Call for nominees for new SIG awards program

By: Lori Meyer

We’re proud to call for nominees for our new SIG awards program! Although we are continuing to participate in STC awards programs, our awards will provide additional opportunities to celebrate the contributions of our great volunteers, and put recognition within the reach of more SIG members.

Two awards will be given:

  • SIG Volunteer Achievement Award
  • SIG New Volunteer Award

SIG Volunteer Achievement Award

Who is eligible:

Any SIG member who has at least two years of SIG membership and volunteer activity by January 1 of the year in which they are nominated.

Description of award:

This award is given to a volunteer who has demonstrated consistent service to the SIG over a period of two or more years, either as a volunteer in a recurring role, or as a volunteer who has served in many ways without having held an elected office or appointed position. The award reflects a recipient's contributions such as adding value for SIG members, making volunteers’ jobs easier, encouraging continued participation in the SIG, and demonstrating creativity and teamwork.

SIG New Volunteer Award

Who is eligible:

  • Anyone who has been a SIG member for no less than four months or no more than two years by January 1 of the year in which they are nominated, and has offered significant volunteer activity within that year.


  • Anyone who has been a SIG member for longer than one year, but who has offered significant volunteer activity for the first time in the history of their membership.

Examples of significant volunteer activity include:

  • Serving as a committee chair, keeping the committee active, and working with the committee to provide new or innovative services.
  • Taking on a task that solves a SIG problem or that motivates others to become involved as volunteers.
  • Creating an innovative event or process that benefits the SIG.

Description of award:

This award is given to a SIG member who has volunteered for the first time. This can be someone with a year or less of SIG membership who has offered significant volunteer activity during that time, or someone who has been a SIG member for one or more years but who has offered significant volunteer activity for the first time. This award seeks to recognize newer SIG members who “hit the ground running” as volunteers, or longer-term members who never have volunteered before but stepped up for the first time.

We’re looking for nominees for these awards. If you would like to nominate a fellow SIG member, please contact us at and tell us:

  • The name of your nominee and the recommended award.
  • A description of why you feel this nominee should receive the award.

Please submit your nominations by December 31, 2018.

How to Create Objectives

By: Daniel Maddox

Course developers seem to diverge in terms of how to create course objectives. I have observed two very different methods in use. This article examines the strengths and weaknesses of each method.

What do we need to teach?

Commonly, the first question that is asked when we sit down to create a course is, “What do we need to teach?” In a course I took in college, this was the question we were told to start with. It was also the question used by a documentation department I once worked for. This is a very simple question to start with, but it does bring with it some difficulties. Here is a brief description of how this method works:

Stage Description
Initial This question guides everything else that you do. You begin compiling a list of needed course content right off the bat.
1 After you figure out what you need to teach, you start asking questions about who you’re teaching, and what your goals are with that teaching. What is the audience’s background? What are their expectations? Where will they be trained? What technology is available?

It may be at this point that you write down the objectives for the course. However, you might wait until stage 2 or 3, when you have finalized your list of course content. That way, you can roll those categories of content up into objectives at the end of course preparation.

2 Based on your analysis, you create a plan for getting the content together. Who are the subject matter experts whom you need to interview? What will the weekly expectations be for completing the work?
3 How do you ensure that you have taught the content you intended to? How do you ensure that your audiences really gets it, knows what they need to know, and can do what they need to do?

At this point, all that remains is to create the actual course content, deliver it, and evaluate it.

This is a very simple method to use. Anyone can sit down with a couple of subject matter experts or salespeople and write down a list of topics that need to be addressed. And anyone can look at that course content and create objectives that relate to teaching that content. This is really the only strength that I can think of. Simplicity is nice.

There is one glaring weakness with this method: How do you ensure that you have solved the right problem? If you start out by discussing what it is that you need to teach, how do you ensure that, to borrow from Stephen Covey, you are leaning your ladder against the right wall? You can evaluate the course however you want, but if you don’t start out by defining the problem, then how do you know that the successful delivery of a given set of content will solve that problem? This method puts the cart before the horse.

What is the problem? What are our objectives?

Here is a description of the second option we have in creating course objectives:

Stage Description
Initial The first questions you ask are: What do we want class participants to walk away with? What do we want to achieve in this course, at a high level?

Based on your answers to these questions, you create a list of overall objectives right off the bat.

1 Based on your objectives, you know what content you will need to create in order to satisfy those objectives. The content begins to come together pretty quickly and logically at this point.
2 Based on the content that will meet the objectives, you figure out how to create and deliver the content in a way that satisfies the objectives most directly.
3 To do this right, you just go back to the overall objectives. Does the course content get us to these objectives?

In this situation, you will know at the end of your evaluations whether or not the course was successful in solving the original business problem.

There is a higher up-front cost to using this method. You might need to have a separate, initial meeting with subject matter experts to nail down overall objectives before you can begin actually deciding what content to deliver in the course.


How do you move from option #1 to option #2? What if there is significant resistance to this change in your organization? What if people just want to ask, “Hey, what do we need to teach here?”

Why not start with a testing of the new method? Use the old method to create one course. This is your control group. Then use the new, objectives-focused method to create a course. When you have performed your evaluations, go back and compare the two methods, to see which actually did more to solve the problems that they were created to solve. With careful analysis, you and your management will see how much sense it makes to create objectives before thinking about what content to deliver.

From the Editor Q32018

By Kelly Smith

At the 65th annual STC Summit In May, I had the great pleasure of volunteering to take the reins of IDeaL from former managing editor Crista Mohammed. In the months since, I have worked closely with the co-managers (Viqui Dill and Lori Meyer) and others to create this, my first issue of IDeaL.

At the SIG meeting in June, the group suggested that my first post as managing editor should include a brief autobiography, since I am relatively new to the STC and have not been very active in the SIG until now. I joined STC in 2015 and have attended every Summit since that first one in Columbus. I started out knowing almost nothing about the STC and knowing almost no one in the organization. Since then, I’ve made many friends and have learned more than I could possibly sum up. Each year I am struck by the diversity and vibrancy of our community.

My life as a technical communicator began when I volunteered to write a software user manual for a student project in 1996. Since then I moved from Canada to the United States to work and although my first job title was programmer analyst, I quickly transitioned into being “the writer” on every team I’ve been on. I eventually took some online classes and certifications to make my skills more official and since then, I have written two non-fiction books, have worked as senior editor for a national quilting magazine, and have written or edited hundreds of manuals, procedures, presentations, papers, and other IT and business-related documents, including other newsletters.

When I’m not working, I am studying to earn my MS in Technical Communication Management from Mercer University. I plan to graduate in 2019.

With that out of the way, welcome to the Q3 2018 issue of your IDL SIG Newsletter!

In this issue

Co-manager Lori Meyer congratulates people who have stepped into new roles within the SIG and puts out a request for new volunteers to fill several other roles. If you’d like to have a hand in running our SIG, now is the time to step forward! The SIG needs an assistant co-manager, a secretary, a membership manager, a social media and surveys manager, and a content curator. As you can see, there is ample opportunity to try your hand at a new skill, or provide your existing expertise to the SIG. In addition, the SIG has launched an awards program. Check out Lori’s article to find out more about all these topics.

In the Secretary’s Column Marcia Shannon discusses what dancers and technical communicators have in common.

Co-manager Viqui Dill wrote a wonderful recap of IDL SIG adventures at STC18 in Orlando, Florida. Be sure to check out her photos! In addition, Viqui provides us with a comprehensive review of Li-At Rathbun’s presentation “We Stoop to Conqquer: Adjusting to Mediocrity”. Viqui also provided us with a list of upcoming webinars on a wide range of topics.

Practitioner Rachel Musicante describes for us how she uses IDL concepts to enrich the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. Rachel incorporates music and games to reach all the residents, even those suffering from dementia. Music really is the universal language.

Student Outreach Chairperson Sylvia Miller wrote about the IDL SIG’s Student Outreach program. This is a great opportunity for undergraduates and graduate students alike to have their work published here, and possibly in the TCBOK.

My classmate, Elizabeth Patterson, reviews Digital Media Ethics by Charles Ess. This book explores ethical issues encountered in digital media and would be a great resource for students, teachers, and any technical communicator who works with online content.

Jamye Sagan is preparing for the bi-annual demographic survey of IDL SIG members. In addition, she reminds everyone of our sixth annual Virtual Open House. Check out both articles for details. She also wrote a recap of three wonderful sessions from Summit ‘18. Check out her summaries of the sessions on introverted leaders, podcasting, and what we can learn from rock & roll.

About IDeaL: Design for Learning

Co-manager’s report

volunteer logo showing hands in the air

By Lori Meyer

Grow with us! Join our leadership team!

volunteer logo showing hands in the air

Communities like ours are about YOU — about learning and growing in a way that fosters teamwork, friendship, and fun. Every new volunteer, no matter what role they play, has an opportunity to touch our community in a positive way.
We have several volunteer opportunities that are waiting for just the right person to fill them. For each of these roles, our friendly leaders will give you the training you need to succeed — and you will be working with a team of skilled, professional, caring people who are committed to the community’s, and YOUR, success. Being involved with our community is a win-win — you can grow professionally, have fun, and give back to our SIG and to the profession.

Read on and let us know what interests you!

Assistant co-manager

We are delighted to announce that Marcia Shannon has agreed to be an assistant co-manager. Marcia has served as our SIG secretary, filling that role admirably and making many additional contributions. We now need a second assistant co-manager to serve with Marcia.

  • Needed: One more needed now
  • What you’ll do: As assistant co-manager, you will work with your fellow assistant co-manager and the leadership team to become familiar with the operation of the SIG, assist the co-managers as needed, and prepare to succeed to the co-manager role after your one-year term ends.
  • Helpful experience or skills: A high comfort level with online content management will make this job easier. We use the Google suite of documents for records and internal communication. Good project management skills are a plus because we juggle a lot of programs in our busy SIG. But fear not—you do not need prior experience as a community leader, and past leaders will be there to support you. We are a true team in every respect! The SIG management role is an excellent way to stretch your leadership skills, work with some of the friendliest and most talented people in STC, and make a difference.


  • Needed: Now
  • What you’ll do: The secretary ensures that our monthly leadership meeting notes are documented and performs other support functions for the SIG.
  • Helpful experience or skills: A high comfort level with online content management will make this job easier. We use the Google suite of documents for records and internal communication. The role of secretary is ideal for volunteers new to the SIG and just getting started in STC leadership. Members of the leadership team will provide support before, during, and after the monthly meeting. This job can be as small as a few hours a month and as large as your own superpowers and commitment want to make it.

Membership manager

  • Needed: Now
  • What you’ll do: The membership manager is the first point of contact for new members. Once a month, the membership manager runs a community report from STC, which indicates our SIG membership count, along with changes in the number and status of our members and the names of our newest members. The membership manager reports this information to the leadership team, and sends a SIG welcome package to each new member to help them get the most of their SIG membership.
  • Helpful experience or skills: A heart for welcoming new people, and a high comfort level with email and online content management will make this job easier. We use the Google suite of documents for records and internal communication. The role of membership manager is ideal for volunteers new to the SIG and just getting started in STC leadership.

Social media and surveys manager

  • Needed: Now
  • What you’ll do: You will monitor our social media activity and help us publicize SIG events and news through postings on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In addition, you will develop and publish surveys of our SIG members to help us get to know them and what they want from our SIG. We will train you in the use of SurveyMonkey and Google Forms.
  • Helpful experience or skills: Hands-on experience with social media tools will be a great background for this role, along with any experience or insights regarding developing effective surveys.

Content Curator

  • Needed: Now
  • What you’ll do: The content curator is responsible for keeping in touch with the instructional design and learning field online and finding online content that would be of interest to our members. When you find an interesting article or post, you may decide to share it on one of our social media outlets, suggest it as a possible newsletter article, or even submit it for inclusion in the STC Technical Communication Body of Knowledge (TCBoK). This job can be done anytime, anywhere, and in a variety of formats. Make this job your own by using your favorite communication platform and passing on what you find to the rest of the leadership team.
  • Helpful experience or skills: Hands-on experience with social media tools will be a great background for this role, as well as natural curiosity and a nose for news.

Additional opportunities

We have many other opportunities for your helping hands. If you are interested in being more involved but don’t have time to commit to an elected or appointed committee leader role, contact us at and let us know your ideas! Or, plan to attend one of our monthly leadership meetings, where you can get to know us and find out more about everything we do. We meet via GoToMeeting on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Marcia Shannon is our new assistant co-manager

Making a bold and courageous move, Marcia Shannon, our SIG secretary, is stepping up to be the next co-manager. You already know and love her as the vivacious volunteer and get-it-done servant leader on our team. Now, she’ll be serving as our assistant co-manager for the rest of 2018 and will be taking on the co-manager role in the new year. We welcome Marcia into the new role with an enthusiastic cheer and promise to provide her with support as she takes on new duties and empowerment as she makes improvements and puts her own special superpowers to work.

Jayme Sagan is our new treasurer

We are delighted to announce that Jamye Sagan, our social media and survey manager, is now our new SIG treasurer. Jamye is a long-time SIG member and an accomplished volunteer. She has served on the Community Affairs Committee, and most recently served as the Community Achievement Awards (CAA) evaluation committee. Thank you for stepping up for this important role, Jamye!

Sara Buchanan steps down as membership manager

After more than two years of faithful and committed service, our beloved membership manager, Sara Buchanan, is stepping down. Sara has worked behind the scenes, greeting new members and keeping up with current membership, and we will miss her terribly. Her service to the SIG and to STC is exemplary. Sara is an active member of the Northeast Ohio chapter and currently serves as their newsletter editor. She has been instrumental in building a bridge between her chapter and our SIG and contributed a number of member spotlight articles published in both newsletters.

SIG awards program launched!

We’re proud to announce a new IDL SIG awards program to recognize the service of our dedicated leaders and volunteers! This program serves as an additional way to express our gratitude for those who give their time and talent to our SIG, to STC, and to the profession.

Two awards will be given:

  • Volunteer Achievement, which honors a SIG member who has served as a volunteer for at least two years and has offered significant service to the SIG.
  • New Volunteer, which honors a SIG member who has served as a volunteer for two years or less, and who “hit the ground running” with volunteer service in that time—or who has been a SIG member for several years but is volunteering for the first time.

SIG members in good standing, regardless of their STC membership grade or previous STC recognition, can be nominated for either of these awards. The awards will be given once a year. Recipients will be announced through our SIG communication channels, and will be given special recognition at our annual business meeting during the STC Summit conference.

Watch for information about submitting nominees for our first SIG awards!

Lori Meyer, an STC Fellow, has been a member of the IDL SIG for more than five years, and has served as co-manager (with Viqui Dill) since 2017. Lori is a member and volunteer in several other STC communities, including the Rochester, San Diego, East Bay, Washington DC, Puget Sound, and Carolina chapters, as well as the Technical Editing SIG.

Secretary’s Column

By Marcia Shannon

Second quarter was enlivened with the Summit. If, like me, you could not attend, read on for feedback from those who were there. I am sorry that I could not meet those who attended our SIG Business Lunch. I heard that there was a good turn out and it was enlightening, and encouraging, to meet members face to face.

I am writing this during my favorite part of the TV season: dance competitions. Between So You Think You Can Dance and World of Dance, there are so many artists doing breathtaking things, to evoke emotions, engage the audience, and tell a story. Where we technical communicators use words and images, they communicate through music and movement. That common ground fascinates me and sparks my imagination.

Taking a break from writing to watch these dancers reminded me that dancers take classes to polish their core moves, acquire new skills, and stay current with techniques and trends. Those are shared goals among all sorts of communication professionals. Whether you opt for a refresher in proofing and formatting, learn a new software tool, or expand your skills into a different industry, technical communicators are always in learning mode. Experience is vital, but we all need to refresh our skills every so often. I hope you are getting the full benefit of your STC and SIG memberships by attending the free-to-members webinars that are available regularly. Most continuing ed and technical colleges offer online, inexpensive single-topic classes, which are an easy way to brush up your skills.

To have the full SIG experience, volunteer for a SIG leadership role. The SIG thrives when there is high participation. None of the leadership roles is a full time job and there are always other volunteers who jump in to help with the big projects. The monthly meetings are open to all members. Drop in, check it out, perhaps spot where you can help. Don’t be a stranger.