Breaking the rules

No fishing sign

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As the libraries create tutorials, I have heard more and more about best practices.  A recent webinar advised us to break some of these rules—for the right reasons, of course.

It depends. . . .

Two common rules, Address Different Learning Styles and Use an Academic Tone, depend on context.  Adapting for visual learners, for example, might not work well for some aural content—and vice versa.  Likewise an academic tone might be wrong for some audiences.  On the flipside, though, attempting to sound “hip” might ring false with some audiences.

What purpose is it serving?

Two other rules, Use Images and Use Menus, make sense in moderation.  Images and menus for their own sake make no sense: they should serve a purpose.

Don’t forget engagement.

Presenters Yvonne Mery and Andrew See also discussed two rules that could interfere with active engagement.  The first is to Give Step-by-step Instructions.  The second is to Set Time Constraints.  For some people specific timings can not only discourage exploration but also increase anxiety.  We can use a more general description (ex. “brief tutorial”) if students should plan their time accordingly.

Mery and See (2014) named ten rules in all.  Next week I’ll go over the remaining four and offer examples of revamped tutorials.  Stay tuned!


Mery, Y., & See, A. (2014, September 16). You’re doing it wrong: Ten rules to break to create awesome tutorials [Archived presentation]. Retrieved from