Copyright and the Fair Use Doctrine

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery- Oscar Wilde

Fair use is a doctrine permits limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder. As instructional designers, we must be cognizant of what does and does not constitute fair use when designing e-learning.

Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use. Some of these uses include criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, and research (Office, 2020).

retrieved from:

As educators and instructional designers we have access to copyrighted material on a limited basis. Purpose and character of the use as well as the nature of the copyrighted work are examples of things considered when evaluating if an item falls under the Fair use doctrine. The court may consider other factors in weighing a fair use question, depending upon the circumstances. Courts evaluate fair use claims on a case-by-case basis, and the outcome of any given case depends on a fact-specific inquiry. This means that there is no formula to ensure that a predetermined percentage or amount of a work—or specific number of words, lines, pages, copies—may be used without permission (Office, 2020).  

For more information on the Fair Use Doctrine check here:

For general information on copyrights:


Office, U. S. C. (2020, April). More Information on Fair Use. Copyright.

Designing for Different Contexts

The importance of contextual analysis

“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” —Twain/Maslow/Kaplan/Baruch/Buddha/Unknown (O’Toole, 2019)

As an instructional designer, we must consider the context for which we are designing.  Education, military, corporate and health care all present unique design challenges.  The one size fits all approach just does not work.  An instructional designer must be prepared with multiple tools to deliver for their client.

Context is important in any learning event, yet most instructional design models contain little guidance about how to account for contextual elements (Tessmer & Richey, 1997).

Malamed et al., summarize Tessmer and Richey’s thesis by breaking down contextual analysis into the categories represented in the infographic below.  Each situation the ID enters will have a unique combination of environment, mental-emotional motivators, technological resources, social, and cultural identities. Failure to consider even one of these factors can result in ineffective design.

Take for example the technological constraints of an organization.  The most comprehensive e-learning design will not be successful if the client does not have the infrastructure to support it.  In a company built on team problem solving and collaboration, self study is probably not the way to go.

If the ID fails to do contextual research, they are not getting a complete picture of the target audience’s work life. Failing to understand the learners work life results in failing to deliver a product that has maximum impact or worse is completely ineffective.


Malamed, C., says, C. M., says, C. P., Pendrich, C., says, S. S., & Sridharan, S. (2018, February 9). The Importance of Context In Learning Design. The eLearning Coach.

O’Toole, G. (2019, January 11). If Your Only Tool Is a Hammer Then Every Problem Looks Like a Nail.

Tessmer, M., & Richey, R. C. (1997). The role of context in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(2), 85–115. 6;\lsdpriority

Working with a Subject Matter Expert

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller.

      Subject matter experts (SMEs) have expert in their name for a reason. They are your bridge from identified need to successful outcome.  As with most relationships, a foundation of trust and honesty is the best jumping off point for success.

                A great way to begin is to acknowledge the SME’s expertise and skill set.  Be grateful and gracious for their time and be respectful of it.  Build a rapport by discussing their background, professionally and personally.  How did they come to be an expert in the field (Yancey, C., 1996)?

                Once you have built a rapport, clearly state the knowledge gap you are trying to bridge and ask for their opinion on the matter.  Getting buy is key at all points in the process.  You may not use all of the ideas but seeing how the SME views the gap and its root cause will go a long way to building cooperation.

                Finally, share the map you have for developing your Instructional Design and make clear where you will need their assistance along the way.  By setting clear expectations, you show a respect for their time and put them at ease by showing you are a professional and have a plan for success (ACS, 2008).

                Something to keep in mind, SMEs are human and have egos just as you do.  They may be wondering why an outsider was brought in to teach something they are already an expert in (Yancey, C, 1996).  This situation is not insurmountable.  If you find yourself in a situation where there is friction, it is part of your job as an Instructional Design professional to set them at ease. Remind them that while they are the expert on the subject at hand but you are the expert at instructional design and your combined expertise will work together to resolve the identified gap. If there is still friction, you can invite them to pair you with another expert who can serve as a backup to lighten their load or form a team of three.  Sometimes a third point of view can serve as a buffer for strong personalities.  


Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (2008), Working with Subject Matter Experts, Dallas, TX

Yancey, C. (1996). The ABCs of working with SMEs. Performance Instruction, 35(1), 6-9. doi:10.1002/pfi.4170350104

Successful interviews do not happen by accident…

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”-Benjamin Franklin

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin in front of the one hundred dollar bill

In claims adjusting, active listening is the key to successfully investigating the claim.  Part of that investigation is an interview of all parties to the claim.  People love to tell their story and the best approach is to let them.  Ask open-ended questions and be prepared to build follow up questions based off their answers.  Silence is not the enemy, give the interviewee time to formulate their response. If they truly are struggling, offer to restate or clarify the question if needed.  Finally, always repeat back to the interviewee their response restated in your own words.

Active listening is not the only key to a successful interview. The need for preparation cannot be understated.  The interviewer should prepare an outline of questions that will allow them to secure the information they need from the interviewee. Let the person answer the questions in their own way, but make sure you get the answers you need.  In claims, this means understanding the facts of the loss and the extent of the damages.  For an instructional designer that will mean the nature of the project and desired outcomes, from the client.  From the SME it will mean what knowledge and methods do we need to achieve those goals.

Interviewing and active listening are something I am very familiar with and if I can leave anyone with any advice based on my twenty five years in the insurance industry it is this:

You would not start a trip without a map to the desired destination so do not go into an interview without a map of questions that will allow you to reach your desired outcome.

Learning Object Repositories

For this assignment, I chose to review I did my initial search on my iPad and followed up on my PC; more on that in just a bit.  The learning object I chose is titled A Multigenerational Workforce: Bridging the Gaps and Breaking Down the Generations.  As a corporate trainer, I am dealing with a multigenerational team and I was interested in what information was available.    


The page itself was not super sleek but it sure did have some great information.  All of the learning objects are suitable for an individual lesson or as a module that along with the other bite-sized modules would form a full eLearning course (Pappas, 2018).  


I first logged in to Merlot on my iPad.  I explored the site, found an interesting subject, and sat down to write my review I used my PC.  The interface was completely different and I could not find my topic.  I was able to email myself the link but that seems like a lot of work.  Additionally, not all the objects can be edited.


This was more of a resource than a fully formed learning object, very similar to a Pinterest board. There was good information but the instructional designer would need to piece together the information.  I would prefer to see fully formed learning objects, grouped by type, and cohesive in style.

If you would like to see the page yourself, the link is below.


Pappas, C. (2018, March 16). Developing Reusable Learning Objects: 9 Characteristics To Consider. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from


Infographics are used in many ways.  In the news, they are used to report poll results and other fast facts. In finance, they are used to report gains and losses. You can even find infographics about how to make a successful infographic:

Infographic of Infographics


From Visually.

USA Today gets the credit for popularizing the infographic but they have been around practically since the dawn of time.  All over the world, humans have documented their journey with carvings and visual representations of their trek. A great example most people are familiar with is the Egyptians use of hieroglyphics (Hagen & Golombisky, 2017).  NASA even used an infographic when they sent out the Pioneer space probes. (Howell, 2012)

When to use Infographics

Infographics are helpful when you need to convey information quickly. They are also helpful if there is an auditory barrier. Also you should consider using an infographic where the audience does not read or write the language very well or at all. (Hagen & Golombisky, 2017). Simple examples you may run across every day include warning signs that have both a written and visual element.

things to keep in mind

When designing an infographic there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, the infographic must stand on its own. It must be researched, unified in its appearance and clear to user. The designer cannot assume the audience understands the material, they must test it before final publication. (Hagen & Golombisky, 2017)


When you think infographic you may think pie charts, bar graphs and nightly news but there are so many other uses. As briefly discussed in this post infographics are used in many places. You just need to know your audience and what information needs to be conveyed. Keep it clear and keep it unified and you will have a successful learning tool.


Hagen, R., & Golombisky, K. (2017). White space is not your enemy: a beginners guide to communicating visually through graphic, web & multimedia design. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Howell, E. (2012, September 18). Pioneer 10: Greetings from Earth. Retrieved from

Using Persona profiles in Instructional Design

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”

A A Milne

What is a Persona?

Personas are fictional characters (based on a real population) that represent a typical user of a website, brand, product, or service (Genesir, 2014). In short a persona is a way to humanize your data.

Creating a persona should include a written as well as a visual representation of the character. Also, it is good when naming your persona to give it a descriptive name. See examples below.

Evelyn Experienced, Maddie Millennial, and Nate Newbie

Using persona profiles as part of a student-centered design of courses can help instructional designers keep their target students in mind throughout the design process (Genesir, 2014).  If you are designing for large organizations with diverse student populations personas are invaluable.

What are the elements of a good persona?

A good persona should consider the following:

  • Job role and responsibilities
  • Biggest challenges
  • Industry
  • Preferred method of learning or obtaining information
  • Demographic
  • Personal background and interests

The persona is a fictionalized person based on data but it never hurts to speak to a few people in your target group (Baumann, 2018). Ask them some questions like “How long have you been in this industry?”, “Do you manage people; if so how many?” , “How do you prefer to read written material, on paper or electronically?”. The purpose of the persona is to build a multidimensional character so you to always remember these are humans you are designing for, not a faceless demographic.

What did I learn?

This week I learned of several resources to assist with developing personas for instructional design. was not a great resource in my opinion as it relies too heavily on flash which will no longer be supported as of 2020. Bitmoji was a great, free, resource that allowed for personalization right down to the wrinkles on the character’s forehead. was another fun resource which adds an element of animation to your creation. You can find my animated short here:

Created using

I feel the main take-away regarding the creation and use of personas is expressed in the A. A. Milne quote above, our differences make us who we are and the successful instructional designer will always take into account a learners unique qualities. A fully developed persona will lead to more effective eLearning courses because the developers know who the audience is ( Gutierrez, 2013).


Baumann, B., Watson, C., Haneberg, L., & Gates, D. (2018, March 29). User-Centered Design Through Learner Personas. Retrieved from

Genesir, A. (2014, October 1). Using Personas in Instructional Design. Retrieved from

Santaniello, N. (2019, September 19). 5 Steps To Follow When Using An Instructional Design Framework For Your Online Courses. Retrieved November 10, 2019, from

Gutierrez, K. (2013, July 4). The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Creating Learner Personas. Retrieved from

Visual design, so much to consider…

     When approaching visual design, you must consider your learner. Auditory, visual, tactile, these are all buzzwords associated with learning type. Unfortunately for the instructional designer you cannot cater to all learners all of the time.  Successful visual design can make or break the effectiveness of the learning.                   

Basic elements to consider when designing any form of visual communication include space, line, shape/form, size/scale, color, texture, and value Golomblosky & Hagen (2017). All are important and considered basic to visual design but the ultimate goal is a visual aid that clearly delivers all the intended information in an easy to process way that the learner retains.

Memory relies on encoding and retrieval so the designer should consider how new information gets into long-term memory and how the learner will retrieve it when needed. Things that trigger emotional context make it easier for the learner retrieve the memory; storytelling as a part of the learning is a great tool for this. Dirksen (2015)

 The designer also must keep the interest of the learner. Dirksen, 2015, suggests that in every learner is of two minds, the rider and the elephant. The rider is the conscious part of the brain that is there for business and ready to think. The Elephant represents the automatic, emotional part that is distracted by random thoughts and sensory triggers. Dirksen suggests the designer should appeal to the elephant. Keep the learner engaged in ways that are varied. Tells stories to deliver the intended lesson and involve them in the learning through discussions and activities that are varied enough not to become rote. Emotional engagement is important as well. Learners need to be able to act on what they learn and emotional context helps them do that.

For the new instructional designer, mastering all the elements of visual design may feel like drinking from a fire hose. There will be missteps and there will be successes. In the end practice makes perfect.


Dirksen, J. (2016). Design for how people learn. San Francisco: New Riders.

Hagen, R., & Golombisky, K. (2017). White space is not your enemy: a beginners guide to communicating visually through graphic, web & multimedia design. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

My REAL first blog post..


Why use one word when ten will do?

Michele Broadhurst on Oscar Wilde

So I spend a good deal of time scattered as I prioritize my daily tasks. I do not use a to do list as often as I could but when I feel I have complicated things yet again, I think of my buddy Oscar. The Portrait of Dorian Gray is a great book but it probably could have been fifty pages shorter. My point is I have to stop sometimes and ask myself, “Am I making this harder than it needs to be?”

Eh, maybe he got paid by the word. Maybe I could get paid by the word…….