2. Instructional Design

Design Principles – Part 2 of 5

Universal Principles of Design, a book describing 125 interdisciplinary principles, is a fascinating reference. I extract 25 of those principles and offer relevant examples in a series of five blogs.

Today’s topics – instructional design:

  1. Advance Organizer
  2. Recognition Over Recall
  3. Rosetta Stone
  4. Storytelling
  5. von Restorff Effect

Advance Organizer

 “An instructional technique that helps people understand new information in terms of what they already know.”

Advance OrganizersAdvance organizers are brief units of spoken or written information that embrace an overall concept. They are presented as context before new information is introduced. Advance organizers help facilitate learning and understanding. Unlike overviews and summaries, advance organizers provide context through the big picture.

There are two types of advance organizers: expository and comparative. Expository advance organizers are used to introduce material that is completely new to an audience. Comparative advance organizers precede information that is similar to information already known by the audience.

Recognition Over Recall

“Memory for recognizing things is better than memory for recalling things.”

People have an easier time recognizing things they have experienced than they do recalling those same things from memory. The reason is that recognition comes from exposure through one or more of the senses. Recollection memory comes from learning using a combination of techniques: memorization, practice, and application – more demanding ways of acquiring memory.

Recognition Over RecallPeople tend to choose a familiar option over an unfamiliar option. Strategic branding exploits this marketing principle.

Maximize recognition by allowing site visitors to select from a menu or choice of options rather than forcing them to recall something completely from memory.

Rosetta Stone

“A technique for communicating novel information using elements of common understanding.”

Rosetta StoneFollowing the loss of ancient Egyptian scripts, Napoleon’s army found an Egyptian artifact in 1799 that contained classical Greek writing and ancient Egyptian writing together.

Uncovered in the town of Rosetta, the artifact became known as the Rosetta Stone. The writings allowed Greek scholars to comparatively translate the Egyptian texts using the Greek writings with which they were familiar.

The Rosetta Stone principle embeds an element of common understanding as a key that the learner already understands to unlock a new, as yet not understood, concept. For more complex concepts, a greater number of keys are embedded.

When presenting website information, start with what the site visitor knows; then introduce new concepts or information.

Storytelling

“A method of creating imagery, emotions, and understanding of events through an interaction between a storyteller and an audience. ”

Storytelling, unique to humans, is the original method of passing knowledge from one generation to another. Storytelling can be oral (spoken tale), visual (movie), or textual (poem).

Image of Steve JobsKorean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, DCKorean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, DCStorytelling is used to engage an audience in a design, to evoke a specific emotional response, or to provide context for learning. The audience recalls the storied events in a personal way, especially if the audience relates to the event from firsthand experience. That experience adds to the entire story.

Digital storytelling has recently emerged as a way of relating information using digital media. The article titled Steve Jobs: his 10 most inspirational quotes written by Andy Bloxham for The Telegraph (Aug 25, 2011) can be considered a type of digital story. As Bloxham says of Jobs’ quotes, “I challenge you not to read them and feel a response.”

For a more traditional method of storytelling, see Steve Jobs’ commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Stanford University How to Live Before You Die.

In the fall of 2012, I visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, an outdoor sculpture exhibit. Walking amongst the life-size figures and reading the war statistics brought these soldiers’ stories to life. It evoked a visceral response.

This is a less traditional, but effective, mode of storytelling.

von Restorff Effect

“A phenomenon of memory in which noticeably different things are more likely to be recalled than common things.”

Fur Cup

vonRestorffEffectShoes

Blue pencil among yellow pencils

The von Restorff Effect is the increased probably of remembering an item or event because of its unique characteristics. This is because increased attention is given to distinctive items, especially when viewed in a set.

Use this principle to highlight a key item in a presentation by using boldface or colour. However, use the separating technique sparingly; otherwise the unique separator becomes commonplace.

Unusual words, sentence constructions, and images are better remembered than their more common counterparts. Consequently, this makes them more interesting and thus easier to recall.

Next: Part 3 – User-Interface Design

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