The Newsletter Q1 2018 IDeaL: Design for Learning

From the Editor

By Crista Mohammed

In this issue, we continue harvesting rich material from our student outreach competition. You know the saying, plant a seed, tend it well and...enjoy the fruit.  We are thrilled to publish another winning submission.

Maria Peter, who has just completed a programme in Technical Communication at Seneca, provides a comprehensive review of usability heuristics as they apply to e-learning, distributed learning and websites in general . This is a great resource for students of IDL and a refresher for practitioners.Read More

Lori Meyer, in her co-manager's column, reviews our  2017 successes . Invigorated by those success, she recommends many ways for you to contribute to and enjoy being part of our awarding winning team. Read more

Marcia Shannon, in her Secretary's Column, shares six easy, doable ways to stay in touch with your SIG and reap the rewards of your SIG membership. Read more

Meet Viqui Dill in our Member Spotlight. You may already know the venerable Ms. Dill. She is a well-recognised STC face, having been an active member for over 11 years (a fact that belies her youthful vim and vigour). Viqui is her usual frank sharing-self: she does not hold back on how she has grown and how the STC has figured in her professional development. Read more

Crista Mohammed  reminds us that SUMMIT TIME is at hand. In her Editor’s picks she shares her plans for Summit 2018--plans that revolve around staying abreast of the field; nurturing the professional within; and friending face-to-face (as opposed to virtually). Read More

Viqui Dill, thoughtful as ever, has extracted all of the key SUMMIT 2018 events for the IDL SIG. Included in Viqui's list are all the presentations that will be made by IDLers. Read More

Marcia Shannon reviews Cammy Bean’s The Accidental Instructional Designer. The title of the book is relatable. So it is when you work in an emerging field: the needs of the market precede the discipline. Many of our careers are thus “accidental”.  Marcia finds the book deserving of careful reading as it is information dense, but that density does not burden the reader in the least. Marcia reports that Bean’s light breezy writing is enjoyable and easy to read. Read more

O*NET program, the most comprehensive source of occupational data in the USA, is seeking experienced Instructional Designers and Technologists to add their career information to the O*NET database. Read more

About IDeaL: Design for Learning

Usability Standards for eLearning, Distributed Learning, or Websites

By Maria Peter

Have your ever felt that an eLearning course or a website is difficult to use and quit trying as it is time consuming and not serving its purpose? For any eLearning course, distributed learning material, or website usability determines its success.

Issa et al. defines ‘Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object such as a tool or device.’ Usability can be measured by the quality of users’ experiences. The quality is determined by the effectiveness/ease of use, efficiency/less time to accomplish, and the overall satisfaction level of the users. Multiple properties are combined during the design and development stages to increase usability standards. The key properties recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services are:

  • Intuitive Design Layout: When users can effortlessly navigate to accomplish their tasks.
  • Efficiency of Use: When experienced users can accomplish their tasks quickly.
  • Easy to Observe and Use: When new users can accomplish their tasks with ease.
  • Easy to Recall: When users can remember actions to use in their future visits.
  • Fewer Errors and Reduced Severity: When errors are less frequent and less serious.
  • Increased Satisfaction: When users feel happy to visit the website again.

Why Following Usability Standards is Essential

Usability standards serve as guidelines during the design and development phases of eLearning courses, distributed learning materials, or websites that are meant to serve a wide range of audience profile.

Usability Standards for eLearning Courses or Distributed Learning Materials

Usability is the core of eLearning courses and it determines the satisfaction level of users. Essentially, it enables learners to achieve their objectives successfully. Most of the eLearning courses have a Help file to help new learners to understand the purpose of various user interface buttons, title bar area, content area, and others, see Image 1.

Image 1: An eLearning Course − User Interface

Here are some key usability standards that are based on Nielson’s 10 usability heuristics and Hetsevich’s adaptation of the heuristics to improvise eLearning courseware design:

  • User Interface Buttons: Include clearly defined navigational buttons such as Previous, Next, Play, Pause, Rewind, Audio mute/unmute, Exit, etc. to enhance learners’ experiences
  • Learning Path: Ensure the structure of the course or the logical learning path is streamlined, for example: Course > Topic > Pages.

Consistency and Standards ensure uniformity in page layout, graphics style, fonts style, color theme, etc., across a course so the users will not be distracted by variations. To enhance learners’ experiences, use suitable font type, style, and size. Here are some thoughts on key  design principles:

  • Information Recall: Ensure all primary information are displayed on the screen always and the representation of the secondary information such as Trivia, Did You Know, etc. are standardized across a course.
  • Flexibility and Efficiency of Use: Include different learning paths as per audience profile – experienced and novice. For example, pre-assessment can be used to help novices understand the knowledge gap and experts to confirm their knowledge level and move on to the next level.
  • Focussed Approach: Ensure you have a defined objective for every page to avoid irrelevant information.
  • Feedback: Provide feedback to help learners understand the reason for an error that may have occurred. For example, if a learner’s response is incorrect for a knowledge check question provide descriptive feedback that suggests the required changes.
  • Content Development: Create compelling, meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content that enables learners to attain the expected goal.
  • Graphics: Use graphics to complement content and help learners to grasp content quickly.
  • Transcript and Caption: Provide full transcript and caption when audio narration is used.
  • Autonomy: Ensure that users have control over videos play, pause, and mute function.

Usability Standards for Websites

There are many factors that contribute to the success of a website. For instance, in a website, the layout, and architecture should be easy to understand and use, navigational elements should be obvious and easy to follow, and homepage should clearly state its purpose and how it will benefit the user, see Image 2.

Image 2: An eCommerce Website − User Interface

To retain users on websites, we can apply several usability standards. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has conducted extensive research on web design and provides elaborate usability guidelines. Now, let’s take a look at some of the key guidelines that you can follow when creating a website:


  • Define and document the primary goals before initiating the design and development process.
  • Set performance goals to identify success rates and the time it takes to find specific information.

Visual Design and Development

  • Use personas to help design team focused on the requirements.
  • Ensure visual consistency of the website elements such as company logo, graphics, titles, clickables, etc.
  • Design for monitors with the screen resolution set at 1024x768 pixels and test for the most common browsers and operating systems.


  • Clearly differentiate navigational elements.
  • Use breadcrumb or other means to help users know their location.
  • Avoid horizontal scroll bars.
  • Use color changes to indicate visited and unvisited links.


  • Do not require users to enter the same information more than once.
  • Do not require users to remember information from place to place on a website.

Assistive Technology

  • Ensure the website supports assistive technologies so people with disabilities can use it effectively − Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Search Engine Optimization

  • Ensure the website is optimized to appear in the first page of all major search engines’ result pages.

Final Words

Give your users what they want to see and know. Empower them to accomplish their tasks efficiently, effectively, and satisfactorily. You can visit different eLearning courses or websites and analyze them based on the standards outlined above. When designing and developing an eLearning course or a website, this experience will direct you appropriately.


Hetsevich, Ilona. 2014. “How to Improve eLearning Course Design Usability By Adopting The 10 Usability Heuristics.”

Issa, Tomayess, Kommers, Piet, Issa, Theodora, Isaías, Pedro, and Issa, Touma B eds. March 2017. Smart Technology Applications in Business Environments. Pennsylvania, USA: IGI Global.

Nielsen, Jakob.1995. “Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design.”

Nielsen, Jakob. January4, 2012. “Usability 101: Introduction to Usability.” “Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines.” Accessed January 17, 2018. “Usability Evaluation Basics.” Accessed January 12, 2018.

Suggested Reading

10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design:

Research – Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines:

Maria Peter has been an Instructional Designer for almost a decade. She likes conceptualizing learning solutions using scenarios, case studies, stories, serious games, etc. She recently completed her studies in Technical Communication at Seneca, where she had ample opportunity to acquire hands-on experience. Lately, she has been writing about the use of virtual reality, augmented reality and serious games in learning. She was awarded “You've Earned It Award" at Fidelity Investments for handling multiple eLearning projects and training writers who aspired to be instructional designers.

Co-manager’s Report for Q1 2018

By Lori Meyer

2017 Review

Our SIG has wrapped up another rewarding year, in which we received both the STC Platinum and Pacesetter Awards, completed a series of great webinars, continued our Student Outreach program, and begin exploring content curation. None of this would have happened without every one of our wonderful volunteers. We can't thank you enough—it has been our honor and pleasure to work with you. Read more about our awards.

 2018 Opportunities

We invite you to consider taking up both elected and appointed volunteer positions, enabling you to work with a friendly leadership team, build your skills, expand your network, and strengthen our community. Check out these opportunities and see if one of them sounds like a good fit.

Treasurer (elected, one year): Our treasurer manages the SIG's financial resources, prepares the SIG budget for the year, reports income and expenses to the leadership team, reconciles our records with those maintained at the STC office, and makes recommendations for allocating funds in ways that add the most value for our members. Because STC maintains custody of SIG funds, SIGs do not have their own bank accounts, which means you do not have to manage any bank accounts or prepare reports for the IRS. Your most important job is to monitor our financial transactions and help us be responsible stewards of our SIG's funds. We will train you and make sure you have adequate ramp-up time to succeed on the job.

Assistant SIG manager (elected, one year term): Assistant managers work with the current co-managers to learn the essentials of SIG leadership, and automatically succeed to the co-manager role the following year. As an assistant co-manager, you will have a front-row seat to observing the responsibilities of SIG leadership, and you'll receive the training you need to succeed at  managing the SIG at the end of your term.

Program team members (appointed): In this role, you will work with our program team leader to develop our programming activities, including seeking and selecting presenters, publicizing upcoming webinars using Eventbrite, and working with presenters to deliver successful webinars throughout the year. This role provides an excellent opportunity to meet industry leaders and provide value-adding programs.

If any of these leadership roles interests you, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at

If you would like to get involved with our SIG but aren't ready to commit to a leadership position, let us know. We often have one-time or short-term volunteer opportunities that would welcome your helping hands.

Secretary’s Column Q1 2018

By Marcia Shannon

Did your 2018 start out frozen? It’s a relief to be out of the great USA Freeze! Spring brings fresh perspectives and a surge of energy. Here ways to get more involved with your SIG.

Volunteer. Being part of the team is a great way to expand your contacts and your knowledge. There are open positions available right now. Our co-manager, Lori, provides more details  in her column.

Register for a free webinar.  It is easy to find one that interests you through the email and website announcements.

Schedule time each week to check the website for new information.

Stay in touch via Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, and the STC Notebook. Links to these are on the website.

Seize the opportunity to share your talents and experience by hosting a webinar. Each of us knows something that will benefit someone else in the field.

Attend a virtual monthly meeting and get to know your leadership team. Fresh perspectives always strengthen our SIG and new voices increase the quality of our meetings.

Have you heard the phrase “Never party alone”? That is how I describe being part of the IDL SIG. Interacting with other tech commers renews my commitment to being the best I can be in my profession. Exchanging information within the tech comm community is a great way to “party” with friends who understand your circumstances and generously share their knowledge.

Meet an IDLer: Viqui Dill*

By Viqui Dill and Sara Buchanan

Buckle in, you're about to learn about the wonderfully talented, funny, and experienced Viqui Dill. She has taken the time to give me a wonderfully detailed and honest interview about her life and experiences as a woman in the workforce and active member of STC.

Viqui has been an STC member since 2007 when she was newly hired at American Woodmark. She shares, "my coworker, Nancy Mule' very enthusiastically recommended the society and mentored me through the registration process. My first community affiliation was with the Washington, DC – Baltimore chapter. I remember how nervous I was when I attended my first event. But I ran into Carolyn Klinger by chance in the women's room and she put me instantly at ease. She introduced me to Annette Reilly who was the speaker for the day. I also met Helen Sydavar and we exchanged business cards. From that meeting on, I have looked forward to our face-to-face meetings and try to be more like Carolyn and put new attendees at ease."

STC Baltimore Chapter members Carolyn Klinger, Greta Buskirk, and Viqui Dill at STC17.

Currently, Viqui serves as a co-manager for the Instructional Design & Learning (IDL) Special Interest Group (SIG). Her journey with the IDL SIG started in 2012 when her and Robert Hershenow were both members of the Rough Drafts band and presenters in the instructional design progression session. Robert invited her to the SIG based on the content of her presentation and explained that they were looking for someone to take over the webinar programs. Viqui shares, "Robert was co-managing with Mellissa Ruryk and I loved their leadership style, empowering volunteers to do whatever best used their strengths. I love putting on the webinars because it's a platform for showing off the great rock stars of our field and sharing great information with the community. I always learn something and I get a chance to get to know the presenters in the process."


IDL SIG Receiving the Platinum STC Community Award at STC17

Viqui is "a bad ass bass player. Bass is the most bad ass of all instruments." She played at #STC17 with the Rough Drafts! She even shared proof:


The Rough Drafts at STC17
Viqui Playing Bass for The Rough Drafts

Viqui works at American Woodmark as a Technical Communication Leader supporting infrastructure projects that touch all the employees at the company. She reports directly to the CIO and "works with and learns from some of the smartest, sharpest folks from all across the company, from Sacramento to Orlando." She continues, "I have the best job ever. My company has an annual President’s Award for projects that have a big impact on the way we do business. I’ve worked on two winning teams that were recognized by the company president, one for Quality, and another for our builder service centers. It’s great to be a part of a winning team and even better when the team gets recognized by the president. Also, my company has a very strong culture of caring. We have a number of committees that ensure we walk the talk. I am a member of a team that sets up monthly lunch and learn sessions that give employees an opportunity to tell their own personal and professional stories. The speakers are so candid and the sessions are so heart-warming that I love working on this team."

Viqui took her first tech writer job at BMC software. She was working as a software developer and wasn't enjoying it when her friend, Mary Boyd, invited her to apply to a tech writer job. Viqui shares, "I loved the work immediately and enjoyed staying in the technical world without having to write the code. I'm an extrovert and the additional opportunities for human interaction were a good fit."

Her journey includes a BS from Virginia Tech in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research where she learned to think analytically and pull apart problems into manageable pieces. Her education continues through her work with STC where, according to her, "I learn something from y’all most every day. We have our Summits and regional conferences (I’m going to Interchange and Conduit this year). We have webinars. We have social media. You teach me leadership skills, project management, learning theory, practical hands-on tips, and tool mastery. You pretty much mentor me through the whole tech comm process." American Wookmark, her workplace, recognizes the value of her STC membership and involvement as the best way to develop and sustain her job skills. She continues, "I am lucky to work for a company that supports my professional development by covering my membership, event attendance, and some of my volunteer time."

Viqui told me that if she could give advice to herself she wouldn't "take things so seriously. My biggest mistakes have been made when I was thinking that something was a big deal when it really wasn’t."

I asked Viqui how the Tech Comm industry has changed throughout her career to which she responded, "We have gotten lighter, tighter, and much much faster. We no longer produce paper manuals so there’s an expectation of getting a quick turnaround on projects that didn’t use to happen. And crowdsourcing is possible because we can get our user communities involved. And because we have our online tech comm communities, I have so many more resources available to me. I think y’all have made me smarter every year as I hang out in the online #TechComm world."

She shares the struggles she's experienced as a leader,"Leading volunteers is tricky. You’ve got to be willing to be the one who does jobs nobody else wants to do. You’ve got to love love love the folks who are willing to walk with you. That’s why STC is so great. We have great leaders and they set a great example for the rest of us to follow. Servant leadership works every time." I work with her in the IDL SIG and I can attest to her wonderful leadership and true appreciation for the work everyone does.

Viqui further shares her experiences as a woman in the workforce, "So one of the reasons I love tech comm over programming and engineering is because we’re female friendly. When I’m struggling to earn the respect of a colleague at work, I try to keep in mind the overwhelming respect I receive in STC and also here at work from my supportive management. We do eventually win people over and having the support is so important. We’ve come a long way (baby). Read this blog post about my own personal harassment story that happened back in 1978."

When asked about how she maintains work/life balance, Viqui shares, "I’m an energetic empty nester. I raised my son and I raised my husband and now it’s time to raise myself. I say “yes” a lot. Volunteering is fun and energizing. Plus, I get to work with a lot of smart and talented people as I volunteer." And, my personal favorite, "I only wear comfortable shoes."

Thank you Viqui!


*This article was first published by Northeast Ohio Society for Technical Communication. See: