Secretary’s Column

By: Marcia Shannon

This is my last secretary’s column; I am both happy and sad to write that. I am transitioning from assistant co-manager to co-manager in January 2019. Being secretary was a very satisfying, interesting, empowering experience. Answering, “I can do that,” when the secretary spot opened transformed me. I stopped lurking in the background; I discovered what I could do. Without that first step and the experiences that followed, I would not be ready to tackle the co-manager job. What looked too complicated a few years ago now seems like a manageable challenge. As with every role in the SIG, there are experienced members ready to help me succeed.

According to the STC charter, we need a secretary to help keep track of our SIG’s activities. It is an easy way to get involved with the SIG. It gives you a front-row seat to all SIG activity just by attending the monthly meetings and posting the minutes. I learned Google Docs and a good bit about the ins and outs of STC community activities. Writing the secretary columns and other articles for the newsletter helped me develop my personal style.  

The Instructional Design and Learning SIG is a dynamic collection of people with varied tech comm experience. We enjoy sharing what we know and helping one another solve those pesky TC issues that crop up at work. Seize this opportunity to test yourself, expand your skills, and keep our SIG a pace-setting community by stepping up and saying “I can do that”. If secretary isn’t your cup of tea, there are several other open positions you have the skill to fill. Involvement in the SIG will expand your STC experience and let you stretch past the everyday work world. 

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

Giving Graduates an Edge in the Job Market

By Sylvia Miller, Student Outreach Chairperson

For the third year the IDL SIG is offering undergrad and graduate students a chance to publish an article before completing their degrees through our Student Outreach program. First, students submit a brief article about instructional design to our team of judges. If the judging team deems the article worthy of being published in our newsletter—the one you’re reading right now—the student is awarded a one-year STC membership that includes belonging to the IDL SIG. The potential benefits are multiple. Students can:

  • Get their name in front of hundreds of practicing professionals who read our newsletter.
  • Add a link in their résumé and on their LinkedIn page to the published article.
  • Benefit from feedback of practicing professionals—the judges team.
  • Present their published article during job interviews.

And that’s not all. With the student’s permission, the IDL SIG will submit articles we publish in this newsletter for inclusion in the Technical Communication Body of Knowledge (TCBOK). If the article is accepted for inclusion in the TCBOK, the student will earn an additional one-year STC/IDL membership! He or she can also insert another link in their résumé to the article in the TCBOK, which is available for reference by thousands of professional technical communicators.

Here is what L. Stoe said about having his article published in our newsletter:

“Being published under the Student Outreach Program provided a forum for me to apply and test my skills learned in my classes in Technical Communication & Professional Writing. The competitive process was fun and increased my self-confidence. I printed the published article and showed it as I interviewed for a new position as a technical publications writer just last month. I got the job and definitely feel that the published article helped me. Having a published article to show others strengthens any portfolio. I encourage others to go for it... I cannot overstate how nice it was to show my article during my interviews.”

Please help us spread the word!

Please help us advertise this unique opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to have an article published. Share information about the 2018-2019 Student Outreach program with colleagues, students, professor/instructor friends, friends with college-age children, and anyone who stands to benefit from gaining an edge in today’s job market.

All necessary details are at, including a list of potential article topics, contributor guidelines, frequently asked questions, and a submission form. Thank you in advance for sharing this opportunity with others.

2018 Summit Session Reviews for IDeaL

By Jamye Sagan

During the 2018 STC Summit in Orlando, FL, I attended several interesting presentations. Here are highlights from three of them.

Introvert in the Workplace

Ben Woelk (@benwoelk)

Over the past few years, Woelk has emerged as a leading authority on introverts and their leadership qualities. This presentation discussed how introverts can be influencers and leaders in the workplace. One item that resonated with me is that influence has to do with your presence and accessibility, not your job title.

Woelk also described the traits of introverted leadership, which include: placing the spotlight on the team instead of self, listening to listen and not to simply respond, and cultivating a safe space to share ideas. Most of all, the introverted leader embodies servant leadership, which is basically leading by example and working alongside your team. Overall, introverted leadership is all about harnessing your innate skills to help influence and be a role model with those with whom you interact.

Great presentation not only for us introverts, but also good for extroverts to better understand how we work.

All I Know About Collaboration I Learned from Rock and Roll

Aiessa Moyna (@aiessamoyna)

In her presentation, Moyna shared five different lessons about collaboration through the lens of various rock music groups.

Seek diverse perspectives. Using the example of how Dave Grohl has been part of Nirvana and Foo Fighters (two vastly different music groups), Moyna explains how teammates should examine issues from different points of view.

Build trust and bust barriers. Through the warning tale of Yoko Ono’s influence on the Beatles, Moyna shows how teammates should maintain focus on a common vision and not foster an “us vs. them” attitude.

Work your network. Just as Dave Grohl collaborates with artists from vastly different genres – such as pop singer Justin Timberlake, jazz musician Dave Koz, and R&B group Boyz II Men – we should reach out beyond our immediate team. Moyna emphasizes that we should stay in touch with people we’ve successfully worked with before.

Manage conflict. Conflict is inevitable; sometimes we must stop and ask ourselves these two questions: What is the issue? How can we solve the issue? Moyna uses the example of the breakup and eventual reunion of classic rock group The Eagles in explaining this lesson.

When all else fails, improvise. Moyna uses jam bands such as Phish and Grateful Dead to illustrate this lesson in flexibility and cultivating a comfortable working environment. Even though members of jam bands may play vastly different instruments, they listen to and follow one another as they perform. Jam band members also look out for one another and do not let a member fail. Most importantly, jam bands foster a comfortable environment where members can take risks and, if they fail, simply try something new.

Overall, Moyna uses great musical analogies to show how people with different skills work together.

Can You Hear Me Now? Podcasting as Teaching & Communication Tool

Jennifer Goode (@ProfGoode,

In her presentation, Goode described how podcasts can be used in education and communication

Since podcasts are serial in nature, deal with specific topics, and are accessible at any time, they make excellent tools for asynchronous learning. Podcasts also appeal to auditory learners and can help build a community via common listenership.

Goode recommended that the ideal podcast is 15-30 minutes – long enough to delve into a topic, but not so long as to lose the listener’s interest.

Not only did Goode explain why podcasts are ideal learning and communication tools, she also shared advice on recording and production equipment:

Minimum equipment needed to record a podcast include microphone, speakers, and free sound editing software such as Audacity.

Better equipment includes: more advanced sound editing software, microphone with boom arm and pop filter, noise-cancelling headphones, soundboard, and room-dampening materials.

In fact, the moment I heard about audio equipment and recording techniques, I immediately thought of our own Robert Hershenow (@rdhcomm), who has delivered several webinars and presentations on this topic.

Finally, Goode explained basic steps for planning a podcast:

  • Select a topic, audience, format, and podcast name.
  • Script an intro and conclusion, to provide a consistent framework for all podcasts. Of course, the body content will change.
  • Integrate media (e.g. music, sound effects, cover art) to enhance your podcast (but watch out for copyright issues!)
  • Publish podcast. Goode suggested publishing through website or media host, and using a directory (e.g. iTunes, Spotify, RSS) to make podcasts easier to find.

This session provided a wealth of practical information that I could incorporate into my work relatively quickly.