Information Overload: When is enough MORE than enough?

Type. Point. Click. About 3,910,000 results.

Almost four million sites or pages are returned when I conduct a Google search for the term “Instructional Design.”  There is no way I could ever get through that many results but it is nice to know that there are so many web pages that use the term within their content or keywords. Or is it? Thanks to blogging and social networking people across the globe are overly generous with information. Almost every second of everyday we are inundated with bits and bytes of information about a person’s status, what they were doing 18 seconds ago, where they are located, where they checked-in, who are their friends, what they like, what they think is delicious, what they are a fan of, what they dig, what they are reading…the list goes on. Lest we forget the blogs, RSS feeds, Youtube videos, Tweets, text messages, instant messages, BlackBerry messages, Flikrs, …..eehhhh

What’s more is with the continued growth in online learning and the use of information technology in the classroom, educators are seemingly only adding to the flood of information being directed at today’s students. Thus, this brings me to the question of how can educators effectively utilize technologies without overwhelming students with even more information?

In effort to avoid overloading the readers of this blog post with information I am going to employ one of my tips…using lists. Below is my list of tips for minimizing information overload and to communicate effectively in online education settings.

  • Shorter is better unless it is in a PDF. We all know that it can be a challenge to read long articles online.
  • Use lists instead of paragraphs to emphasize important points, instructions, questions, or requirements.
  • Point students to specific locations of important information on the web pages you reference.
  • Create a tagging system for your course such that students will easily know how to organize the articles and other content you present.  Be sure to include the tags at the beginning of each content item you distribute to students.
  • Guide and encourage students to create article or information repositories using software like Endnote and online services like Google DocsPBWorks, or Zoho. The big idea here is to tag/categorize and store documents/content such that they are search-able and easily found later.
  • Provide students with the context of the content presented so that they are easily able to hone in on the key points and takeaways.
  • Choose one method of communication other than email. Email is usually the first place information starts to overflow. For personal or urgent issues consider calling students directly, private chats, or even texting.
  • Assign some tasks that are offline other than reading. It helps to force students to take a breather from being connected at all times.
  • Minimize the amount of text used in PowerPoint presentations and try to incorporate more images, diagrams, cartoons, or other visuals that may resonate and keep students engaged in online settings.
  • Keep a consistent schedule for disseminating or sharing information.