While I ordinarily refuse (on principle, otherwise I’d get swamped and become a PR hack; and I never promise a good review), I acquiesced to Patti Shank’s offer of a copy of her new book Write and Organize for Deeper Learning. I’ve been a fan of her crusade for science in learning (along with others like Will Thalheimer, Julie Dirksen, and Michael Allen, to name a few co-conspirators on the Serious eLearning Manifesto), and I can say I’m glad she offered and delivered. This is a contribution to the field, with a focus on writing.
The first of a potential series on evidence-based processes in learning design, this one is focused on content: writing and organization. In four overall strategies with 28 total tactics, she takes you through what you should do and why. Practicing what she preaches, and using the book itself recursively as an example, she uses simple words and trimmed down prose to focus on what you need to know, and guidance to generalize it. She also has practice exercises to help make the material stick.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t quibbles: for one, there’s no index! I wanted to look for ‘misconceptions’ (an acid test in my mind), but it’s in there. Still, there’s less on cognitive models to guide performance than I would like. And not enough on misconceptions, But there’re lots of good tips that I wouldn’t have thought of including, and are valuable.
These are small asides. Some of it’s generic (writing for the web, for instance, similarly argues for whitespace) and some specific to learning, but it’s all good advice, and insufficiently seen. What’s there will certainly improve the quality of your learning design. If you write prose for elearning, you definitely should read, and heed, this book. I note, by the way, that my readability index for this blog always falls too high according to her standards ;).
She has a list of other potential books, and I can hope that she will at least deliver the one on designing practice and feedback (what I think is the biggest opportunity to improve elearning: what people do), but also examples, job aids, evaluating, objectives, and more. I hope this series continues to develop, based upon the initial delivery here.