It’s Time to Walk the Talk

Prompt: Go out into the world (e.g. grocery store, mall, etc.) and locate two examples of instructional design in which you, the viewer/reader, are expected to learn something. What were the goals of the instruction? How effective was it? What are three things you learned that you are not likely to forget? Based on what you have read about instructional design, how important is it to your future work goals?

Before this assignment, I did not realize how prevalent instructional design (ID) is in the “real world.” I am used to and expect to see it in academia but had not stopped to consider that ID exists everywhere. It is in road signs that tell us what we should or should not do; in the simple instructions that show us how to use a diaper changing station in bathrooms; and in instructions that teach us how to put together equipment or how to use equipment safely. I have seen all these things before but it did not register in my mind that those are all examples of ID. They all have learning objectives that they wish the user to undertake, the steps to achieve them, and the practical applications of them (Merrill, 2008). The two examples that I encountered over the weekend are instructions on putting together a bookcase and instructions on how to use an exercise machine.

On Saturday, my husband and I went to our chiropractor. In the rehabilitation area of his office, he has a machine called a Power Plate. You stand on it in specific positions and it vibrates at different speeds. The vibrations are supposed to help align your body. On the wall, next to this machine is a large poster with the various positions and the titles of each. I had seen this poster before but only on Saturday did it occur to me that it was a great example of ID. The poster itself is very simple. It uses a dark background with each image set in a white, rounded square for the background. Within the squares, it shows a person in the correct position and the name of that position. The images are six across and five down and are organized by type of exercise, such as strength, stretching, massage, or relaxation and these designations appear on the far right of the first line of each category.

Power Plate poster

Power Plate poster

The goal of this poster is clear, which is to demonstrate the correct body positions so that users can safely and effectively use the Power Plate. I found this poster to be effective as the graphical representations are organized, easy to follow, and stand out on the white background. A user could easily try to imitate the positions based upon the pictures shown. I do think that having an experienced instructor present when first using this machine is wise as the images alone are not enough to ensure complete safety (Dolan, 2012).  At least in my personal experience, I did much better when my doctor was there to help guide me into the positions.

Three things that I will remember from this poster are:

  • Graphics can be an excellent method when it comes to quickly and easily conveying hard to discuss concepts, such as body positions.
  • Even with excellent graphics, many times it is necessary to have an expert present for guidance and structure.
  • A clear organizational structure must be present so that viewers can quickly scan content and still be able to take away general concepts and ideas.

My husband and I took a trip to IKEA to purchase some bookcases for our office/study. Before attempting any assembly, we both read the directions. With this assignment in my mind, I looked at the directions critically from an ID perspective. I found that IKEA directions are excellent forms of ID. The instructions, which consist mostly of graphics, are so completely and thoroughly depicted that words are not necessary to understand them. Even though the directions booklets come with multiple languages, the pictures are you really need to assemble the furniture. The technical writers at IKEA have truly mastered how effective instruction using images only (Yee, 2011).

The instructions begin with Do’s and Don’ts that somehow manage to be clever, cute and effective all at the same time.

IKEA bookcase instructions

IKEA bookcase instructions

Then, they progress to the meat of the instructions and clearly take you step-by-step through the assembly process. The entire instruction set, minus the additional languages, is about seven pages and most of that length is due to the size of the images. At no point are the instructions confusing, garbled or hard to decipher. It was a snap for us to put the bookcases together and in fact, we managed three in a matter of a few hours!

The goals of the instructions are to teach someone how to assemble safely assemble a bookcase and how to anchor it to a wall. As mentioned above, I found the IKEA instructions to be a true example of efficient and effective ID. Considering that the original instructions are in Swedish, I imagine I could have followed them without an English translation, if pressed, just by using the pictures. If only other instructions were so easy to understand and follow, by this, I am thinking of putting together my entertainment system.

Three things I will remember from this experience:

  • Words are not always necessary when it comes to explaining how to do something.
  • Less can be more when it comes to effective instruction.
  • Language does not have to be a barrier if clear images can be used along with text.

Based on what I have read so far, instructional design is an integral part of my current and future work goals. Instructing students, staff and faculty is a large part of my job as a librarian. If I want students to not only comprehend but also remember what I am teaching them, I need to be able to employ effective instructional design. As Merrill (2008) states in his video, demonstration, application, and authentic situations are necessary when it comes to instructional design. It is simply not enough to share what I know. I also need to allow students a chance to use that information in a context that resonates with them. ID requires more than talk it also needs action. I need to give my learners chances to “walk the talk.”


Dolan, S. (2012, January 20). Benefits of group exercise. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from

Merrill, D. M. (2008, August 11). Merrill on instructional design [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from

Yee, P. (2011). Minimalist theory. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Technology. San Diego, CA: SDSU Department of Educational Technology. Retrieved from

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