Writing Directions for Digital Learners

Watch This Session

Watch This Session

Brief Abstract

 Integrating technical writing, linguistic theory, and pedagogical experience, the presenter introduces effective techniques for writing clear directions in an online class. The session includes a presentation of direction writing strategies with examples. At the conclusion of this session, you will have applicable tips for writing directions in the digital environment.


Lauren is an Instructional Designer at Park University. She has been working in higher education for more than ten years as both a faculty and staff. She has a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics and Teaching ESL from Georgia State University and is working on a Master of Science in Information Systems and Business Analytics at Park University. Lauren is also the copy-editor for InSight, Park University's journal of scholarly teaching.

Extended Abstract

Have you ever been assigned a task where you could not figure out what to do or completed it incorrectly? How long does it take you to understand what is being asked of you when assigned a task? Have you ever created a task and the results were not what you expected? This session helps address all of these questions. Technology greatly impacts how we interpret written text (Baron, 2017), which has a significant influence in a digital classroom. Modern readers tend to “hyper-read” texts, which involves a quick reading focusing only on relevant information (Hayles, 2012). Nielson (2008) found that most people read 30% or less of the words on a website. With that in mind, this presentation discusses how this change in reading habits translates to written directions in an online classroom. The directive speech act consists of Person A forming a directive and Person B responding with appropriate action if the directive was clearly understood (Searle, 1976). In a traditional classroom, these directives are typically both verbal and written, each providing a distinct linguistic function. Written language is static and requires a higher cognitive load, whereas spoken language is fluid, co-created with the listener for clarity, and uses pitch and tone to convey additional information (Ha & Wanphet, 2016). In an online classroom, the instructor is typically not verbally present, leaving the student to rely solely on written directions; therefore, greater care must be taken when writing directions for an online assignment. A gap in the research indicates that direction writing is not given the attention it needs. This session integrates technical writing, linguistic theory, and pedagogical experience to introduce effective techniques for writing clear directions in an online class.

Level of Participation

This Discovery Session provides a short PowerPoint presentation of direction writing techniques with examples and direct application for attendees. The presenter will engage the audience by presenting the need for well-written directions through interactive questions that help demonstrate and lead the audience to the presenter’s main points. The presentation includes short interactive activities where the audience will practice applying the tips presented, and the presenter will provide a link to a 2-minute mentor video created by the presenter that summarizes the presentation.

Session Goals

At the conclusion of this session audience members will understand the importance and need for clearly-written directions. Once audience members understand the importance of clearly written directions, they will gain five applicable tips supported by research for writing directions in the digital environment. While the main focus is writing directions for classroom activities, the tips and techniques presented here have been applied in various capacities by past audience members, such as in writing emails and writing pamphlets for distribution among colleagues.