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Hans van der Meij Hans van der Meij
Twente University
Faculty of Educational Science & Technology
Department of Instructional Technology
P.O. Box 217
7500 AE Enschede
the Netherlands
phone: x-31-053-4893656
fax: x-31-053-4892895
e-mail: meij(at)edte.utwente.nl
I teach several courses on instructional design theories, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. Most of these courses have been set-up according to the key design principles of minimalism. They are organized around a set of theoretically and practically relevant exercises or problems. Whenever possible I try to engage my students in real or authentic problems that are properly sequenced and scaffolded. Key topics of my research at Twente University are: Instructional design theories and ICT in education.
Instructional design theories. The focus here is on theory development that can advance the design of user support for software programs (e.g., manuals and online help). Most of my initial work in this area concentrated on describing and refining Minimalism. This use(r)-centered approach originated with John Carroll from IBM and is widely used in the design of user support. My recent work concentrates on specific features of user instructions such as the design of pictures in combination with text and on the design of procedures. I am currently exploring the roles of examples in manuals.
I adhere to Dewey's famous adage that there is nothing more practical than a good theory. Good theories hold their grounds when pitted against reality. For instructional design theories this means at least two things in my view. One, they must be useful for designers and practitioners. Minimalism clearly satisfies in this respect. An exemplary example in the Netherlands is the work of Addo Stuur who has created the hugely successful Visual Step manuals. These manuals are based on the combined strength of minimalism and an optimized attunement of text and pictures. Two, they must have been tested empirically. A good illustration is the research that we have done on screen captures. First, we drew up a theoretical framework on their functions and designs after having examined hundreds of manuals. Next, we examined and tested each function in one or more empirical studies.

ICT in education. This rubric covers several research interests that have come together in the kidNET project that was funded by the Dutch Council for Scientific Research, NWO, under Grant # 411-211-10. One of the aims of the project is to bring more authentic learning experiences into the (primary) school. To achieve this we have articulated a Learning-By-Designing (LBD) approach through the development of several lesson series for the domains of biology and design& technology education. The LBD-approach engages children in repeated do-reflect cycles as they attempt to solve a design problem.
Another aim of the project is to functionally integrate the use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in the curriculum. To achieve this goal we have looked for ways in which ICT could have a surplus value in the lessons. We have focused on two applications: e-mail and web.
E-mail was integrated in the lessons as a vehicle to stimulate personal reflection about the lessons and to engage the children in broader communities of practice. Analyses of the E-mail interactions reveal that these purposes were achieved through the domain-oriented narratives that were conveyed. The picture that emerges from the findings is that personal stories and communal stories become mixed yielding a new form of interpsychological functioning.
In one lesson series the web was integrated as a means to stimulate reflection by having to document their design progress for a real audience. The children wrote a progress report after each lesson, published this on the web and could receive feedback from teachers, fellow students and parents. In another lesson series the web supported the development of Questioning skill. The web was used as a repository of information in which the children could find an answer to (some) design questions. Because a pilot study revealed that most children lacked important prerequisite skills to find information on the web a portal was designed to assist them in that task.
The project follows the set-up of Design-Based Research. Accordingly, the lessons have been designed by a team of specialists, including teachers from elementary school and they have been prototyped and tested repeatedly.

Distinguished paper award in 1999 (with Mark Gellevij) from the American Society for Technical Communication (STC) for “Screen captures in software documentation” in STC’s Frank R. Smith Outstanding Article competition.
Nomination for the 1999 W.R.G. Baker prize award (with Mark Gellevij, Ton de Jong & Jules Pieters) for outstanding paper in one of the IEEE Transactions for “The effects of screen captures in manuals: A textual and two visual manuals compared”
Best article award in 1997 from IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Professional Communication Society for “Does the manual help?”
Nomination for the 1997 Award in Higher Education (with Marja van Graft) from the Dutch Ministry of Education for the project “Kid e-mail”
Distinguished paper award in 1996 (with John Carroll) from the American Society for Technical Communication (STC) for “Principles and heuristics for designing minimalist instruction”
Consultant for Industry
As a consultant for industry I have been working on:
Creating and delivering workshops on instructional design for organizations like Akzo, STIC and Stork. These workshops concentrate on teaching technical writers how they can improve the designs of user support.
Evaluating existing paper documentation and setting up guidelines for standardization for companies like Lucent, Fluke, GAK, Malmberg, Philips, and Stork. The evaluations give feedback on the product(s) of the company along with a framework for conducting similar evaluations in future. The audit also often connects to a request for developing a new set of guidelines that can guide technical writers in or outside the company.
Developing online help for Fluke. First, our team designed the architecture for Fluke’s first online help system for its ScopeMeter with an lcd-screen the size of a credit card. Next, we produced the online help. This has now been shipped worldwide and the original version in English has been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Japanese and Chinese. Fluke also used the architectural blueprint in designing online help for new types of ScopeMeters.