Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Condensing Assignment Instructions to 140 Chars?

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 30 seconds

I have had a bit of trouble this semester with students who don’t read instructions thoroughly. So I posted about it on facebook and Twitter and got lots of supportive comments from others.

And no – I do not read manuals for software and I don’t read Terms & Conditions but those are very different things from assignment instructions 🙂

But someone alerted me this problem may relate to our undergrad students being of the “text” generation. I have no idea how to test that theory unless I’m teaching a class of mixed ages (which I don’t, usually), so here’s what I think I will try next semester.

I am thinking of experimenting with 140 char (tweet-length) assignment instructions. Let’s see if it works.

So I started doing it for some of my assignments and it looks doable (I didn’t actually count the characters but they look to be close to 140 chars)

for Liquefy the Syllabus:

“Give the syllabus a makeover: make it look more attractive AND change 3 things you didn’t like & suggest improvements”

Or post-game reflection

“Reflect on your process of creating the game, what your role was, what you learned prototyping, what you could have done better”

See? It’s easy? And then if 140 chars isn’t enough, I can add links 🙂

I’m seriously considering doing this!!! And it might be OK not to give details so students can be creative (it’s a creativity course) – that, or have “more details” in a link for those who care to look but at least the gist of it is easy to skim so they at least get the basics of the assignment right.

Of course, some time, I need to help those students learn to read something that’s longer than 140 chars but I’ll keep that to course content and each other’s blogs, rather than assignment instructions.

3 thoughts on “Condensing Assignment Instructions to 140 Chars?

  1. Good move, even I could read them.

    You write assignments, I write manuals for software and ToS 🙂 In both cases they are instructions we wished we don’t need reading.

    I ended up with the same conclusion with my posts. i realized that after 120 words ( 5 tweets) most readers don’t understand me (not all millennials). The less there is to read, the more likely it’s going to be read. So either avoid the need for instructions (self-explanatory experiences) or KISS.

    Beyond that it’s literature and it is more enjoyable as stories (fictions or not). IMHO that’s the place of long form content from now.

    The same applies for videos, after 10′ it’s too long, better break in chunks.

    NB: “& suggest ” shouldn’t be “or suggest”. If you did already 3 changes, why do suggestions? otherwise why use a “AND” and then a “&” if they both mean and. Heck Tweets can be arduous to write 🙂

  2. thanks for this, Bruno 🙂 Good point about literature and also length of video…

    and you’re right – have to be more careful about wording if we’re gonna work with that short length – no need for extra stuff; just word it exactly right. So maybe “suggest 3 improvements” (rather than change 3 things you didn’t like AND suggest improvements, by which I actually just meant “improve 3 things you didn’t like”….)

  3. Ha ha, I have this problem too. Students would click “yes” for the self-grading checklists, just like terms of service, without reading. So, I shortened, and made use of bold-all-caps, used some creative spacing between items, and that helped most of the students slow down and pay attention.
    But a few did still just click on through, and I think they are just going to click on through no matter what.
    I valued the improvement that I did get though: something better than nothing! 🙂

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