Grad School Blog #1 for R541 Instructional Development and Production – Design Thinking

For the next ten weeks I’m excited to say I’ll be dusting off this WordPress site and contributing work here for my R541 Instructional Development and Production – Design Thinking graduate course with Indiana University-Bloomington’s Instructional Systems Technology.  We’ve been instructed by Dr. Myers to address in our blogs our progress in the following: self-study choice of design software, major collaborative project, individual projects, as well as module readings.  I plan to continue advocating for open throughout this semester’s course of study.

Blog #1: Choosing New Software Technologies, Message Design and Infographics

My 2014 New Year’s resolution was actually an edtech list I started during a course building break sometime between 22 Dec and 6 Jan in a blur of all-nighters steeped in OER, D2L, Canvas, Blackboard, and JISC/eRacer). The list in no particular order includes:

Although I consider myself a seasoned learner and teacher in higher education learning management systems (LMS), I will admit my knowledge developed from necessity as I transitioned from teaching face-to-face to blended and online learning environments.  I’ve not shied away from learning or teaching with technology, but there is certainly something to be said with learning new software within the confines of the institutional offering.

In my previous employment positions with an open enrollment state college and for-profit university, I was expected as an instructor and designer to support a PC-Sakai CLE- Dreamweaver-Desire 2 Learn-Microsoft Office-Internet Explorer environment because the institutions had contracted and tightly administered those environments from the office to the classroom computer labs.  Once I filled out the necessary paperwork with IT to gain administrative permissions to download and use other browsers, Web 2.0 technologies, and open sources – and now with my current position as a faculty supporter in start-to-finish OER course development – an entirely different world opened beyond the boundaries of the institution.  Now I must function, support, teach, learn in all environments

Thus, my “software choice” for course is exciting but daunting: how do I choose? what software knowledge will most benefit the company, faculty, and students I serve? and which new skill set(s) learned will best leverage my contribution to the open movement?

I thought about the suggested choices: InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator…even Camtasia? and identified the open alternatives: Scribus, GIMP, Inkscape, and my current favorite on a daily-use basis Screencast-O-Matic. I’ve used all of the proprietary software and Inkscape in some fashion but would not consider myself a master of any – more a dabbler as the need arises.  Of course my natural inclination as an open source advocate is to choose an open alternative.  On the other hand, I’ve experienced the “clunkiness” of open, such as choosing Google SketchUp for a volunteer CAD project a few years ago, and realize my aversion to proprietary software may require more resources in my learning curve time as well as a lack of myriad free user guides, YouTube helps, discussion boards, and experienced colleagues willing to assist.

My final choice: download the open source alternatives of Scribus (for InDesign), GIMP (for PhotoShop), Inkscape (for Illustrator), and Screencast-O-Matic (for Camtasia). has tutorials listed for GIMP and Inkscape, and I feel confident Scribus has decent tutorials on their site, so learning how to use these materials should be a snap.

Message Design and Infographics: Response to Weekly Readings/Dr. Myers’s Screencast and Early Ideas

Dr. Myers’s Camtasia screencast reviewing Fleming and Levie’s (1993) message design principles introduced me to design contexts of figure ground, proximity, chunking, decoration, and graphing.  I especially appreciated the parallels of chunking from the foundational cognitive load theory as it relates to message design as well as the idea of “chart junk” and how it impacts understanding of data.

My academic Curriculum and Instruction work for my Master’s had an emphasis in reading, thus the Winn (1993) reading was of particular interest in how readers conduct informative searches and apply specific strategies for comprehension of visual diagrams. Winn’s “account” (p. 181) reinforced the week’s screencast review and extended how important the role of the reader’s perceptual factors, familiarity of symbol systems, content knowledge, and goals and strategies were to their understanding of visual diagrams. My overall impression of the article is to maintain a keen awareness of the audience I’m creating message designs for – especially for at-risk students deficient in reading, writing, college success and digital literacy skills – as well in learning more about what Winn calls the visual diagram “research agenda” aiming to answer to what extent:

  • “perceptual processes compensate for a lack of prior knowledge of content” (pp. 181-2)
  • “content knowledge compensate for unclear goals” (p. 182)
  • “explicit manipulations of the symbol systems…affect the way in which the reader discriminates and configures the symbols” (p. 182)
  • “diagram literacy” differences (p. 182)
  • “diagrams truly supplant text in facilitating search for information” (p. 182).

Although I was familiar with the Morrison, Ross, and Kemp (2004) text since it was required reading in R521 last semester, I don’t recall much about message design, so I reviewed the familiar ellipse graphic (found on all of the Questions to Consider pages of each chapter) with a nod to the Winn (1993) reading and Fleming and Levie’s (1993) references in the screencast.

I spent a few minutes thinking about my own perceptual process of organization, discrimination, and configuration as noted by Winn (1993) and appreciated the simplicity of the Morrison conceptual framework design diagram in conveying an iterative, circling back, and “flexible and adaptable” process of instructional design (Morrison, Ross and Kemp, 2011, p. vii).

Morrison, Ross, and Kemp’s (2004) view that “effective instruction is developed by carefully structuring and presenting the materials that both engage the learner and signal the important points” (p. 174) caused me to reflect about how my students in years past before I understood the power of ID would often complain in exasperated tones “I just don’t get it!” when articulating their frustration with the learning management system.  I realized later it was my inattentiveness to consistent, concise, and engaging ID that was a critical cause for my students’ lack of success–not what my colleagues and I would usually attribute to an increase in student apathy compared to years past.

Concerning message design for text, I know I struggle with “layout” and “white space” (Morrison, Ross and Kemp, 2004, p. 183) in course design due to the screen real estate consumed by the LMS I’m building in since everything from the logo, to the user profile and avatar, to navigational bars, and even attribution statements chip away at valuable content space.  Additionally, I’m hypersensitive to the use of mobile technologies and its impact on the UI.  Since nearly all of my work involves some sort of LMS or content delivery system, it’s important I develop an understanding how the various systems deliver the content and also how both the faculty and student will interact with the message design.  One of my interests is redistributing openly licensed OER using LTI, and most likely the UI will be embedded in an institutional LMS, so the design issues would likely have the same issues: clean layout, simple composition, little or no decoration; and, as Lipton (2007) advises, limit “content and elements in the design to what your audience needs; don’t include everything you know” (p. 473) and “create and arrange…elements in line with inherent human behavior” (p. 451).

As an educator, the opportunity to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute (also know as the 4Rs) Open Educational Resources (OER) is what empowers me to “take back the curriculum” from the expensive textbook companies.  For the Infographic project, I thought more about how I want to incorporate the work for this class into giving back to the open community. The Infographic assignment seems to be a perfect step for me in contributing a possible solution to a common criticism I hear: mining OER is an arduous, time consuming task.

Over the last decade, millions of philanthropic dollars have been poured into OER development, which has yielded some outstanding and high quality open content.  The problem is mining this content is difficult and becomes a barrier to adoption given the OER are seemingly anywhere: from institutions and organizations, such as but not limited to:

to passionate people like

who spend their free time creating, hosting, remixing, and redistributing it.

Thus, I know my infographic work will be a vast improvement to my lame Slideshare slide:

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”” title=”Mining OER” target=”_blank”>Mining OER</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”” target=”_blank”>Ronda Neugebauer</a></strong> </div>

that attempts to collect links to the best of existing and growing OER…a full-time job in itself!

Finally, as far as the major group project goes, Lindsay, Eddie and I have exchanged emails about meeting this coming week to set up an initial plan for our project ideas, collaborative tools, and distribution of work.


Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., & Kemp, J. E. (2004). Designing the instructional message. In Designing effective instruction (4th ed., pp. 172-197). [Chapter 8]

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., & Kemp, J. E. (2011). Designing the instructional message. In Designing effective instruction (6th ed.).

Lipton, R. (2007). The practical guide to information design. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. [Kindle edition]


One comment

  1. Hi Ronda, okay I got my VPN working so I can access WordPress.

    Well that was quite a blog post. 🙂 You seem really fired up about this course. Your to-do list seems pretty daunting to me, but I guess I don’t have your technical knowledge in this field. And I need to get up to speed with the software self-study and tutorial.

    What did you think of message design as actually applied to the Morrison text itself? I think like others, the readings made me reflect on the choices the authors made as a type of instructional text in itself. Personally, I think a very strong example of good overviews, advance organizers, and good use of textual design and graphics in general.. is the For Dummies series.

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