Using Multiple Screens for Instructional Designers

Efficiency Gains with Multiple Monitors

3 monitors side by side

I have been using three monitors for the last 5 months and I’ve noticed that I seem to be working more efficiently and doing more in less time, so it got us thinking about efficiency gains with more monitors. There are a host of blogs and articles out there advocating the use of dual screens, with efficiency savings quoted at anything between 20 and 40%. Some of these are by quite big companies and if you want to see more about them, then see some of these:

Obviously, any modern computer user can survive using just one monitor, for example in Microsoft Windows you can Alt-TAB or arrange windows, but what if you want your instructional designers to really thrive and boost productivity?

In this case we think that it would be useful to understand how the typical Instructional Designer might set up their workspace for various tasks and consider the addition of a third monitor for these workers.

To help put a framework to this article, we a have decided to apply the ADDIE methodology to it and discuss the various types of actions used at each phase.


In the analysis phase an Instructional Designer is pulling together information about the problem in hand, such as who needs training and what do they need training on? In a typical dual screen setup an Instructional Designer will have:

  • One monitor for the source information they are analysing, such as organisation diagrams, HR database records etc..
  • One monitor for the output document they are creating for the analysis phase. Typically this will be a spreadsheet, but not always,


During the design phase, activities will include tasks such as storyboarding and creation of documents such as LMS specifications or classroom designs. Instructional Designers with two monitors will typically use them for:

  • One monitor for the creation of the design document e.g. storyboard
  • One monitor for reviewing information created in the analysis phase


During development, the creation and assembly of materials becomes the task in hand. Therefore the two monitors will again be useful:

  • One monitor for tools to create assets e.g. Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or an eLearning authoring tool
  • Another monitor to pull those assets together and curate the ordering and sequencing of them e.g. an LMS window


The implementation phase is where we try out everything that has been designed and developed and test it. If this is a classroom or eLearning delivery, then:

  • One monitor for displaying what has been built
  • One monitor for capturing the changes that need to be made before “go-live”


Here we look at the feedback we have captured and work out what needs to be changed. So once again two monitors are useful.

  • One monitor for changing and modifying project documentation and files built so far.
  • One monitor for displaying feedback and approving/rejecting changes.

2 screens

Screen Resolutions

Just as a nod to the number of pixels you are actually driving on each monitor. The higher the screen resolution, the more things you can generally display on each monitor. If you would like to see which screen resolutions are most popular with desktop users, then take a look here. At the time of writing (Feb 18) our interpretation of the data shows that lower screen resolutions are gradually being replaced by higher resolutions. That’s pretty much expected. The more pixels you have – the more you can do.

The Case for a 3rd Monitor

Half decent screens now are pretty cheap, around the £250 ish. If an Instructional Designer costs say £450 per day and you can improve their efficiency and productivity by 5%, then payback will come in 20 days.

So, if an Instructional Designer could generally be using two monitors for most of the time that they are actually working on a project and we want them to thrive, what might they use the third monitor for?


You could also classify this as an area that causes the maximum amount of distraction for an Instructional Designer, but email, skype, instant messaging, twitter, yammer, LinkedIn and a whole host of other communication tools are needed in order to stay connected.


Instructional Designers often work in drag and drop style applications, where you drag from one folder into another. Having a third screen to display various windows of folders is increadibly useful.

Putting Things to One Side, Plans & To-Do Lists

Minimizing a window is fine – but once it is out of sight it is generally forgotten about until the end of the day and you need to close numerous (now unused and forgotten) folders down. Having a bit of extra screen space to keep these visible in prompts you to come back to them.

Personal Things

Heaven forbid that anybody does anything personal whilst in the workplace, but if you did, then there would be space to put them on a monitor.

When Not to Buy a Third Monitor

If the user is working on a laptop and they keep the lid shut.


A third monitor would probably be useful for most Instructional Designers. However, some articles are also talking about how more screens impacts well-being – so maybe a fourth one isn’t needed.


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