Letter from the Editor – Q1 2020

Welcome to the Q1 2020 edition of IDeaL: Design for Learning!

The past few months have been disruptive for all of us. I have been working at home for the past two weeks and likely will for the foreseeable future. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat.

In addition, the STC itself is moving into uncharted waters with the Summit moving from in-person to virtual. Phylise Banner has asked for the help of the IDL SIG to make this virtual conference the best ever! If you’d like to volunteer to help, please contact her.

This will be my last issue as managing editor. Next quarter, I will hand the reins over to Paul Scott. Paul has been a technical writer for over 20 years. He works as a freelance writer and consultant in Silicon Valley, working with tech and biotech clients.

It has been a pleasure editing your newsletter and I hope I have left it in better shape than I found it. I will be working with Paul as needed over the next three months as we get Q2 shaped up. Please help him out by submitting articles to newsletter@stcidlsig.org.

As a reminder, we welcome any of the following topics:

  • IDL practice
  • IDL theory
  • Reflexivity in IDL
  • The value of IDL to society and or industry
  • Career paths and progression in the field of IDL
  • Emerging technologies in IDL
  • Promotion of the IDL SIG

We have a short issue this quarter with just three articles.

Marcia Shannon has given us the SIG Manager’s report and Lori Meyer has provided the Membership Manager’s Report. Our new editor, Paul Scott, has provided an article entitled 5 Rules to Help You When Working from Home.

Take care of yourselves and each other!


Kelly Smith
Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith has been Managing Editor of the IDeaL newsletter since May 2018. She also serves as membership manager for her local chapter – STC Southeast Michigan. Kelly works as Senior Technical Writer at Dart Container in mid-Michigan and has been active in the STC since 2015. In her free time, Kelly is a quilter who enjoys quilt retreats and buying fabric.

5 Rules to Help You When Working from Home

By Paul Scott

People are working from home today like never before, thanks to the new global pandemic. I’m a consultant, so this is my normal. I’ve learned a few guidelines that make it easier for me, and I’m writing this to share them. I hope they’re helpful in the days ahead.

Make it a Place for Work

The thing about working from home is that it’s home. It’s where you relax, not where you work. It’s set up with all the things you use to get away from work: your hobbies, your games, your books, your Netflix.

To work, you need to set up a space separate from all that. Set up a space that feels like work, whatever that is. Best if it’s away from all those homely diversions. Put a door between all of that and you if you can, or turn your back to it at your kitchen table. But one way or another set up a space that is for work and work alone.

Dress the Part

It’s tempting to try to work in pajamas and bunny slippers, but that’s not the right mindset. You don’t need full office attire, but go for casual Friday. Be comfortable, but dress for work, not for home.

Create a “Work Day” Routine

Work gives you a built-in routine: Morning, lunch, afternoon, scheduled meetings. It helps you get things done, each in its proper time slot.

You don’t have to have the exact same routine at home as you do at the office. In fact you probably can’t. But build one of your own that works for you. Schedule email for one time, meetings for another (if possible). Make a slot in which to work on urgent projects and another to handle routine things. And stick to it as much as you can.

Minimize Distractions

In a sense, all of this is about limiting distractions. The workplace, the clothes, the routine are all about keeping yourself focused.

You need to also limit distractions from outside. Tell friends and family that you’re at work from 9 to 5, or whatever your schedule happens to be. They should treat that as they would any other work day and minimize their interruptions.

This is one of the hardest rules to enforce. There’s a natural difficulty in taking work from home as seriously as “official work” in, well, an office. So you need to take it seriously yourself, and enforce your boundaries with others.

Set Goals

You’ll have your assignments from work, but to hit your targets you’ll need to be more rigorous than you are in the office. Businesses like having their workers in the office because it makes it easier to manage and supervise them. At home, you need to manage yourself, and one way to do that is to set measurable goals.

The details will vary depending on your projects, but divide them up and make the parts your goals. Set a timeline and stick to it. It will make you much more productive.

This is how I do it. Working from home is challenging, but after all of the current business has passed I expect we’ll be doing a lot more of it.

Paul Scott
Paul Scott

Paul is the new managing editor of IDeaL: Design for Learning and will take over as of the Q2 2020 issue. Welcome, Paul!

It’s not too late to renew your STC membership for 2020!

By Lori Meyer, IDL SIG membership manager

It’s 2020 — Can you still renew your STC membership? Yes! 

Now that 2020 is one quarter completed, you might be wondering if it’s too late to renew your STC membership for this year. The answer is no, it is definitely not too late! Although 2019 memberships have expired, you can still renew your membership and continue to benefit from all of the programs and services that make STC an excellent partner in your tech comm career development. Those include:

  • Member discounts for educational programs, including courses, webinars, and the STC Annual Conference, Summit — the gathering place for all technical communicators to learn from the best and the brightest in our profession. The 2020 Conference will take place virtually this year, due to COVID-19.
  • Free subscription to Intercom, the STC monthly publication, which offers informative articles about the topics of interest to today’s technical communicators.
  • Access to the Technical Communication Salary Survey, from which you can gain valuable knowledge about compensation in our profession.
  • The opportunity to become industry-certified through the Certified Professional Technical Communicator program.
  • The opportunity to build your network of professional colleagues through involvement in STC chapters and special interest groups.
  • The opportunity to have your work recognized through regional technical publications competitions.

You can renew your STC membership online quickly and easily. Once you have completed the online renewal form and submitted your membership dues payment, your membership will be reactivated.

To renew your membership

  1. Go to org and log in with your member ID and password. Your STC membership number is your user name.
  2. Click Join or Renew Now.
  3. Read through the Membership Levels and Benefits section, then click the Renew Your STC Membership Today
  4. Click the Renew Today link at the bottom of the page.
  5. Complete the renewal form. If your contact information (home/work address, email, or phone number) has changed, make the necessary updates. Make sure that your email address is current and correct, so you can receive acknowledgement of your renewal and other information about your membership.
  6. Choose the communities to include in your membership. Each chapter costs $25.00; each SIG costs $10.00.

Please note: 

  • If you are currently unaffiliated (do not belong to any chapters or SIGs), you can add communities now.
  • If you are already a member of one or more chapters and SIGs, you must choose them again, because the renewal system does not automatically carry over community memberships from the previous year. If you are currently a member of the IDL SIG, be sure to check IDL SIG on the renewal form! And if you’re not a SIG member, we would love to have you as one!
  • If you are an STC Gold member, one chapter membership is free, and all SIG memberships are free. The system will remove the charges for these memberships at the end of the renewal process. However, you must still select a chapter and the SIGs you want included in your memberships, so you will be added to the membership database for those communities.
  1. Select or bypass any other options as you prefer.
  2. Enter your credit card information when prompted, and submit the renewal form. STC will send an acknowledgement email. Keep this email for your records.

We look forward to having you as a member of STC and our SIG!

If you have any questions or concerns about your membership, please feel free to contact me at membership@stcidlsig.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.

Manager’s Report

By Marcia Shannon

SIG Manager

Welcome to the first manager’s report of 2020. First, thank you for renewing your membership with STC and IDL. With your support and participation, the IDL SIG continues to thrive. Your leadership team has planned activities throughout 2020 to provide the education and community networking that support your career in technical communication. Watch for email announcements and check the website for details of upcoming events.

First quarter was busy. January 31 was the deadline to submit the Community Achievement Award application. Completing that very detailed form was a good review of all that the SIG accomplished in 2019. It is also a good checklist of what other activities we can complete in 2020. In February and March, Ed Marsh and Kelly Schrank shared useful information that you can use to advance your technical communication career. Both webinars are available on our YouTube channel.

The Student Outreach Essay competition deadline was February 22. Judging continues through March, so watch for announcements about the results. If you missed this year’s deadline, start planning to enter the next competition. Submissions are welcome throughout the year. The SIG needs support from educator members to encourage their students to enter the competition. It’s a good opportunity to be published before graduation. Suggest that students rework an essay they submitted in class to meet our newsletter style.

The hot items for second quarter are holding the annual SIG election and planning our Summit activities. Both are opportunities for you to become involved in the SIG. We plan to introduce new leaders and members during the IDL SIG Business Meeting at Summit. We invite you to be part of our celebration.

The strength of any community depends on participation and the willingness of members to work together to make the group thrive. Your next opportunity to do that is the annual elections. There are many open slots on the leadership team, both elected and appointed. Appointed means that you step up and say “I can do that”. Cheers from the other leaders will welcome you!

We need two assistant co-managers to transition to 2021’s co-managers. This is a coordinator role, not as burdensome as managing. If your career goal is any level of management, this is an opportunity to try your wings with plenty of support from other leaders.

We need a secretary. My experience as secretary was uncomplicated: Attend the monthly meeting, or listen to the recording, then write and publish the minutes. It usually took about three hours across a couple sessions each month.

Committee members can take turns covering a position or work one part of it. For example, one member of the Social Media committee could handle Twitter while someone else posts to Facebook. The committee chair would coordinate the work.

You could learn webinar management as part of the Programs committee and add it to your skills list for that next job review.

Without participation, there is no SIG. Please share your talents to keep our SIG thriving!

Marcia Shannon
Marcia Shannon

Marcia Shannon was secretary from 2016 to 2018, assistant co-manager for the SIG in 2018, and transitioned to co-manager in 2019.

Letter from the editor – Q4 2019

By Kelly Smith

Welcome to the last issue of IDeaL: Design for Learning for 2019!

A lot has happened this year in your SIG! Your volunteer leaders have brought you webinars, events, and great articles throughout the year, and I would like to thank them for all their hard work in organizing, promoting, and recording these events to share with all of us.

Speaking of articles, if you’d like to contribute to the newsletter, please email me! The deadline for the March issue is March 3, 2020. I am always looking for more book reviews, articles about how you use instructional design in your work, and biographies of new members. If everyone contributes, we’ll have a stronger newsletter, and a stronger body of knowledge on our website.

Also, if you’d like to edit the newsletter, please let me know. I have been in this position for nearly two years now and would like to start training a backup with an eye toward transitioning it to a new editor. The ideal editor should be someone with a passion for instructional design, a good editing eye, and a commitment to staying on schedule. We use the AP Style guide and WordPress, so knowledge of one or both of those would definitely be a plus! (But never fear, we’re happy to teach you!) If that sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, drop me a line!

This is a relatively short edition of our newsletter, so take a few minutes out of your holiday week to check out what’s new in your SIG!

  • Our co-manager, Marcia Shannon, shares information about the student essay competition and asks for more SIG members to step up and volunteer for leadership positions in her co-manager’s column.
  • Jamye Sagan provides a year-end treasurer’s report.
  • Viqui Dill fills us in on upcoming programs about podcasting, networking, and adding value as a technical communicator.
  • And finally, we have the last of our 2019 student essay competition articles, this one by Nicole Wylie on the topic of storyboarding in instructional design.

I hope you are all having a happy and relaxing holiday season and I look forward to seeing you all at Summit in Bellevue in May! Happy Holidays!


Kelly Smith
Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith has been Managing Editor of the IDeaL newsletter since May 2018. She also serves as membership manager for her local chapter – STC Southeast Michigan. Kelly works as Senior Technical Writer at Dart Container in mid-Michigan and has been active in the STC since 2015. In her free time, Kelly is a quilter who enjoys quilt retreats and buying fabric.