Tag Archives: instructional design

Using roles in UPK

UPK provides simple functionality to tag and manage content by user role. Any of your content can be identified by the role(s) that perform it, and you (or your user) can then target content by those roles:

  • only publish content for a specific role (ie only their procedures, or an LMS package just for them)
  • publish for multiple roles but allow users to pick the elements of interest.

For example the following screenshots show a single player package with two roles (core and advanced) defined. Foreign exchange functionality has been tagged as being for advanced users only. Selecting/unselecting this role changes the visibility of the section.

core and advanced roles core role only advanced role only

While designed for classifying content by user role, there’s no reason why you cannot use in other ways. For example, you could use this functionality to classify functionality by application version.

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E-Learning as coffee break

Since you cannot have a decent idea without a manifesto, here’s one I prepared earlier for a suggested initiative for e-learning for a current client.

Concept is to develop and offer a library of short-n-sweet e-learning lessons on topics that may be of value. The shortness comes from enforcing a 5-min time limit, being the time needed to sit down and drink a cup of coffee (hence the coffee lessons name). But that shortness also comes from enforcing a time-limit on production. These should not be epic productions, more as labours of love from those of us wanting to share our knowledge but only being able to find occasional moments between projects to work on them.

What that means for the producer is firstly that anyone can do it, and secondly that we can afford to be smarter about the tools we use to make our content quickly. For example:

  • use a rapid e-learning tool and a simple template to plug in content
  • use your computer’s built in webcam to capture an introduction video or content describing key points
  • use Captivate or other screen capture tools to demonstrate a process
  • use audio recording to easily add a voiceover to content, etc

In this I’m inspired in part by the dogma school of film-making that deliberately enforced constraints over the film production process. Putting similar limits on producers encourages us all to produce (you don’t need the fancy tools or skills, because you don’t have time to use them). Which can help produce a wide variety of simple skills. Having our coffee lessons available is a growth exercise for both the learners (any of us) and the teachers (again, any of us).

Having helped assess a few people’s presentation/training skills where they have to pick a topic to present, obviously the key to a coffee lesson is picking a topic suitable for the 5 min limit. You’re not going to run a coffee lesson on “InDesign” for example. But you could run 5 mins on publishing an InDesign book as an ePUB compatible with your internal environment, for example.

As a follow-up a colleague has just noted that for a lot of general skills these coffee lessons already exist. Just search Youtube and you’ll find short-n-sweet videos on a plethora of skills. However what BYO provides is the ability to provide content specific to your organisation, the option to track usage (by offering via your LMS), and of course the experience in developing for yourself.

Recognising individual learning styles

It is reasonably well recognised (e.g. we won’t question it here!) that each of us has a preferred or dominant sensory system. This means a person will prefer to communicate or learn in either:

  • a visual way (e.g. seeing)
  • an auditory way (e.g. hearing)
  • a kinesthetic way (e.g. touching)

This article provides clues to help determine your own preferred learning style, and that of individuals you interact with.

Note: Having a preferred learning style does not mean the other methods are not used at all. It simply means learning will be more effective if expressed in the preferred manner.

activity learning style
visual auditory kinesthetic
speak say:

  • That looks right
  • I see now
  • I’m in the dark
  • I can picture that
  • Get it into perspective

  • That sounds right
  • That rings a bell
  • That tells me
  • Listen to me
  • Suddenly it clicked

  • That feels right
  • A smooth answer
  • A concrete example
  • Let’s handle this
  • I have a grip on it
spell try to see the word spell how it sounds write it down to see if it feels right
visualise see vivid detailed pictures think in sounds have few images but they involve movement
concentrate are distracted by untidiness or movement are distracted by sound or noises are distracted by movement
anger become silent and seething express it in an outburst storm off, clench your fists or grit your teeth
forget something forget names but not faces forget faces but not names remember best what you did
contact people on business prefer direct, face-to-face meetings prefer the phone talk it out while walking or during some other activity
relax prefer to watch TV, read or see a play prefer to listen to music prefer to play sports/games
enjoy the arts like paintings like music like dancing
reward someone write remarks of praise on their work or in a note give them oral praise give them a pat on the back
try to interpret someone’s mood look (primarily) at their facial expression listen (primarily) to their voice watch (primarily) their body movements
read like descriptive scenes/stop to imagine the scene enjoy dialogue and conversation/”hear” the characters talk prefer action stories, or you are not a keen reader
are inactive look around, doodle, watch something talk to yourself or other people fidget
talk talk sparingly but dislike listening for too long enjoy listening but are impatient to talk gesture a lot and use expressive movements
learn like to see demonstrations, diagrams, slides, posters like verbal instructions, talks or lectures like direct involvement: learning through activities, role playing, etc

Managing MS Word file bloat

Sorry. There are more reasons for file bloat in MS Word than we can possible manage. So this article will focus on just one that we tend to run into regularly. Problem we had was when writing training materials and including images of overheads. We”re firm fans of the “Send to MS Word” option in Powerpoint. This gives great looking pictures of each slide that you can just drag and drop into your document. However what tends to happen is after you’ve dragged a few into the document the file size suddenly jumps from something reasonable (for MS Word!) to a behomoth; we were regularly having to manage files of 50+ megs.

But after suffering one more time, found a solution at University of Queensland. And it worked like a charm.

Issue is that the “Send to Word” option does not create images of each slide but instead creates individual Powerpoint objects. Solution is to convert each slide object to an image:

  1. select the object – just click on it
  2. press CTRL+SHIFT+F9

To fix the whole document in one swoop, simply select everything (CTRL+A) before entering the special shortcut code above.

Information Mapping™ in a nutshell

Information Mapping™ is a formal methodology for writing usable documents. It provides techniques to analyse, organise and present information to maximise its effectiveness.

The methodology was initially developed in the 1960s in the US. It is often described as research-based since all its techniques and principles are derived from research in human factors, cognitive science, etc.

The methodology is owned by Information Mapping Inc, based in Waltham Massachusetts. Partnerships are established worldwide to provide Information Mapping training and support in other countries.

methodology in a nutshell…

Information Mapping™ provides a simple three-stage process for creating documents: analyse, organise, present.

For analysis:

  • Information Mapping™ identifies all information as one of a limited series of types (eg process vs procedure vs principle, etc).
  • The key activity when analysing information is determining its type.

For organisation:

  • Information Mapping™ provides a series of principles on how to organise your information types.
  • Key to the principles is:
    • breaking information into discrete, bite-sized chunks (called blocks) on a single topic
    • limiting the number of blocks in a topic (called a map, hence the name of the methodology) to 7±2. This magical number is the theoretical limit of human short-term memory. Organising information around this limit helps users comprehend the content without feeling overwhelmed.

For presentation:

  • Information Mapping™ provides recommendations of the most effective formats for presenting each of the information types
  • Additionally it provides principles to help ensure the document is easy to scan/speed-read.

The methodology introduces two new organisational units for documents:

  • block – a single unit of information (= one information type) on a single subject. Can contain text, tables, images, etc. To be “blocked” it needs to be visually distinct from other blocks (the presentation standard is a line above/below) and with a label that describes its content.
  • map – a collection of blocks (7±2 ideally) on a single topic. It contains all the blocks on the given topic as well as an any introduction/conclusion block(s) required.

Above the map, mapped documents are organised into sections, then parts. Key at all levels is adherence to the 7±2 limit (eg a section should not have more than 9 maps, a part no more than 9 sections, etc).

what are the advantages?

There are three real advantages for organisations in adopting Information Mapping™:

  • improvement in document quality
  • upskilling/appraisal of new writers
  • standarisation of large writing teams


A great deal of research has been conducted to quantify performance benefits when adopting IM. While your own figures may differ from the scientists there is no doubt that a well written IM document is easier use, particularly for reference (easy to scan, easy to find specific content, easy to understand that content when found).


Information Mapping provides a framework that crystallises a great number of principles and techniques that good writers use anyway. It is therefore an excellent tool for:

  • raising the level of new writers
  • ensuring an acceptable rate of output for new users (no more writer’s block)
  • providing an assessment framework for helping good writers explain the issues with bad writing (without it getting too subjective/personal)


Since the methodology is definitive in its principles, it is invaluable when trying to ensure a consistent and standard output across multiple writers. When well written, mapped content can easily be assigned/re-assigned between writers with everyone “understanding” exactly what each topic is to contain and how to provide it.

By adopting the methodology, organisations are also able to draw upon existing mapping trained writers to augment their in-house development teams. Eg if you need 5 manuals written, and only have resources for 2 of them you can outsource the others confident that the format/style will be consistent for all.

what are the disadvantages?

There are no real disadvantages, just two issues it is best to be aware of before committing to it.

  • paper-centric
  • presentation-obsessed


Traditionally (i.e. it predates the internet) Information Mapping™ is a paper-based approach. Now all of the techniques and principles are equally applicable online, but it does take some flexibility/creativity to make best use of the online format and adhere to the presentation guidelines.

To this end it is recommended you spend the time to review/define a formal mapping template for any online document before your writing team get too far into its development.


Information Mapping Inc. say it all the time, and I agree with them: simply using the mapping template does not a mapped document make. The presentation is the tip of the iceberg (in workshops they used to say presentation was maybe 20% of the method’s power).

The recommended presentation is the optimum based on the research, but you are free to manipulate to better fit your own needs.

On most Information Mapping™ workshops, participants are provided a template and formatting tool (called Formatting Solutions) that facilitates development of IM-formatted documents. This is a series of MS Word templates/macros to speed up the production of IM documents. If skilled (or willing to pay) these templates can be customised for your own needs.

what are the alternatives?

A large number of training companies offer technical writing courses. And most of them will include principles similar to those in Information Mapping™. However IM probably rules the roost in terms of research-basis and consistency.

The only other method that probably came close to the rigour of Information Mapping™ was “Read-to-Do”. However we’ve been unable to find any recent references to this alternative, so perhaps it has fallen by the wayside.

how do I learn Information Mapping™?

You can only learn the method by attending a formal workshop organised by Information Mapping Inc or one of its partners. Depending on your location a series of workshops are available for different writing needs (eg writing memos vs writing technical handbooks).

All partners offer the workshops as public or in-house. In-house workshops are good if able to train your entire team, particularly if you can spend the time up-front to help customise the course content/templates (eg use your own materials during the exercises, etc).

how do I find out more?

The Information Mapping Inc website contains a lot of useful information and research on the methodology, including examples.

Alternatively contact your local partner (for Australasia it is TACTICS Consulting) who will be keen to provide any information you require.

Information retrieval statistics

Came across the following table while reading John Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance looking for ideas in developing a coach development framework for a current client. It’s an oldie but a goodie, published here since we’re often needing to remind clients of it when determining instructional approaches.

Told Told & Shown Told, Shown &
Recall after 3 weeks 70% 72% 85%
Recall after 3 months 10% 32% 65%

Source is given as IBM, with subsequent confirmation from a (UK) post office study.

Might be useful when needing to justify that training environment!