By Christine Ditzler

I have two passions — one is instructional design and the other is quilting. The two seem unrelated, but they are actually similar in so many ways. Instructional design and quilt crafting both require careful consideration and interconnectivity, or the results are flat and uninspiring.  Let me explain:

When I begin the process of building an online course, I have a collection of ideas and content elements.  I think through each item and see how it aligns with the objectives and goals — I pay attention to how it connects.  This process mirrors what I do with a rainbow of fabrics to determine what works in a quilt.  If the fabrics do not connect, then the results are lackluster.  I am always striving for “Wow!” Not mediocre.

Alignment is also key for instructional design and quilt making. Every component must fit well. In the case of the quilt, it needs to be sewn correctly so the pieces fit; in the case of the online classroom, the content needs to fit the objectives.  If I don’t take the time to map out the pattern of a good fit, it’s impossible to get “Wow!” results.  Point being — a flat online classroom may lead to some learning, but it will not inspire students. A mediocre quilt can keep you warm, but it will not win the blue ribbon at the quilt show.

Interaction is another essential piece of these two crafts.  It’s a universal truth that humans like to share with their peers, and students learn more when they have opportunities to interact with their classmates whether it’s through discussion forums, blogging, wikis, or Twitter.  The same truth applies in the quilting community.  If you want to learn more about making quilts, you must hang out with other quilters. We learn, share, and inspire one another.

social media icons and signsAnd finally, the “pop.” There is a fundamental piece in each, the online class and the quilt, that is critical to its success.  It is embodied by one element that inspires, generates interest, and drives the desire to succeed. In a quilt, it is the color that I choose to make the other colors “pop.”  This is what separates the incredible quilts from those that are just so-so. In the online classroom, the shining piece is content-driven, fun, and interesting; it is the web tool or app that allows our students to play, share, engage with one another, and learn.

If you’re looking for this final piece, the “pop” for your instructional design, there are many examples in Bloom’s Taxonomy that foster higher order thinking and creativity, ultimately leading to student interest and success.

Here are a few suggestions for Web tools and apps that I’ve found are easy-to-use and fun for students:

ToonDoo. Students harness their creativity and have some fun by making concept-inspired cartoons, which they share with their peers.

Bubbl. This is an excellent tool for getting students to use their metacognitive skills and reflect on their thinking in the form of a concept map.  This tool has been especially useful in Political Science 101 when I teach undergraduates how to evaluate how they have been politically socialized. The concept maps can also be printed and shared with peers for rich discussions.

LiveBinders. Portfolios are growing in importance as we see more competency-based learning and capstone projects for our graduates.  Using a tool that can track the progression of our students allows us and future employers to view and evaluate the skills of our learners.


Comparing instructional design to quilting may seem far-fetched, but it all boils down to creativity.  I have passions for both because I enjoy the creative process.  If I lost that creative spark, it would feel more like work, and less like fun.