Update: O*NET Participation

By: Marcia Shannon

In April, 2018, we shared a request from the Research Triangle Institute. They were seeking experts to help them update the occupation description for Instructional Designers and Technologists in the US Department of Labor’s O*NET Data Collection Program.

If chosen to participate, you would have been contacted by a Research Triangle Institute Business Liaison beginning the week of February 21, 2019. You may or may not have been contacted due to random sampling.

Your participation will contribute to a key resource that provides our nation’s citizens with continuously updated occupational information.

IDL SIG 2018 Membership Survey: Responses

By: Jamye Sagen

In December 2018, the IDL SIG conducted our biennial membership demographic survey. Approximately 10.75% of our membership base completed the IDL SIG 2018 membership demographic survey - 60 out of 558 members. See Membership Survey for complete results.

About the members

Years of experience in instructional design

More than half of our survey respondents have been in the instructional design field for 10 or fewer years. In fact, 20% have zero years’ experience, but are currently learning about the field.

Level of education

Over 78% of our survey respondents have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, while over 16% have earned doctorates.

Employment status

According to the survey, over half of our members are permanent, full-time employees.

Job responsibilities

More than half of our survey respondents indicated instructional design as their job responsibility, while over 90% indicated technical writing. Our surveyed members assume a variety of job responsibilities, from project management to course development.

Other jobs listed were:

  • Librarian
  • Editing, desktop publishing, file management
  • Online Development and I work closely with Instructional Designers and Trainers
  • Clerk
  • Editing, user support
  • Scrum Master, Finance Coordinator
  • Management
  • Still in school
  • Capacity Development
  • Quality assurance

Company/client sectors served

As shown, our members work in a wide variety of industries.

Other sectors listed were:

  • Machinery
  • Aerospace science and engineering
  • Parking management software and hardware
  • My employer is a manufacturing company, but I'm in the IT department and we write about IT systems.
  • Oil and gas exploration and production
  • Pharmaceuticals

ID deliverables produced

Our members produce the following types of deliverables.

Other deliverables listed were:

  • Manuals used for training
  • One-on-one coaching; training of other coaches; template design
  • Documentation

Tools used

Almost 95% of those surveyed know and use PowerPoint in their work. Other popular tools include Camtasia, Captivate, Prezi, Articulate Storyline, Microsoft Word, and Madcap Flare.

Other tools listed were:

  • Author-it
  • OneNote, SharePoint
  • Confluence
  • Madcap Flare
  • Flare
  • Madcap Flare, Bluestream CCMS and KB
  • Adobe RoboHelp
  • Madcap Flare
  • Adobe InDesign and FrameMaker
  • Madcap Flare
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Moodle, MS Word, Photoshop
  • oXygen
  • InDesign
  • SnagIt, Word, FSPro
  • SharePoint, Office 362

Influence of specific theories in instructional design

We asked respondents to rank how certain theories influence their work in developing ID curriculum and deliverables. Three out of 60 respondents did not answer. Results are shown for those who did.

STC membership level

Almost half of our surveyed members are regular or Gold members. In fact, 20% of those surveyed are Gold members, who enjoy membership in all SIGs as part of their benefits.

STC membership designation

Over 65% of our surveyed members are Members or Senior Members of STC, while 20% are Associate Fellows or Fellows. The other members surveyed were unsure of their membership designation.

About the IDL SIG and other organizations

Reasons for joining the IDL SIG

Although our surveyed members have a variety of reasons for joining the IDL SIG, the most popular reasons include learning about ID methodology and best practices, and about the profession in general. Given that many of our members are at the beginning of their ID careers, these results make perfect sense.

Participation in other instructional design/training organizations

Since over 80% of our survey respondents belong only to STC and the IDL SIG, we have a prime opportunity to make sure we offer as many resources as possible.
Of those members who belong to other groups, the most popular responses include ATD (Association for Talent Development) and eLearning Guild.

Other organizations listed included:

  • Music Library Association
  • Music OCLC Users Group
  • Online Audiovisual Catalogers
  • International Association of Music Libraries and Documentation Centres
  • American Library Association
  • Association for Library Collections and Technical Services
  • Association of College and Research Libraries
  • Houston UXPA, Community College
  • Was in ATD for years, dropped membership a few years ago
  • New England Lectora User's Group
  • Academy of HRD
  • Project Management Institute

Value: IDL SIG vs. other professional organizations

Of those who belong to another professional training organization such as ASTD, 36.3% of those respondents thought our SIG provides equal value. The same percentage thought we provided less value. Again, we have an opportunity to make sure we provide value to our members.

How other organizations provide value

Responses to this question helps us learn what other organizations do, and what we can do to provide value to our members. Many respondents commented on how other organizations provide networking opportunities – a prime area of opportunity for our group.

As a virtual community, the only time our SIG currently offers official in-person networking events is during the annual STC Summit. With that said, we highly encourage local IDL SIG members to meet up informally – whether passing through during travels or meeting up during an STC chapter meeting.

Value in IDL SIG services and communication channels

Most of our members consider our services to be valuable, especially our webinars, emails, and newsletter.
Although we offer a wealth of valuable services, many of our members are not aware of them, especially our mentoring services, student outreach article competition, and training material evaluation program. Therefore, we can do a better job of using our communication and social media outlets to spread the word.

Desired services

This question gives us ideas on future services we can provide to our SIG members. Suggestions include:

  • Orientation video about our services
  • Instructional template library
  • In-person local events

In addition to these suggestions, a few respondents indicated they were unaware of some of the services we provide.

Ranking of communication channels

By far, email is our most valuable form of communication, with 83.3% of respondents ranking it most effective. Website posts and Linked-In articles are somewhat valuable as well. Facebook and Twitter were ranked the least effective.
Since our members depend heavily on email for our communications, we need to make sure our email systems work.

Suggested future IDL SIG webinar topics

We received several thought-provoking suggestions for webinar topics, such as:

  • Practical application of theories
  • Tool and training demos
  • Staying relevant in the marketplace

We will share these suggestions with our programs team. If you know anyone who would be interested in conducting a webinar, please email programs@nullstcidlsig.org. Likewise, if you or anyone you know would love to write an article about any of these topics for our newsletter, please email newsletter@nullstcidlsig.org.

Free IDL SIG webinars and viewing behavior

Since we made all IDL SIG webinars free for all IDL SIG members, 44% of our members register for and view more webinars as a result. Fifty-six percent indicated no change in behavior. Since no members indicated attending fewer webinars, we can conclude that providing free webinars for our members is a sound investment.

2018 STC Summit

Attend Summit?

Of those surveyed, only 19 (or 35.19%) attended the 2018 STC Summit in Orlando, FL.

SIG Summit functions

Of those surveyed, over half attended the Communities Reception, where Summit attendees got to meet with members of participating SIGs. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed attended our annual business meeting; this past year, we decided to host a luncheon to attract more members. Interestingly enough, 31% of surveyed Summit attendees did not know about these Summit events. We should do a more thorough job of spreading the word about these events, to take advantage of the face-to-face time.

How members learned about SIG Summit functions

According to the survey, the three most effective communication channels for SIG Summit functions are:

  • Summit program (printed or electronic)
  • Email (sent by the IDL SIG)
  • Summit app

Although other channels of communication may not have been as effective, people still learned about the events from them.

According to the survey, no one learned of SIG events via the IDL SIG bookmark. Since we generally don’t give out the bookmarks until the Communities Reception, we may want to re-evaluate what information we place on the bookmark.

Enough instructional design/training presentations at Summit?

Of those surveyed, almost half of respondents were not quite sure if there were enough ID and training presentations offered at Summit. Thirty-seven percent did feel we had enough instructional design or training topics.

Again, we appreciate those who took the time to provide feedback for our membership survey. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please email manager@nullstcidlsig.org.


Jamye SaganJamye 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.

Co-manager’s column

By: Marcia Shannon

Stepping into a new role is scary and exciting. Being co-manager for the IDL SIG may be the biggest task I have taken on in quite some time. Being an active member of the SIG, first as secretary, then assistant co-manager was interesting and satisfying. Now, as co-manager, I have Lori and Viqui supporting me through the transition. That’s one strength of volunteering in this SIG, someone is always there to help you succeed.

Being a SIG volunteer sharpens my skills, widens my view, and provides professional fellowship. Volunteer duties can average as little as an hour a week, depending on the role. The “co” in the co-manager title means I need someone else in that same role because two heads are better than one and sharing a job makes it easier for both managers. If that job seems intimidating, go for the assistant co-manager role instead. Co-manager is part of the succession plan, where future leaders learn the co-manager role.

The first time I heard, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person,” I laughed. Now I know that it is true. We need more busy people to donate a little time to keeping our SIG strong. I challenge every SIG member to look over the open roles, find one that fits your interests, and join the leadership team. The IDL SIG is a platinum community because talented members are active participants. You are one of those talented members, and we need you. The monthly meeting is open to all members. Come to the next one to find out more about volunteering.

Marcia Shannon was assistant co-manager for in 2018, and transitioned to co-manager in 2019.

Holistic vs. Atomistic Design of Learning: two types of learning design

By: Mark Philp

Holistic vs. Atomistic Design of Learning

How detailed does a document need to be to get the best result for the end user? Can the user skim the document and understand the concepts effectively enough? Or does the training require a more in-depth understanding? There are two schools of thought on document design regarding these questions: holistic and atomistic. Holistic learning design is creating a document that examines a whole idea by looking at the sum of all parts rather than the individual details. Atomistic design, by contrast, looks at an issue on a granular level by examining every element in detail.

Both methods can be useful when explaining a new topic to someone. However, the context surrounding how the information is delivered and interpreted differs significantly.

The Water Cycle: Atomistically and Holistically

We will use the example of the water cycle to compare the differences between a holistic and an atomistic approach.

Level of Detail

First, a training document must assess the level of detail needed in the document by understanding the needs of the end user. Who is going to use this information? Is it a training document for a grade 12 science instructor, or is it a pamphlet given out to boy scouts who are attempting to get their science badge? The information may be the same in both cases, but how the information should be delivered differs significantly. Both parties have very different levels of comprehension, so that must be addressed in the document design. A teacher must be able to field questions regarding this topic, so a deeper understanding of all the items must be included to ensure there are no gaps in the transmission of information. On the other side, when designing a document for a 10-year-old who will most likely use it outside and look at it for a total of three minutes, the document must show the big picture, be easy to read and, most importantly, be accessible to that particular user.


Secondly, context is important. We briefly brushed on that in the previous paragraph by saying a 10-year-old boy scout may read their document outside. This is an important part of document design. Where will the intended user access the information and under what circumstances will they absorb the information? A teacher will most likely access the document while sitting down at a desk and with proper lighting. The document will most likely be a part of a larger document in a science curriculum. The audience reading the document will already have a background of knowledge regarding the topic. On the other hand, the document for the boy scout will most likely be read outside, perhaps in low light conditions. Most likely, the boy scout will have a very limited background knowledge of the subject. Maybe he will read the document while it’s raining. Does the document need to fit in the user's pocket? These are all items to consider when designing the material because designing for context will allow the documents to be successfully utilized.


Lastly, what is the desired outcome of the document? The technical communicator should ask a few questions:

  • What is the goal of the training?
  • What is the importance of it?
  • How accurately does the information need to be delivered?

In the case of the science teacher, the desired outcome is to facilitate a lesson for grade 12 science students on the water cycle and to comprehensively examine each stage. The goal is for the students to pass their science test and to have a better understanding of the material. The information needs to be delivered accurately for it’s a senior level high school course. As for the boy scout, the desired outcome is to understand the fundamentals of the water cycle. The goal is for the scout to show he has a basic understanding so that he can receive a badge. The knowledge is most likely tested in a verbal interview by a scout leader to assess their understanding of the basic concepts, so the level of accuracy needed will be much less.

Even these simplified situations demonstrate how both of these learning designs have a purpose and can be applied.
Technical writers should ask themselves a series of simple questions, such as:

  • Who is the end user?
  • What does the end user need to know?
  • In what setting will the end user be reading the document?
  • How should it be delivered?
  • What is the goal of the information?
  • How accurately does the information need to be delivered?

By asking these simple questions, one can determine the granularity of the information and decide whether they should move forward with either a holistically or atomistically designed document.

About the author

Mark Philp is a student in the Technical Communications program at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto, Canada. He has an undergrad degree in Urban Planning from the University of Waterloo. Mark enjoys writing, pub trivia, Chinese food, break dancing, baseball, home improvement projects, and Christmas.

Effective Use of Screen Real Estate in E-Learning

By Vivian Luu

Screen real estate refers to the amount of space that is available on a screen. In e-learning, it is not the available space on the computer screen that concerns us—it is the space on the slides we design and use to teach the material that we find to be most important. Creating e-learning slides, in programs such as PowerPoint or Captivate, may be simple and they may look aesthetically pleasing, but it is our effective use of space on the slides that give value to the user.
This article covers six principles you should consider in order to use screen real estate effectively.

Use white space, but not too much

White space can help a page look elegant and clean. Also known as negative space, white space is the part of the page we leave blank, such as the margins and the space between paragraphs. Used properly, white space can unclutter a page without it looking sparse. It also applies to e-learning slides. We want to teach the users everything we can, but we do not want to overwhelm them by putting too much information on one slide.

Each e-learning slide should cover only one topic. In doing so, we will not only control the white space on the slides, but also limit how much information we share at one time. We tend to use white space as borders to separate topics; these very paragraphs that you are currently reading are separated from one another using white space to help you see where one paragraph ends and where another one starts. If we focus on having only one idea per slide, we can decrease the use of white space typically reserved for separating topics. Then, you will only have to worry about line spacing, text, images, and navigation buttons.

Narrow the margins

Unlike a page that might be printed, e-learning slides are mostly viewed on a device and will not encounter the problem of information being cut off by the printer due to narrow margins. You can narrow the margins and use the few extra pixels to add more to the slides. It is a way to effectively use real estate and deliver a positive user experience.

Use graphics and figures carefully

In technical writing, graphics are meant to reinforce the text. Because of the limited real estate on e-learning slides, graphics should be small and used only to help the user understand the information. Instead of placing graphics in the middle of the slide and forcing the text to the margins, try putting the graphic in a corner or giving it its own slide after one that explains the graphic.

Use audio functions

Unlike a textbook, e-learning can use audio to enhance learning. Using the audio function to supply voice over on the slides gives the users a more personal e-learning experience. Not only will this save space for more information, but it will also be more accessible.

Place closed captioning strategically

We must also think of users who use closed captioning. Despite having limited screen real estate, e-learning slides can have closed captioning and still use space effectively. Put the closed captioning on the bottom of the screen where everyone is used to seeing it. It can also go into the narrowed margins of the slide. When the closed captioning has a solid background color, it is immediately differentiated from the slide’s main text without using up more real estate.

Use a responsive e-learning design

Different devices have different amounts of screen real estate, so e-learning designs will have to change with each type of device (for example: phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop). This is where responsive e-learning design comes in. With responsive e-learning, the slides adjust so that users have an optimal learning experience no matter what device they use.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind for devices of varying sizes and input methods:

Smart phones

  • Avoid making the user scroll or zoom in, as it would be inconvenient.
  • Use as few photos as possible, or incorporate them into the background at low opacity.
  • Replace “next” buttons with the option to tap on the screen to proceed; it will save space.
  • Use sans-serif fonts for easy reading—additionally, the size of a sans-serif font can be reduced and still maintain legibility.


  • Follow most of the considerations listed for smart phones.
  • Make the font size larger, as tablets have more real estate than smart phones.
  • Spread out the information to fill up some of the extra white space tablets have.

Laptops and desktops

  • Use arrow keys and clicks to advance through the e-learning slides, as a keyboard and mouse almost always accompany a laptop or desktop.
  • Use a larger font size to balance the available real estate on the screen.
  • Make graphics larger than they would be on a smart phone or tablet, but ensure that they reinforce the text.

Conclusion: Think like a user

To use screen real estate effectively in e-learning, we must think like a user. What do they want to see on the screen? How will they interpret the information? What aids do we anticipate them needing for a positive learning experience? How much is too much information? We must strike a balance with white space, text, and images if we are to convey the right amount of information in the best possible way. As communicators, it is our responsibility to effectively use real estate in e-learning so that the learning experience will be valuable to the users.

About the author

Vivian is a technical communication student at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto, Canada. She is currently on a work placement as a technical writer at the IESO. Her interests in writing and the environment encouraged her to pursue an undergraduate degree in Professional Writing with a minor in Environmental Studies from York University.