On one of my recent projects, I had a series of videos to intersperse throughout a course. I had an outline in the design document, but when I started actually developing it, I realized the structure wasn’t quite right. I was struggling a bit to figure out how to organize the pieces.
I ended up putting all the “chunks” of content into boxes on a PowerPoint slide and dragging and dropping until I was happy with it. The orange blocks are videos; the blue blocks are content pieces. The one white box was an optional piece I debated whether to cut. (Note that the specific content labels here are unlikely to make much sense, since I removed a number of identifying details for this post. Ignore the specific content and just think about the development process.)
This worked really well for me, and got me “un-stuck.” I could have done the same sort of organization with index cards, but PowerPoint was handy. It also has the advantage of being easily saved and edited at a later date. I suppose with index cards you could take a picture or just transcribe everything, but that seems like too much hassle to me. This was quick and dirty, but it got the job done. I have also found this technique useful when working remotely with SMEs. Bring up a PowerPoint slide in your web conferencing software and drag and drop live while you’re on the phone.
However, I know sometimes the tactile experience can be helpful. When I wrote the branching video at the end of the above plan, I ended up writing my first draft in a notebook instead of on the computer. I’m very comfortable composing at the keyboard, but sometimes for creative writing like that storyline, I still want that physical sensation of a pen in my hand. I know a local author who recently tried and then abandoned software for planning a novel. She has returned to organizing her work with sticky notes on a large storyboard. That tactile work is part of her process.
I’m curious what other instructional designers do to organize content. Do you just reorder the text in Word? Do you use something visual like PowerPoint or a mind map? Do you use something physical like index cards? Is there another method for this process that I haven’t thought of? Please take a few seconds and answer this one-question poll. (If you’re reading this in email or RSS, you may need to visit my site to answer the poll.) If you have another process, please share!