Respect the [Content] Flow

hand holding a marker
Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

In addition to growing an instructional design firm, I am a full-time instructional designer. A couple weeks ago, I was tasked with updating all the presentation slides for a one-week school. I really enjoy those type tasks  as they give me the opportunity to be creative while bringing to bear my knowledge of human learning theory and instructional design practice.

I immersed myself in the existing presentation slides, reading them several times over to gain understanding of the content and to cluster and sequence the content in a logical way (i.e. simple to complex, temporally, spatially, etc.) to make learning easy, no extraneous cognitive load. I consulted with the subject-matter-expert on questions about the necessity of content, terminology, images, and transitions. Then, using Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction as a micro framework, I carefully crafted presentations that were sound from an instructional design perspective and well-scripted, easily picked up “off the shelf” for  any qualified instructor at the school to use and teach with.  I felt good about what I created and believed the updated slides added value to the school. Turns out, what  created was not what the school instructors wanted.

After submitting the project to the project manager, I learned that, as it was, the existing content flow in the presentations had been carefully crafted across several instructors and over many iterations of teaching with the slides. The existing content flow was, to the school instructors, like gold, the impurities or problems of which had been borne out by repeated teaching, and what was left was pure and what worked best for them. The instructors did not want any changes to the content flow.

What I learned:  Talk to instructors about plans to restructure content flow before restructuring content; be sure that updating presentations involves changes to content flow and not something else, like aesthetic changes to make all the slides have the same look and feel (a master slide background, for example); that is what these instructors wanted.

Respect the Content Flow.

Be Extraordinary!

-WB