Note From the Editor – Q3 2020

Welcome to the Q3 2020 edition of IDeaL: Design for Learning!

Aaaannd, we're back. I'm sorry we missed our usual publication date. COVID insanity, a move and various other problems stacked up on me and swept my deadline away. But things are stabilizing (I hope for all of you as well) and we're on track moving forward.

Welcome to our new Co-Manager, Destiny Dudley!

IDL SIG is making big plans for October, with our Virtual Open House, coming up October 8. We are launching a student outreach program, and this newsletter features an article written by a student!

Marcia Shannon provides her quarterly Co-Manager's Report, and Jamye Sagan has a number of items to share in her Treasurer's Report.

As always, members are encouraged to submit topical articles. We love to see what you write!

Take care of yourselves and each other in these interesting times.



Manager’s Report from Marcia Shannon — Q2 and Q3 2020

Q2 2020

What a complicated three months this second quarter has been. The effects of the pandemic and the measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been rough on many of us. I hope you are safe and well along with your family and friends. It’s a relief to focus on tech comm for a short while to share what has been happening in the IDL SIG.

A major highlight of this time was our own Jamye Sagan’s elevation to STC Associate Fellow. Congratulations, Jamye, you are always one of IDL’s bedrock supporters.

Despite the loss of our annual get together, STC’s first-ever virtual Summit was a very successful event. As a first time presenter, I learned how to prepare a webinar for broadcast, which was a useful experience. More importantly, the Summit sessions went well, with few delivery glitches. Attendees were enthusiastic participants in the chat windows, an unanticipated bonus of the venue. Seeing and interacting with that feedback enlivened the recorded sessions so much more than just listening to a playback does. As always, Summit had depth, variety, and lots of useful information. I definitely missed the face-to-face excitement of putting names to faces from past webinars, but most folks were not shy about being on camera during breaks. You can have a satisfying networking experience virtually.

I attended the opening and closing remarks, several networking events and fifteen sessions. The bonus of the entire Summit recordings being available through August 31 means that I can watch almost all of the 90+ sessions. If you did not attend Summit, I do recommend registering at the after-Summit discounted price. Everything you want to know about the content is available on the STC website here:

Are you curious about CPTC requirements at the foundation or practitioner level? There’s a session about that. There are sessions about DITA, Agile, Adobe, content delivery and maintenance.  Are you looking for career advice? Here are a dozen sessions about working in tech comm.

  • Advance Your Career Through Personal Branding
  • Bias and Your Job Search
  • Business Essentials: The Five Facts Every Professional Should Know about the Technical Communication Business
  • Four Secrets to a Killer Résumé
  • How Getting Away From Your Desk Can Help You Grow Your Career
  • In the Middle: Managing Middle Careers in an Era of Disruption
  • Independent Consulting 101 – Going Out on Your Own
  • The Technical Communicator as a Generalist
  • The Times They Are a'Changin'
  • Volunteering to Advance Your Career (STC)
  • Your Future Career with Tools and Technology: Tools and Technology Panel Discussion

My favorite sessions covered a wide range of topics. They brought a fresh perspective of technical communication. I learned something immediately useful. Here’s a list of my favorite sessions.

  • Navigating Tech Comm with Geoffrey Chaucer by Brigid Brockway
    More than a history lesson, this showed the deep roots, almost proto-tech comm practices that still influence TC today. Brigid brought humor and erudition to this.
  • How My Cats Helped Me Quickly Develop Training Materials by Jamye Sagan
    Jayme’s presentation brings high-level theory into our everyday circumstances.
  • How to Hack Repetitive Publicity Tasks and Get Your Life Back! by Liz Fraley
    This was my jaw-dropping, light bulb moment. I am very shy with all social media, a stumbling block for a freelance tech commer. Liz shows us how to get control of using social media for business.
  • Running with the Bulls: PM the PMs and live to tell about it by Viqui Dill
    Viqui addressed the well-known problem of shoe horning tech comm into project planning, despite project manager’s notorious resistance to it.
  • The Art of Interviewing SME's and Tech Comm Celebrities by Nicky Bleiel
    Nicky shared techniques and approaches for coaxing information out of and fostering cooperation from subject matter experts. I found it very helpful.
  • The Future Workforce Is Here – Now What? by Tana Session
    Like finding out about personality types, Tana showed how being aware of generational hallmarks can help us communicate more effectively in and out of our work places. I did not agree completely with all of the cohort descriptions, but they are useful for targeting an approach to any given group.
  • Now I Get It: Three Strategies for Effectively Sharing Scientific Research by Jennifer Goode
    Boiling down thousands of words of detail into eye-catching informative flyers or wall posters can be difficult. Jennifer shared several clever and useful poster strategies to succeed.

Just before Summit, STC and the CAC (Community Affairs Committee) announced a change to the structure of Special Interest Groups. When membership season begins September 1, every special interest group will become a “community of interest” or “community of practice”.  The SIG leadership teams with CAC’s guidance are transitioning to this new titling now. This is more than a title change. The designation is based on the structure and mission of the group.

Communities of interest will be based in Slack, each with its own channel and a volunteer facilitator to guide the content. They will be discussion groups although no bounds have been set on what or how they do that. All STC members will have membership in all communities of interest as part of their dues.

Communities of practice will be topic-specific. Examples of current SIGs transitioning to COP are Instructional Design and Learning, Technical Editing, and Policies and Procedures. COPs will be able to choose to maintain websites, have an elected volunteer leadership team, present webinars, run competitions. They will also have a channel on the STC-sponsored Slack group. They will be supported by the usual $10 fee per COP collected at renewal or when joining or when a member decides to join a COP outside of those actions.

In order to maintain IDL’s COP status and to keep doing everything we are doing now, we need volunteers. In particular, we need someone or several someones to handle that Slack channel as well as to take over Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. Can you help?

Speaking of volunteers, we need help from all IDL members with education ties, both students and educators.  The complications from pandemic-driven distance learning makes it difficult to publicize our Student Outreach competition. Please share the SO brochure with your students and other educators:

We will be busy in third quarter with programs, leadership team elections and planning our annual open house. Keep up with us via social media and the website. It’s about to be busy season again. Stay safe, stay well.

From the Treasurer — IDL SIG Q3 2020

COMING SOON: 2020 IDL SIG Member Demographic Survey

Sometime in late September or early October, we will release our IDL SIG member demographic survey. This survey, which we conduct every two years, enables us to capture the pulse of our membership. Results from this survey help guide us in developing programs and services that would best benefit our members. Plus, as a token of our appreciation for taking the time to complete the survey, we will once again offer the opportunity for you to be entered into a raffle drawing. Your survey results will still remain anonymous, even if you enter the drawing.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to review results from past surveys, please visit Doing so will also give you an idea of the types of questions we ask.

COMING SOON: Virtual Open House

We will host our eighth annual Virtual Open House on Thursday September 24 at 7pm ET.

This event 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 registration details as they become available.

IDL SIG Treasurer Report – 2020 Q3

As of August 31, 2020, we have $1,193.62 in our account— $789.19 from community funding and $404.43 in our vested funds.

Since we did not meet in person for the 2020 STC Summit in Bellevue, WA, we did not spend any budgeted funds, including Community Reception giveaways and catered lunch for our annual in-person business meeting. Since Summit, we have incurred the following expenses:

  • One STC Student membership for our student article writing competition
  • Survey Monkey subscription renewal.
    • We use Survey Monkey for our demographic survey, educational webinar evaluations, and elections.
  • Zoom professional subscription
    • In the past, we had used Go To Meeting to host our educational webinars and monthly manager meetings. We decided to switch to Zoom this year to save costs; as a result, we saved about $190 per year.

For the rest of the year, our primary expense will be speaker honoraria once we resume our educational webinars. Since we will have extra funds as a result of not attending Summit in person, we are currently discussing how to spend our remaining community funding most efficiently, since those funds will expire at the end of the calendar year.

Where do we get our funds?

Our primary source of income comes from community funding and vested funds. Community funding are funds we receive from the STC office, based on SIG membership numbers. We receive a certain dollar amount per member. Since these funds do not carry over from year to year, we must use them or forfeit them.

Vested funds are funds we have earned through the years. These funds can carry over year after year. Over the years, we had earned a significant amount of our income from SIG-sponsored educational webinars. Since we don’t generate as much vested funds now as we had in the past, the amount of vested funds continues to dwindle. Therefore, we depend more and more on community funding for our expenses.

In any case, we constantly review our budget to see where we can save costs and, most importantly, how we can use our funds to best benefit you — our members.

We’d like to hear from you!

If you have any questions about SIG finances, please email me at

IDL Student Article: Instructional Design—Adult Learning Theories Impact Today’s Culture of Lifelong Learning

By Emily Smith

Learning new things can be both fun and frightening. It invites change into one’s life on many levels; even the adventuresome among us often resist it. The popular job-finding website Workopolis reports that Canadians could have as many as 15 different jobs in their working lifetimes (2014); each job change comes with the opportunity and challenge to learn new skills and content knowledge. In addition to on-the-job learning, researcher Philippe Carré says that adults are equally choosing to learn new things in their personal lives (2015). It seems that adults today are changing a lot and often.

What kind of culture supports adults’ frequent and diverse learning? This article describes where adult learning theories originated, how employers can leverage adult learning theories to teach new employees more effectively, and how adult learners are now popularly considered lifelong learners.

Adult learning theory: History and terms

Some people might think that teaching children (pedagogy) and teaching adults are the same process but Malcolm Knowles (1968) asserted that teaching adults is distinct from pedagogy.

According to Svein Loeng, American Malcolm Knowles popularized the term andragogy in the United States. Knowles says it means “the art and science of helping adults learn” (1968). Loeng describes Knowles’ ideas as “…a set of assumptions about adult learners …[that includes] some recommendations concerning planning, directing, and evaluating adults’ learning” (2018).

Knowles’ ideas are summarized below:

  • Adults are independent learners.
  • Adults pull lessons from their own life experiences.
  • Adults prefer to learn in specific social contexts.
  • Adults focus on learning things they can use right away.
  • Adults are motivated by themselves.

For example, adults who choose something to study based on their own needs or interests (professional or personal) would do better than adults who are told to take a course in something they have no prior connection to.

Phillipe Carré takes this idea a step further to assert that adult learning theory is actually facilitation pedagogy [my translation]. Carré says that for learning to happen, adults need a facilitator, a teacher, or an interface to guide them to do the learning themselves.

For example, when adults who are studying a foreign language learn about professions, they learn more by using the new language to describe a favorite job they have held to others. Then learning deepens when they compare information from others’ descriptions to find similarities and differences. The instructor or interface (book, website, app) provides some support for the process without providing all the content. Students learn the content through social activity.

New hires: Training vs. Coaching

New employees face a steep learning curve. Professional teachers in a school environment lead children through the learning process. Adults needing to acquire new skills or knowledge also benefit from specific support.

Carré says the training provided for a new employee does not always result in good job performance; he points out that training does not guarantee learning (2015).

Similarly, Chris A. Woodward (2007) concluded that using Knowles’ ideas in designing training for new employees increased the training’s effectiveness compared to previous training that did not use Knowles’ ideas. Applying adult learning theory to workplace training helps new employees better prepare for their new jobs.

These examples of training activities do not use Knowles’ ideas:

  • Watching a series of public service announcement-style videos on company policies.
  • Listening to lecture-style presentations about employee responsibilities.
  • Reading an employee handbook.

Elaine Cox (2015) argues that coaching and Knowles’ andragogy are similar.

According to Cox, coaching through conversation helps the learner get the most out of a learning opportunity in a variety of ways:

  • Helps the learner make sense of the material.
  • Helps the learner understand the learning process.
  • Helps the learner relate to the material and learning process.

Both coaching and facilitation pedagogy provide the adult learner with support to increase learner receptivity to the content.

These examples of coaching and training activities use Knowles’ ideas:

  • A group of pre-service teachers have the opportunity to reflect on their own successful and not-successful learning experiences with an experienced teacher-trainer that highlights the value of their own experiences for their future as teachers.
  • A new employee poses questions to an experienced employee, gathering information about the challenges and tricks to mastering the new skills.
  • During the onboarding process at a company, a new employee completes some tasks related to the new role and then undergoes a workshop process with a trainer to improve their performance.

Today’s adults: lifelong learners

Lifelong learning has become a popular catchphrase. Lifelong learners believe learning is always possible and it never has to stop, even as adults. Is this very different from Knowles’ ideas?  No, the term simply helps frame the adult learning process as an ongoing venture rather than one or a series of isolated events.

According to Julia Gross (2012), “lifelong learning has elements of adult education, continuing education, self-directed learning, and the ideal of the individual reaching his/her full potential”.

Carré (2015) and Loeng (2018) both reference ‘lifelong learning’ in their work about adult learners. Similarly, researchers Maurice Taylor, David Trurnpower, and Ivana Pavic (2013) use "lifelong learners" to describe adult learners acquiring new skills throughout their article.

Osark Nowik (2020) says, “lifelong learners recognize the importance and joy of growth so they never settle for what they currently know and always seek for improvement.”

Nowik (2020) provides a list of 12 habits lifelong learners have in common:

  • Read on a daily basis.
  • Attend various courses.
  • Actively seek opportunities to grow.
  • Take care of their bodies.
  • Have diverse passions.
  • Love making progress.
  • Challenge themselves with specific goals.
  • Embrace change.
  • Believe it is never too late to start something new.
  • Have a contagious attitude towards getting better.
  • Leave their comfort zone.
  • Never settle down.

Ultimately, adult learning theory is not a new concept but one that impacts the way businesses can manage new employees and professional development opportunities, and the way adults relate to learning new skills and knowledge today. Consider adult learning theory and lifelong learning habits whenever teaching or learning something new to ensure success.


Carré, Phillipe. "De l'apprentissage à la formation. Pour une nouvelle psychopédagogie des adultes." Revue francaise de pédagogie (Recherches en éducation), no. 190 (March 2015): 29-40.

Cox, Elaine. "Coaching and Adult Learning: Theory and Practice." New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, no. 148 (2015): 27-38.

Gross, Julia. Building Your Library Career with Web 2.0. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2012.

Knowles, Malcolm. Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1984.

—. The modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy. New York, New York: Association Press, 1968.

Loeng, Svein. "Various ways of understanding the concept of andragogy." Edited by Edith Omwami. Cogent Education 5, no. 1 (January 2018): 1-15.

Nowik, Osark. Lifehack. 02 17, 2020. (accessed 02 21, 2020).

Taylor, Maurice, Davic Trurnpower, and Ivana Pavic. "Unravelling the Lifelong Learning Process for Canadian Workers and Adult Learners Acquiring Higher Skills." Journal of Research & Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary & Basic Education 2, no. 2 (2013): 101-113.

Woodward, Chris A. "Using Adult Learning Theory for New-Hire Training." MPAEA Journal of Adult Education 36, no. 1 (2007): 44-47.

Workopolis. Workopolis. 04 12, 2014. (accessed 02 08, 2020).

Emily Smith is enrolled in the online Technical Communication Certificate program at Simon Fraser University, Canada. She currently teaches Grade 4 at an American curriculum international school in Qatar. Her passion for learning and teaching gives her lots of opportunities for fun and adventure in many far-off places. She is hoping a career in technical communication will help her continue to push the traditional boundaries.