10 Books For Learning Professionals To Read In 2013

Need some reading recommendations for the coming year? The varied books listed here have been recently published or are slated for release soon and should be of interest to many learning professionals.

Visual and Design Books

The Functional Art: An introduction to information graphics and visualization by Alberto Cairo

the functional artAlberto Cairo wrote this book with a beautiful arc. He starts with the underlying concepts for designing effective information graphics and visualizations. Then delves into the cognitive apparatus and processes we use to understand visuals.

Armed with these big ideas, he takes readers through his process for creating infographics and data visualizations. For the grand finale, the author interviews some of the best in the field to get their perspectives on everything from visual journalism and storytelling, design process and data visualization in academia. The many illustrations and case studies are fascinating. This is a great read and reference.


Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design by Joel Katz

In this reference for information design, Katz presents pithy principles organized by category. He covers the nature of information, qualitative and quantitative issues, hierarchy and visual grammar and a loosely defined section on wayfinding and place.

This is a good introduction to Information Design because it covers a breadth of concepts. Experienced practitioners will probably find some gems as well. The author stays on track with his human-centered approach. We’re not designing for other designers, but to make the world simpler and easier to understand.


The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever
As the world becomes more complex and as people become increasingly overwhelmed, instructional designers must perfect the art of creating meaning. The Art of Explanation can help. LeFever, co-founder of Common Craft Videos, shares what he has learned over the years, while creating his effective and understated videos.

In the book, LeFever provides insight into communication skills that can be applied to instructional experiences, presentations and helping people understand products. The thread that runs throughout is that explanations require empathy for the audience. This book should be probably be required reading in Instructional Design programs.


101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization by Vijay Kumar

The design methods presented in this book relate to organizational innovation. Yet I couldn’t help but think that many of these techniques could work for learning architects who are pursuing innovation in their own work. Author, Vijay Kumar, seems poised to help readers break free of old patterns and mindsets.

101 Design Methods is a reference and framework for a wide range of techniques, organized into seven modes of the design innovation process. There are techniques for discovering what changes are on the horizon, for exploring our context and environment, and for gaining an understanding of our audiences (or users). There are methods for framing insights and solutions and ultimately, for realizing our offerings. It would be difficult to come away from this book with no new ideas.



Learning and Instruction Books

Learning on Demand by Reuben Tozman

In Learning on Demand, Reuben Tozman proposes a vision for the future of online learning. Leveraging the semantic web currently in creation, Tozman proposes a platform that supports an intelligent learning-on-demand system. It is a system that draws on an organization’s knowledge as well as contributes to it, forming a learning symbiosis.

Employees can then tap into this system to maximize their own performance through self-directed and interest-based learning, as well as prescriptive training. The book spells out the components and structure required for such a system, based on emerging tools and technologies. If you’re looking for a new mindset, you’re bound to find this an intriguing read.


Scenario-based e-Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Online Workforce Learning by Ruth Clovin Clark

Over the past few years, much has been written about the human brain’s inclination for stories. We are attracted to stories and they help us remember. Many experienced instructional designers find that using scenarios—which tend to be the real-world application of stories—are an excellent way to make learning meaningful.

Author Ruth Colvin Clark has a superior track record of contributing research-based guidelines to the field of instructional design. In Scenario-Based e-Learning, she offers a practical model for using scenarios to improve learning transfer and critical thinking skills. According to the publisher (this book is not yet published), Clark presents many examples and screen shots to supplement the principles.


Mastery by Robert Greene

Competence and even mastery are often the goal of both self-directed and formal learning. Furthermore, we often interview and observe experts to see how they perform in their domains. It is in this context, that you may find Mastery to be an inspirational read.

In this unusual book, Robert Greene analyzes mastery through the ages. By examining famous figures as well as those who are less known, he distills lessons on finding your life’s task and honing it to mastery.

Although this book is not intended for learning architects, the fluid mind may find inspiration and deeper principles that can be applied to our work and our personal lives.


Rapid Video Development for Trainers: How to Create Learning Videos Fast and Affordably by Jonathan Halls

Video scripting and production can be a frustrating event for those without training or experience in this area. Always on the lookout for books to fill this gap, this one makes the cut.

Rapid Video Development is appropriately written for instructional designers and trainers, as Halls weaves in a cognitive perspective throughout. He covers when and how to use video; its cognitive effects; visual grammar and effects; and camera movements. You’ll also find tips on writing scripts, using music and sound effects, and legal issues to consider.

There are excellent sections on production and post-production, where the author recommends tools of the trade and explains technical jargon. He also teaches techniques, such as how to get a good shot, the best approaches to lighting and how to make your talent look his or her best. Novice to mid-level video producers will find much to appreciate here.



Mobile Learning

Learning Everywhere by Chad Udell

Learning Everywhere looks at mobile learning through the lens of content strategy. Using a framework of four types of content, Udell shows designers how to identify the most effective learning path for improving performance in their organizations.

The author concludes that determining the content type (converted content; business processes; social and user-generated; or uniquely mobile) brings clarity to other important design and development decisions. This approach is unique because content strategy is under-discussed in our community.

Learning Everywhere quickly busts through the myth that mobile learning is eLearning on a mobile device. It provides an approachable and easy to read narrative of some highly technical topics, provides real-world design and development advice and examples, and promotes the idea that we are moving to a pull learning environment. This book provides a solid path to follow for getting into mLearning design.


Mobile Usability by Jakob Nielsen and Raluca Budiu

Written by two usability experts, you can expect that this book is based on solid research—their own. In Mobile Usability, the authors report their findings, which were gathered from a broad spectrum of “average users” around the world. They also make recommendations based on these findings.

Although the mobile experience has improved slowly over the years, the authors do not hesitate to emphasize that people still find mobile experiences on the web to be frustrating and confusing. The book looks at some fairly notable metrics: success rates for accomplishing a task on different devices (including tablets); success rates with apps versus websites; and mean task times on devices.

Nielsen and Budiu offer recommendations on how to: optimize sites for mobile, design for the small screen, copywrite for mobile devices and much more. If you want to design for mobile devices, this book is probably one of your best bets.


If you have some new book recommendations, please share them in the Comments section below.

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