Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Instructional Design: Back to Basics

I remember my 4-year old neighbor describing why Christmas is celebrated. She explained in her cute way that Jesus was born on this day and so this is celebrated as a holiday around the world. When I was wondering how smart children are, she shared that Christmas story was shown to her in school on a smart board and all the children in her class were made to role play. I was really impressed. I just felt that this is what Instructional design (ID) is all about. It is about creating a learning experience.

Technically speaking, ID is the practice of creating "instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing." ID is about delivering effective training for corporate, schools, colleges, government, military, and so on. ID may range from teaching Algebra to a high school student to teaching a Software Application to a Technician working in a Plant. Anywhere, there is going to be a training program, you will find ID practices. However, the challenge is bridging the gap between what is taught and what is effectively learned. How to engage learners with clear and meaningful training content? How to create a learning experience?

Well, as Instructional Designers we are taught the basic theories and strategies of making learning effective and interesting. My next few posts will talk about my journey in this field - unraveling the fundamental ID concepts, theories, strategies, and the best practices. Feel free to share your opinions and the latest updates in this field with me at richasmita@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Style Guide in Technical Writing

As technical writers, you are often asked to create or refer to style guides? Why? Style guides can help in improving document quality and in standardizing document presentation. For example what is correct - 5 or five? Style guides can help you decide this. Let’s understand the basics of style guides.


What?

Style Guide is a set of standards that highlights the preferred writing style, punctuation, spelling, and formatting used for various publications by an organization. You can refer to industry-accepted style guides or create your own in-house guide.


Why?

  • Consistency – Ensures consistent and uniform look of all publications, thus enabling readers to seek information with better ease and speed. For example, if you are using American English, you will make sure you write “analyze” and not “analyse” throughout your document though both are grammatically correct spellings.
  • Easy Writing and Editing – It is easy to create or review a document if the writing rules are already clarified. You can refer them any point in time to make sure you are using the correct format.
  • Effective and Fair Writing – Adherence to style guide helps to create neutral and effective publications regardless of each author’s personal writing style. For example, you will follow the capitalization rules as specified in the style guide instead of your own way.

Examples:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Technical Documents

Technical Writing involves creating a wide range of documents that varies across organizations. These documents are created using various tools like MS Office, FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Adobe Creative Suite comprising of Photoshop, InDesign, Flash, and so on. Some of these technical documents are:

  1. User’s Guide: Companies that offers products or services need to have user guides to explain how to use the product/service. The Guide contains detailed description of product/service features and instructions to use them.
  2. Online Help: The growth in online media has popularized creation of Online Help by companies. The Help provide assistance on using a particular product/service.
  3. Installation, Reference and Troubleshooting Guide: Companies needs to familiarize the users how to install or repair their product or software. This document provides steps to install and troubleshoot the product or software.
  4. Release Notes: Companies create Release Notes to familiarize the users with new features, enhancements, fixed issues and known issues of the product or software. These are publications distributed along with product in the development or test state. These are also created every time a bug is fixed or an enhancement is made on the product.
  5. Technical Advisory: This document describes an issue, its cause and work around.
  6. Marketing Collaterals: Companies create marketing or sales document to market and promote their product or services. Common examples of marketing collaterals are business proposals, white papers, datasheets, sales brochures, flyers, catalogs, posters, and presentations.
  7. Training Materials: Companies require training their employees or external customers. These are publications created for use in self-paced training or classroom environment. Common examples are tutorials, workbooks and instructor’s guide.
  8. Miscellaneous: Occasionally, companies need other type of writing intended for publication done for them. For example, documents like newsletters, technical reports, resume, press releases, etc. are created by technical writers.