Instructions vs. the Online Course

Please answer the question at the bottom of this post.

Photo by Omri Epstein

“If all else fails, read the instructions.”

Everyone knows that one, right? People in general, not to mention teenagers, don’t read instructions unless they have to.

I took particular note of that when working on my online course for deaf and hard of hearing teens that opened yesterday.

I made short (average of 1 minute!) simple  screencasts to explain such things as:

* how do I log in? * how do I find the assignments? * how do I use the flashcards?

Nothing beats visuals, right?

Except for the fact that the students (and the guest teachers) still have to read the instructions that say there are visual screencasts available…



*** Now admit it: Are you reading this part because you just noticed it or are you following  the instructions written under the picture?

And the question is:

Can you guess what this is a picture of? I wish I could send the winner some sunny local weather but you’ll have to settle for a big “shout out”!



14 thoughts on “Instructions vs. the Online Course”

  1. Hi Naomi,
    I’m dealing with the same thing at the moment, trying to determine the level of instructions in an online course and wondering if any of my students will read them anyway. In my case, one of the learning outcomes we’re working towards is understanding written instructions, so I’m also trying to build that in while providing enough support for them to work their way through the course.
    I’m also working on creating screencasts.
    Will be watching your progress with interest. Good luck.

    1. Lesley,
      Glad to see you know exactly what I mean. We can’t get rid of instructions, just in case someone happens to decide to read them…
      Interested to hear what you are using for the screnncasts.

      1. I’m still planning, but will probably use Camtasia as we have it at work. If I do any at home I’ll use SnagIt, but haven’t used it much for this so far. I use SnagIt a lot for capturing screenshots, and love it (I do most of my image editing in it these days) so looking forward to seeing what it can do with video. I’ve used Jing in the past, as well as Screenr & Screencast-O-Matic.

        I’ve also been doing a bit on my iPad too – lots of apps for screencasting, and I’ve found Explain Everything works best for me so far. I’ve been using this for giving students feedback on their writing.

  2. We have been running online courses for some 15 years and in our annual updating of material (based partly on feedback from students) one of the main jobs is to simplify instructions. And no matter how simple we make them, the next year we’ll go through the feedback and find areas where they can be simplified even further!

  3. That’s what it’s all about 🙂

    I started using SnagIt for video screencasting today and it is SO easy! Click – Select screen area – Record – Stop – Save! I still have to upload things to YouTube, so maybe the web-based tools are easier for that part.

    What are you using?

    1. I’m using screencast-o-matic. It has the same stages you just described but “upload to YouTube” is the final stage. Convenient. In the summer I plan to delve into other free options – I could use subtitles. Camtasia is much too expensive for me.

  4. Hi Naomi,

    What a frustrating thing to happen after you invested so much time preparing. Maybe you need to have a screencast at the beginning or a short audiorecording with a big red arrow that says – PRESS HERE TO START with a big smiley and then in that recording you could tell them that they need to read the instructions!…..or FOR EXTRA CREDIT/BONUS START HERE!

    1. Nice idea Sara!
      But I’m talking to the first email I sent them, with the access codes to the site. They needed to read the part in the letter that said “look at the screencasts so you’ll know what to do”. Some teachers didn’t read that either…

  5. Instructions, what? I have students who have received a zero on assignments because of not reading instructions. I have pointed out instructions and emphasised to analyse them before answering questions. Some do; some don’t.

    I think your picture is a pool.

    1. Frustrating situtation, common all over I see.
      Nice guess, but its not a pool. Sending you the real answer personally!

  6. Hi Naomi! What a conundrum. I, too, find that students and adults do not read instructions. I don’t have a solution either, other than to make instructions more visibly important (large, bold print in red)

    As for the picture, it looks like the top of a car after the rain.

    1. Tamara!
      You are the first one to recognize what it is a picture of! And the funny thing is that the color of the car is GREEN!

      I’ve always known that about instructions, which is why I invested in screencasts. So I felt quite frustrated that the some didn’t get that far. Oh well.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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