Engaging Your Audience with Effective Instructional Methods

By Minyu Anna Philip

A classroom or an office is a blend of personalities. Just as educators develop preferences for methods to teach, learners develop preferences for a specific way of learning. As we set out to instruct, it is our responsibility to build up methodologies to effectively communicate to our unique audience. Every instructional method comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The type of learner and the level of knowledge they possess are two essential considerations when designing any instructional plan. The physical settings of the teaching space and the materials available also play an important role in the selection of an instructional method. A novice would have to be taught from scratch whereas what a subject matter expert probably needs to learn is probably a new perspective of approaching a problem. Any instructional method requires a level of preparation by the educator and sometimes, from the learners. However, one scenario or subject could be taught in several different ways and here you shall see different types of effective instructional methods.

Role Playing

In role playing, learners take the role of another person to understand what it is like to be in their shoes.

The preparations required for this activity are that the educator defines the problem situation and provides clear instructions, topics and roles.

This activity helps to introduce the scenario dramatically. It enables the learners to assume the roles of others and thus appreciate another point of view. It is also an excellent method of practicing their skills in a practical environment and helps them to explore real-time solutions for problems.

The activity could be time-consuming to set up and execute and it could make a few of the learners self-conscious.


Games introduce active participation to learners in a team-building activity.

The groundwork of game-building activities includes choosing relevant games that can be reasonably expected to achieve the learning objectives. The educator must introduce the game, provide clear, thorough directions and make the objectives known beforehand. It is important that the atmosphere is friendly and pinpointing of losers is avoided so that the confidence of the participants is not shaken. The educator must be able to handle all kinds of situations and not take sides or be partial.

The advantages of this activity are that learners are usually challenged by and interested in games. It brings about a fun and stimulating experience and improves team-building activities.

The disadvantages of having games as an activity are that it could be demotivating for non-competitive learners. It could also instill a feeling of shortage of skill as compared to the more competitive and talented learners. If the focus is on who wins the game rather than the activity itself, it might discourage creativity.

Group discussion

The class is divided into groups and a topic is given to each group to be discussed.

This activity requires the educator to decide on a purpose for each group. It is also necessary to invigilate the group so that the learners do not deviate from the topic in discussion.

The advantage of this activity is that it allows an active participation from everyone in the group. The learners might feel more comfortable sharing in a smaller group as opposed to a larger group.

The disadvantage in this activity is that a few students might dominate and it might not be as effective when there are a lot of students in one group.


Learners form two groups take different sides of a topic and debate on the pros and cons on a specific topic.

The preparation required for this activity is to come up with a topic that will not create a scene that the educator might not be able to moderate.

The advantages of this activity are similar to having a group discussion. This activity also includes a smaller group and enables active participation. The learners feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts regarding a subject knowing that there are others to support it. This, in turn, encourages team spirit.

The disadvantage of having a debate is that there could be an argument that gets out of hand.


Learners prepare questionnaires, online or on paper, and collect information. The educator could also prepare a questionnaire and make the learners fill it out, then form a discussion based on the output.

This activity requires careful thought about the various topics on which a survey could be conducted. It also demands research by the educators to prepare handouts for the students.

The advantages include the possible use of social media to get survey input, encouragement of reflective observation, analysis of direct feedback from the audience and active experimentation.

A disadvantage is that this activity is time-consuming. The learners might be required to go to a variety of audiences to obtain an accurate analysis which can be physically taxing as well.

Service learning

Learners volunteer to provide meaningful help to the community thereby learning from practical experiences.

The preparation for this activity is for the learners to find an area of genuine interest. They might have to travel, ask difficult questions and help those in need. This might require prior counseling before setting out on their course of activity.

The advantages of this activity are getting a first-hand experience of being in the field of work and a sense of giving back to society. It also encourages reflective observation and active interaction with the audience.

The disadvantage is that this could be time-consuming and could cause mental and physical challenges to the learner.


Learners come from different backgrounds, with varying capabilities and areas of interests. It might be difficult to find a method that suits all the learners in an equal way. Having a healthy assortment of instructions and teaching methodologies ensure that all the learners are benefitted.


Educational opportunities

By Sylvia Miller, Student Outreach manager

Is a certificate or degree in instructional design on your horizon? If so, check out our Education page that contains 112 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. Although most are graduate degree programs, there are some certificates included in the list. The list also includes degree and certificate programs that are totally online! We recently reviewed all the links and weeded out a few discontinued listings, and we added at least 20 new ones! Check them out, and pass along the word to colleagues that the links to 112 colleges and universities are on ONE site.

Sylvia Miller, Student Outreach Coordinator
Sylvia Miller, Student Outreach Coordinator

IDL SIG Membership Renewal

By Lori Meyer, Membership manager

The STC membership renewal season is here and we're looking forward to having you as a member of our SIG in 2020! You can renew at any time between now and December 31, 2019. Your renewal will enable you to continue enjoying the many benefits of membership in our community — including free attendance at all SIG webinars, opportunities to grow your network, build your skills and receive recognition through SIG and STC awards.

You can renew by going to http://stc.org/membership and clicking the Renew your STC membership today link. Log in to your STC member account and the system will guide you through the renewal application. When you complete the renewal process, you will receive a confirmation email from STC.

Some tips to help you with the renewal process

Be sure to select the IDL SIG as a community, even if you are already a member of our SIG. The membership renewal system does not automatically enter this information. If you are a Gold member, the system will remove the $10.00 per-SIG membership charge when you submit the renewal form.

If you are 65 years old or older, you can renew as a Retired member at reduced membership rates. Retired memberships cannot be processed online. To change your membership category to Retired, you will need to download and complete the STC paper membership application or call the STC office at (703) 522-4114.

If you have any questions or concerns about your membership, please feel free to contact me at membership@nullstcidlsig.org. I will be happy to answer any questions you have, or guide you to resources you need.

Thank you for being a member of the IDL SIG!

Lori Meyer
Lori Meyer

Lori Meyer, an STC Fellow, has more than 20 years of experience as a technical writer, editor, and help developer. She began her technical communication career in Rochester, NY, and relocated to the San Francisco Bay area in 1998. Lori has been active in STC since the early 1990s, starting with the Rochester Chapter, where she created the chapter's first Web site.

Since then, she has held in many volunteer positions, including employment manager, secretary, conference co-chair, membership manager, director-at-large, and SIG co-manager. She has delivered leadership presentations at the STC Summit international conference and via webinar.

On the community level, over the years Lori has served as a director at large for the Carolina Chapter, secretary and president of the Washington DC-Baltimore Chapter, membership manager of the Rochester, East Bay, and San Diego Chapters, and president of the East Bay Chapter. Lori stays involved with these communities, and also volunteers for the Technical Editing and Consulting and Independent Contracting SIGs.

STC Summit Program Reviews

By Jamye Sagan

During the 2019 STC Summit in Denver, CO, I attended several interesting presentations. Here are highlights from some of them.

Expanding Your Toolbox to Make Yourself a More Productive Editor

Kelly Schrank (@headbookworm)

In her presentation, Schrank shared several time-saving tips for editing documents in Microsoft Word. These tips included links to various Microsoft Word add-ins such as PerfectIt (www.intelligentediting.com) and Grammarly (www.grammarly.com), keyboard shortcuts and how to customize the Quick Access Toolbar. I even learned strategies for using wildcards in using Find and Replace!

Although I did not attend her entire presentation because I had to prepare for my own right afterwards, I still gained a wealth of information. In fact, her session, with potential opportunities for hands-on practice, would make a great workshop for any SIG or chapter.

Speed Editing: Doing the Most Good with the Least Time and Support

Linda Oestreich (@LindaLouO)

As technical communicators, we always want to do all the things. However, time constraints often prevent us from doing so. In her presentation, Oestreich used the analogy of a horse race to explain her process for speed editing. For example:

  • Preparing for the race: Oestreich recommends using editing checklists – in fact, she recommends the lists used and created by Kelly Schrank. Oestreich sums up her preparation as “Do the must haves before the nice to haves.”
  • Skimming the track: Oestreich recommends analyzing the document for its editorial needs, including length and complexity, how it’s organized and audience/purpose.
  • Running the race: Oestreich compares the race itself to the actual edit process, which involves maintaining priorities, using checklists and embracing quality control.

Through her vivid use of analogy, Oestreich helped me envision the overall editing process and how I can focus on the essentials.

Teaching Online: Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Engaging Virtual Learners

Kevin Siegel (@Kevin_Siegel)

In his presentation, Siegel shared various tips and tricks for teaching online. The tips that resonated with me included:

  • Investing in premium internet when presenting in a hotel, because the basic internet service may not be robust enough.
  • Creating an interactive PDF that helps users orient themselves through the virtual classroom.
  • Getting all users on board by presenting the agenda on screen and having everyone sign off on the agenda via chat.
  • Using iconography to emphasize information and make it come alive.
  • Engaging users by allowing them to lead the presentation at times.

Siegel clearly practiced what he preached. He thoroughly engaged the audience by having them log into a virtual class at the beginning of the session and asking them to participate at given times during the presentation. Although I was ultimately unable to log into the virtual class due to phone issues, I was still able to see the class interface and see how everyone else engaged with the presentation.

The Human Touch: Bringing Instructor Presence into eLearning Environments

Julia Cho (@teachwrite)

Of all the sessions I attended at Summit, this one was one of my favorites. In her presentation, Cho discussed the importance of adding a personal touch to eLearning, which oftentimes seems impersonal. Cho began by explaining why this personal touch is needed – primarily to reduce feeling of isolation, which can lead to anxiety. She also discussed the educational experience, which combines instructor presence, cognitive presence and social presence. Most of the presentation focused on how to create this educational experience. Cho gave the following advice.

  • Design should be first and foremost when establishing the educational experience. In fact, the entire course should be designed before the course begins.
  • Designers should have links to the same thing in different places, because students get anxious if they cannot find resources or information quickly.
  • Use video to establish a personal touch. Use a short – less than 2 minute – video to introduce yourself as the instructor.
  • Use a combination of video and text when giving feedback to struggling students, which can personalize the feedback.
  • Insist on AV support if facilitating a synchronous session, so you can remain focused on the educational content.

#PowerOfStory: The Cultural Program That Got Me Clicks

Viqui Dill (@viqui_dill)

In her presentation, Dill explained how she leveraged her company’s #PowerOfStory program to help her fellow employees overcome fear of change during their migration to Office 365. In this program, employees had the opportunity to gather in groups and share their personal stories, whether through oral presentation, scrapbook page blog entry. Stories were later shared through various internal communication channels.

Dill clearly knows how to engage her audience with meaningful activity – during her icebreaker, she presented various images of well-known storytellers — from Jesus Christ to U.S Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — inviting audience members to identify them and then giving out prizes to the winners. Check out my adorable superhero duck!

My main takeaway from Dill’s presentation was how we can include stories in technical communication. Examples include using scenarios in eLearning, incorporating photos and videos, seeking testimonials and inviting comments on our uploaded deliverables.

Overall, I had never thought of the human element of getting people on board with using a program; I had always just considered the technical aspect of teaching people — how to do X in Y program. But after having gone through a similar project at work where we migrated to a whole new communications system, I appreciated all the venues through which we could share questions and concerns – and learn in the process.

Jamye Sagan
Jamye Sagan

Jamye Sagan currently serves as treasurer for the IDL SIG, and is a senior member of STC. She served as a co-manager of the SIG from 2010-12.

At work, she uses her tech comm skills to make sense out of the seemingly senseless. At play, she uses sticks and hooks to transform yarn into pretty objects.

COMING SOON: Virtual Open House

By Jamye Sagan, Social Media Manager

Sometime in the next few month, most likely November, we will host our seventh annual Virtual Open House.

As a virtual community with members all around the world, it can be challenging for us to cultivate a sense of community. The Virtual Open House enables current (and future) IDL SIG members to learn more about our community and the services we offer. Plus, attendees get to meet members of the SIG leadership team and chat with fellow members. Even if you cannot attend live, you can still join the party once we release the recording.

We will announce Virtual Open House dates and details as they become available.

Jamye Sagan
Jamye Sagan

Jamye Sagan currently serves as social media manager for the IDL SIG, and is a senior member of STC. She served as a co-manager of the SIG from 2010-12.

At work, she uses her tech comm skills to make sense out of the seemingly senseless. At play, she uses sticks and hooks to transform yarn into pretty objects.