In our last blog post we discussed the need for publishers to create engaging, interactive content as a means to maximize educational impact. Below are tips and insights from our instructional design experts Shawn Burson and Jesse Cortez on how to create compelling educational content:

1. Create On Ramps, Not Stop Signs

Interactive content and components should accelerate the learning process, not slow it down. Therefore, instructional design should prioritize the tools, knowledge, and set-up necessary for students to understand the key take-aways of an activity in a more efficient way than the learner would have had in a print setting.

2. Provide Proper Instruction/Setup

In developing interactive content, the “why” is  as important as the “how.” Learners will tune out if interactive content does not match the curriculum or the learning objective. So developers must map interactivity to the learning concepts the content is intended to advance.  

3. Context is Key for Comprehension

True education is less about memorizing facts and more about comprehending concepts. Context is key to comprehension, so instructional design is about leading the learner to explore concepts and learning points more deeply, and in a way that builds a contextual understanding. Among the many tools we use to break down complex concepts into easily digestible components are interactive "stepped narratives" and "comparison maps".

"Stepped narratives" are presentations that separate event sequences, or narratives, into visually unique nodes while simultaneously linking them together as a greater whole. The learner can advance through the sequence, step back to review earlier parts, or even branch out tangentially from specified points in the sequence. Examples of applicable "narratives" are historical events, stages of biological development or intricate industrial production processes.

"Comparison maps" present geographical, temporal, or other grouped data in a format that allow the learner to single-out, regroup, or visually compare pieces of information in relative context with each other. Often relationships, or a story, can emerge from the data by looking at it in such various ways or in different arrangements. It's an opportunity to let the learner explore and consider the content from multiple perspectives, paving the way for greater comprehension of context.

4. Feedback Fosters Success

One of the key goals of instructional design is to create a feedback loop to ensure that learners are receiving affirmation and/or redirection as they seek to master assigned material. Assessable interactive components pair the learner’s attempts to complete a challenge with appropriate feedback based on their responses to each item in the assessment. Students are given feedback in the form of positive affirmation if they answer questions successfully, or, alternatively, they are presented with additional chances to answer correctly, resulting in summary feedback that explains the learning point and fills the knowledge gap that prevented the learner from succeeding in the challenge. Such feedback represents an automated representation of verbal discussion that might occur in a live learning environment – an advantage that’s far superior to that of static printed material.


Shawn Burson is an instructional designer with more than ten years of experience. He currently serves as Director of Instructional and Interactive Design at Metrodigi. Prior to joining the team, he spent 8 years with Academy of Art University in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jesse Cortez is an Instructional Designer and eBook developer for Metrodigi. A graduate of San Francisco State University, his professional experience includes 8 years with Academy of Art University as an instructional designer and 6 years as a multimedia editor with Kauzmic Interactive. He still prefers novels in paperback.