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The IDeaL: Design for Learning Newsletter- Q4 2016

Newsletter Banner Q4 / 2016

From the Editor

by Crista Mohammed

Crista Mohammed (1)

It is almost, almost, almost the end of the year! There is something tremendously satisfying about having made it through another year. Then there are the holidays: A glorious break! I can't wait for them! Who could? For most of the world, the end-of-the year period is more than a reprieve from the tedium of work. It is a chance to re-connect with the loved ones. For many, it is, above all, a period of great religious significance. However you view the upcoming holidays, we at the IDL SIG extend our very best wishes to you and yours.

In this issue, Kim Lindsey shares how she used story-boarding to explain her vision for a non-linear, e-learning course. Leveraging widely available software, Kim was able to walk her clients through her gamified course. Needless to say, Kim got her approvals as smoothly as possible, and you can too! Read more.

Mellissa Ruryk, our resident Word® guru, takes us through the fundamentals of document layout and formatting. In this first part of a three-column series, Mellissa describes the main layout types. Read more.

You may recall that in Q3 2106, the SIG launched its latest outreach initiative— a student competition. Since the SIG has extended the deadline to March 31st 2017, we take this opportunity to promote the competition once again. Read more.

Robert Hershenow and Mellissa Ruryk, in their joint co-manager's column, passes the baton on to incoming co-managers Lori Meyer and Viqui Dill. Robert and Mellissa reflect on past achievements and thank all those who have helped during their stint as co-managers. They end their column with reflections on easy Christmas listening. Read more

Marcia Shannon, in her regular Secretary's Column, enumerates the many ways by which you can stay in touch with the IDL SIG. Above all, we really hope that you join our monthly meetings, held the 4th Wednesday of every month: Consider this a standing invitation to all SIG members! Read more.

In keeping with the spirit of this joyous time of year, we share some personal traditions with you. We hope that through our sharing, you come to know us better. As a virtual community, we embrace opportunities to cultivate connections with you. Read:

Christmas with the Dillpickers by Viqui Dill

Christmas Cookies by Marcia Shannon

Countdown to Christmas by Jamye Sagan

Curried Duck for Christmas by Crista Mohammed

Home-bound for the Holidays by Charles Campbell

From your Co-Managers: Our Last Co-Man Column

by Robert Hershenow and Mellissa Ruryk, Co-managers

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As we write this, our last Co-Managers column, we’re talking about how much we are going to miss working alongside each other in our virtual community. We are grateful to have shared this unique and rewarding experience, and want to thank you for trusting us to serve the SIG and the STC.

We have spent four years – that’s hard to believe! – in IDL SIG management: two years as Assistants to Managers Cindy Pao and Preeti Mathur, and two more as Co-Managers. We have been privileged to work with such remarkable volunteers and members from all over the globe, producing an array of online events and programs. Each year the SIG consistently earns Community Achievement Awards for the work we do. It’s been an honor to be a part of all this team effort, and a few words of thanks are in order.

We’ll start with Cindy Pao and Preeti Mathur, who left the SIG in such good shape. They were very graceful in handing over the reins, stepping back and letting us make our own mark.

And now that it’s our turn to hand over those reins to Lori Meyer and Viqui Dill. We are ever so grateful to them for stepping up. Dedicated and more than capable, they are going to shine in the SIG Manager role.

Sylvia Miller has worked very hard on the Scholarship program over the years and built its great reputation. When it became necessary this year to discontinue scholarships, she and a small team built a new program, the Student Outreach Article Competition, which is well-launched and off to a great start. The students will benefit, as will our SIG and our Society as a whole.

Thanks to Scott McCoy, who still keeps Mentoring at the top of everyone's mind as we head into 2017.

What would we have done without Jamye Sagan wearing all her hats? She does such a good job with the Surveys, the Virtual Open House and Social Media... it really would take three people to replace her. And she's so active in the Society too as the CAC Outreach Coordinator.

The SIG is lucky that James Bousquet (another Canuck, Mellissa wants to be sure you know!) is going to stay on as SIG Treasurer. He has tended our funds well and is now running for STC Treasurer.

We have seen a few people ride off into the sunset but new faces surface to join our community as volunteers. Marcia Shannon took over from Lori Meyer as Secretary, and Sara Buchanan took over Membership management, also from Lori. Henry McCormack is going to serve as our Content Curator when we finally get that act together, and dear Beth Bailey continues to serve well out of the limelight – but faithfully – as manager of the announcement and discussion lists.

As we hand-off to Lori and Viqui, we look forward to whatever is coming next. We are excited about the transition, and hope you are too. Please write to and let us know where you’d like to see our SIG go in the future.


Music has always been a big part of the holiday season for me, and each year I pull out a few record albums and rekindle the holiday magic with songs from my childhood. My favorites are from a series called “The Great Songs of Christmas,” vinyl LPs produced annually by Columbia Records in partnership with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. During the 1960s these were offered for one dollar at Goodyear tire stores and Richfield gas stations, and I was always excited when Dad brought the new album home each year. The songs were performed by popular artists like Andre Previn, Mahalia Jackson, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Percy Faith, Leonard Bernstein and many others. Each December they carry me back to when Christmas really was the most wonderful time of the year.


On Dec 5, I tuned my car radio to Sirius XM Holiday favorites which this year has all the old favorites plus real Christmas carols that take me back to when I was wee, too. Poor dog as he rides to and from work with me... he has to listen to my yodeling and whistling along. But I swear singing is good for your soul – must be all that oxygen getting in and moving around the old blood vessels. And the vibrations in your diaphragm or something. I'm always in a better mood after I sing. The dog... not so much.


About IDeaL: Design for Learning

Publication Policy: We invite letters, articles, book reviews, and other items for publication. Articles may contain up to 1,000 words. Picture formats: JPG, GIF, PNG; Text format: Word, RTF, or ASCII. Send items to Crista Mohammed at

Advertising Policy and Rates: We encourage advertising as long as it follows STC guidelines and promotes services of interest to IDL SIG members.

Ad sizes and rates:

Half page (7.5x4.5): $75 (1 issue); $225 (4 issues)

Business Card (3.5x2): $25 (1 issue); $100 (4 issues)

Please submit electronic copy only in .TIF, .GIF, or .PNG format. Send ads to Crista Mohammed at Make checks payable to Society for Technical Communication and send to: Robert Hershenow, STC IDL SIG, 616 Colusa Ave, Berkeley CA 94707.

Copyright Statement: This newsletter invites technical communicators in the field of instructional design to submit articles for publication. The authors implicitly grant a license to this newsletter to run the submission, and for other STC publications to reprint it without permission. Copyright is held by the author. Let the editor know in your cover letter if the article has run elsewhere, and if it has been submitted for consideration to other publications. Design and layout of this newsletter are copyright STC, 2005‐2016.

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IDL SIG’s Student Outreach Competition

By Sylvia Miller

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You may have read the article in our last newsletter about the IDL SIG’s new student outreach program that offers students an opportunity to be published before graduating.  Here’s a recap of the program:

  • Undergraduate or graduate-level students are invited to submit an original article to us. If we choose to publish it in IDeaL: Design for Learning, the student receives a complimentary STC student membership, which includes membership to our SIG.
  • With the student’s permission, we will submit their article to the Technical Communication Body of Knowledge (TCBOK). If the editors decide to include the student’s article in the TCBOK, he or she earns an additional year’s STC/IDL membership or an equivalent award if they’ve graduated by then.
  • Once published, students can link to their article from their résumé and possibly on their LinkedIn profile page—ideally gaining an edge in becoming employed after graduation.

We are publicizing this great program by emailing professors of instructional design and technical communication. Please help spread the word! Perhaps you could copy/paste the three bullets above into an email and invite your student friends and acquaintances to download the entry packet at:

It includes the following:

  • A program description and invitation to enter
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contributor Guidelines
  • List of possible article topics
  • Final Checklist

The submission form is provided separately. The deadline for the competition has been extended to March 31, 2017.

Page Layout in MS Word®

By Mellissa Ruryk MellissaRuryk300

Page layout is the part of document design that deals with the placement of content on the page. Entire books have been written on the page design and layout to enhance readability, knowledge absorption, and aesthetics. This is the first installment in a series of three columns focused entirely on the mechanical aspects of page layout: How do you make Word® do what you want?

Typically, pages have three areas:

  • Margins: The page edges, normally devoid of text and graphics.
  • Headers and footers: Top and bottom areas of the page: they usually contain navigation information as well as some of the document’s properties such as title, chapter or section name, page numbers and the issuing company’s logo and/or name.
  • Content: The area in the middle of the page that contains the document content, tables, graphics and images, or all of these.

Page layouts can be simple or complex. Typically, documents that are accessed primarily online have a simple layout (all the pages have the same structure). Documents that are meant to be printed have a more complex structure - with different even and odd pages and sections (or chapters) that start only on odd pages.

Page layout types

Page layouts can be divided into four types:
  • Simple layout
  • Double-sided layout
  • Different first page layout
  • Complex layout
Before you can configure page layouts in your document, you need to decide which type(s) your document requires. (Failure to plan?  It’s a plan to fail!)

Simple layout

Use "Simple layout" for documents where:

  • They are not likely to be printed or will be printed single-sided.
  • The header and footer content on the first page of the document is the same as the rest of the document.

This is the default layout for Word documents.

For documents produced primarily for online delivery – PDF documents – it is becoming more common to have centered page numbers; however, centred page numbers are harder to find. It is always better to place the page number in the bottom-right corner of the page.

simple layout

Even/odd layout

Use the "Even/odd layout" for documents where:
  • They are printed and bound in (mostly) portrait orientation.
  • The header and footer content is the same on all odd-numbered pages and the header and footer content is the same on all even-numbered pages; but the odd pages and even pages are not necessarily the same as each other.

Even odd layout

Notice how the odd-numbered page headers and footers are printed on the right, and the even-numbered page headers and footers are printed on the left. Thus, when the document is bound, the headers and footers appear on the outside edges of each page and are not cut off by the binding.

The only difference between even/odd layout and simple layout are the headers and footers. To achieve this layout, you use special features in the Header and Footer configuration.

Different first page layout

Use the "Different first page layout" for documents where:
  • They are not likely to be printed or will be printed single-sided.
  • The header and footer on the first page of a section is different from the rest of the section's pages. For example, the first page of a chapter has headers and footers that are blank (have no content).
different title page layout

Notice how the first page has no headers and footers. This is usually the document's title page. To achieve this layout, you use special features in the Header and Footer configuration.

Complex layout

Use the "Complex layout" for documents where:
  • The documents may be printed single- or double-sided.
  • The header and footer content of the first page of a section is different from the rest of the section. For example, the first page of a chapter has blank headers and footers.
  • Page numbering is different across sections of the document - for example, unnumbered front matter or Roman numerals in the Table of Contents.
Most technical documents use a "Complex" layout, where you have multiple formats throughout the document. Some documents have chapter or section numbers embedded in the page number; others have a mix of portrait and landscape pages. At a minimum, your document has three layouts:
  • Title page and front matter, with no header or footer. Front matter pages have document metadata (e.g., issued date, copyright, revision record), perhaps a dedication or an Executive Summary. Normally the content from the front matter does not appear in the ToC, which follows.
  • Table of Contents, with Roman numerals as page numbers (i, ii, iii), which might contain a list of tables or figures, or both.
  • Body, with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3).
To achieve complex layouts, you use a combination of Sections and Header and Footer features. That will be the topic of our next column. Want to read ahead?  Try one of these: Article: Section breaks in Word. Article: Understanding section breaks in Word.  
PS:  A note about full justification versus using a ragged right edge. Here’s some ammunition for convincing that boss (or engineer) who thinks it’s “more correct” to use full justification:

(from Kai’s Techical Writing Blog, found at; these are quotes from studies he found to promote using a ragged right edge.)

“… for … poorer readers, the justified style resulted in a significantly worse performance.”

“…subjects performed significantly worse on right-justified material [versus ragged lines].”

“…best score for recall was recorded in the flush left/jagged right [layout].”

Christmas in Ohio

By Sylvia Miller

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As the youngest of eight children, I have some special memories of Christmas while growing up on a farm in Ohio. I was a surprise bundle that came along late in my parents’ lives, so while I did not experience Christmas morning fun with seven siblings, I do remember large family gatherings when my married siblings visited, bringing with them my 24 nieces and nephews! So many hugs, kisses, and delighted little ones. The house smelled of roasting turkey, freshly baked pies, and baby powder.  One year my older nephew was talking about a guy whose nickname was “The Juice,” so we turned on our black and white TV and watched OJ Simpson play football. When it came time to open gifts, chaos was the norm with wrapping paper flying everywhere, new toys being tested, and the occasional “borrowing” of someone else’s toy because it looked much better than the one received. Then we would phone my two brothers and their families who lived out of state. Everyone took turns exchanging a few words before passing the phone to the next person to make the most of the “long-distance calling” fees assessed back then.

Another favorite memory was going over to Berne, Indiana, in early December to a very large church that performed Handel’s “Messiah” each year. Members of the church constituted about a 200-member choir, and each year they’d bring in outstanding soloists from Chicago, New York, and other cities for a first-class performance. I truly treasure the memories of attending this wonderful classical production each year with my parents.

Growing up on an Ohio farm meant some manual labor at times, but Christmas afforded us the opportunity to rest, gather together, love on each other, and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Lead Reviewers through your Document*

by Kim Lindsey NEO STC Webmaster, STC Associate Fellow. KimLindsey2016 (1)

Some documents are simple for SMEs and reviewers to edit; other documents can present a challenge. This is especially true with storyboards for custom e-learning courses—my main deliverable.

Recently I designed my most gamified course ever (gamification: it’s what’s happening now!), and I knew that its non-linear nature would make the review process difficult. How could I help my SMEs to understand my vision for the course while it’s still just a storyboard? I knew there had to be a way.

And there was! First, I created very (as in, extremely) rough drawings that showed what the main screens of the course would look like.

Rough Storyboard

Then I inserted them into my draft storyboard where they fit.

 Fit in a storyboard We scheduled a conference call with our client reviewers, and I sent them the storyboard document about an hour before the call so they’d have copies to follow along. We used to share my screen with the reviewers during the call. (Thanks Denise Kadillac for tipping us off to this handy web app!) Join Me

And—this is the terrific part!—I used Camtasia to record the meeting. Camtasia captures both the screen and the audio; in my case, the audio was me speaking to the reviewers and also them asking me questions via speakerphone.

CamtasiaLogo (1)

As I walked my SMEs through the storyboard, I explained what was going on, how the e-learning interface worked, how learners would navigate, and anything else they wanted to know.

When the meeting was over, I compiled the screen recording in Camtasia to create an MP4 video, then provided that recording to my client reviewers. They could easily play back the whole meeting on their PCs or skip to any part they didn’t understand. LindseyMeetingMP4

The video turned out to be even more valuable because an important reviewer couldn’t be on the call. The recording enabled her to have the same understanding as the rest of her team.

The review on this complex storyboard went quickly and smoothly. I didn’t receive any questions from the client on the course layout and navigation; they turned to the video of the meeting to refresh their memory on the course. Soon the storyboard was approved and development could begin (yeah!). Will I use the MP4 to help my developers understand how to program the course? You better believe it!

In conclusion, I highly recommend using simple mock-up drawings, screen-sharing, and a video tool like Camtasia to ease the process for reviewers if a document is complex or non-linear or if you need to show how two or more documents work together.

*This article originally appeared in Lines & Letters (October 2016)published by Northeast Ohio Society for Technical Communication (NOE)