Blog Pile

The Lost Art of Reading Directions

We are coming into Week 7 of our 12 week faculty course, Web Based Teaching, and thanks to the return of my co-teacher, we are mostly caught up on back grading of assignments. We had to provide some mea-culpas as our stated turn around on grading had lapsed– a good part as I had to learn how to fumble my way through the WebCT grading.

This seems to me a whole lot of clicking. Click Manage Course. Click View Some Students. Click Deselect All Students. Click the 3 students I need to enter grades on. Scroll 3-4 screen widths to the right to find the item. Click Edit. Enter scores. Click Update. Now I am stuck seeing just these three students. Now have to select :View All Students form the top menu to get the full class view.

I can do this, but each “click” is another CGI script processed. It adds up.

But that was not my intent of this post. Based on one of our previous Attendance Quizzes (short quizzes we use to get feedback and quick checks on previous week’s work), it seemed the class wanted more detailed instructions. So last week;’s activities on finding Web Resources, I did that.

Now I can tell at the end of the week by the questions coming in from 2 students…. THEY ARE NOT READING THE INSTRUCTIONS AT ALL… so it does not matter how much detail I write??? If I do not clarify, or link them back to the instructions they did not read, am I not doing my job (could you follow the quadruple negatives).

Writing instructions seems to be like and endless task of whittling a stick. You keep cutting, turning, cutting, turning, and it just never seems quite as sharp as you think it can be. But at some point, you just stick a hotdog on the stick, and hang it over the fire., It is done.

I will try and share the simple assignments later as MLX packages. They are not that complex. It is simple search and scouting of relevant resources. One is creating and sharing a MERLOT personal collection (so they not only have to poke around the vineyard, they need to create an account, add some resources and write annotations). The second is search and discussion board posting of 3 MLX resources they could potentially use/adapt. The last was saving the results of a relavant Google Search as a web link. I am shocked people do not do this more often, likely the simplest way to exploit Google (in a good way).

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. In all the times I’ve watched people use a web application in a usability test, no one has read the text.* They seem to look for the next thing to click on each page, and they either find something to click that they think will bring them closer to their goal in a few seconds or the click the back button and start over.

    So what they end up reading is everything that is bold or a link (I’ve never tried making everything bold and a link, but I doubt that would work!).

    I’m working on a gradebook tool for Sakai. We are going to deliver a user interface for the tool to the developers in May. Do you have any suggestions in mind after your experience with WebCT? We’ll try to keep the number of clicks under control, of course!

    *OK I saw one person read the text, and she read every single word on every page and it took for ever for her to finish the usability test…

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