offers significant advantages to students, and in the long run, to the academy itself.

Moore, Patrick. Technical Communication Online (1997). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Rhetoric


Running Group Critique   (PDF)

Feedback is central to learning. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, but practice without feedback does not allow students or training participants to improve.

Doumont, Jean-luc. Intercom (2003). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Collaboration


Scientific Controversies in Museums: Notes from a Semi-Peripheral Country   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This research note discusses the representation of scientific controversies in museums in a particular national context, Portugal. Despite the recent development of the national scientific system and the field of science museums, the connection between science and society has remained weak. The description of the content of scientific exhibitions, namely about controversial issues, shows that science is still portrayed as beyond dispute and unequivocally beneficial and the public is dismissed as irrational and in need of enlightenment. The role of museums as forums for debate and exchange of ideas is yet to be fulfilled.

Delicado, Ana. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Instructional Design>Portugal



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