We had a blast at #Conduit19

By Viqui Dill, IDL SIG Programs lead

On April 5 and 6, the STC Philadelphia Metro chapter held their annual Conduit regional conference at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. IDL SIG members were well represented, both as attendees and as presenters. I attended on the second day, April 6.

Getting to the conference on time was a challenge. Philadelphia was hosting the 13th Annual Race for Humanity to benefit Camp Can Do. Imagine crossing the street dodging runners in both directions as the race went around the Swann Memorial Fountain adjacent to the Franklin Institute.

Danielle Villegas, IDL SIG member and past president of the STC Philadelphia Metro Chapter (STC-PMC), welcomed attendees and opened the day.

Bernard Aschwanden, representing the event host, Adobe Technical Communication, delivered opening remarks. Using a clever combination of stories and product announcements for Adobe, Aschwanden urged the group to make one to one connections and build one to one relationships using any means possible, even twitter.

Neil Perlin delivered the keynote address, “Preparing for the Unknown.” He reminded the group that our tools have changed, noting that pencils have given way to the typewriter, replaced by the word processor, and now the worldwide web. “Tools are irrelevant,” Perlin stated, and then he quoted Rick Lippincott and said “We explain things.” One takeaway he gave the group was to accept the permanent temporary incompetence that comes with constant learning.

Attendees then broke up to attend their choice of four educational sessions.

IDL member Ed Marsh presented “Adding value as a technical communicator.” Marsh urged the group to document how they add value to the organization. “Newsletters work,” he recommended. Pdfs are a bad way to document because the only analytic available with a pdf is the number of downloads. Pdfs are terrible on mobile devices. Technical communicators should embrace data driven content and use the analytics provided to find out how users write and think. Marsh reminded the group that the number of words is not a measure of success. Success means that the right information is delivered to the right person, at the right time.

Although the topic was out of my comfort zone, I next attended “Negotiation Skills: The Missing Ingredient to Content Career Success” presented by Jack Molisani. He began with an icebreaker and rewarded participants with chocolate if they spoke up. He urged the group to do their homework before the negotiation. Know the success criteria and decide ahead of time when to break off the negotiation and walk away. Whenever possible, let the other side make the opening offer. Handle objections with historical data. Molisani then had the group do an exercise negotiating for a lawn care agreement. Each of the groups reported how the negotiations went, what went well, and what did not go well. He then wrapped up with reminding us that negotiating is an art, and that we should find and negotiate with “your people.”

The groups then came together for an amazing lunch provided by the Franklin Institute. Members of the IDL SIG took a moment to get a group photo. Ed Marsh, Laurie Marshall, Cindy Pao, Viqui Dill, Tim Esposito, Todd DeLuca, and Jim Bousquet represented our SIG at the conference.

After lunch, attendees again broke up to attend their choice of four sessions.

Steven Jong presented “Working and Writing across the Generations” explaining how different generations think and communicate differently. Millennials are now the largest generational group and Jong urged attendees to learn how to reach them with mobile-friendly content that is diverse, visual, and embedded.

For the last session of the day, I presented “#PowerOfStory – The cultural program that got me clicks” to a bright and engaged group. I encouraged attendees to speak up by giving them miniature rubber ducks in fun costumes, reinforcing the storytelling theme. My current job is to do internal communications within my company for IT. It’s my job to help four thousand employees make friends with our programs, especially the much avoided Microsoft Office 365 suite of products. I explained how I was able to leverage our corporate #PowerOfStory program to engage employees online and help them get over the fear of change to be able to use the tools for content management and communication.

The groups then came together for the closing session and door prizes. I was lucky enough to win a book of my choice, picking “The Language of Content Strategy” by Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie.

After the conference, attendees gathered at the Kite and Key gastro pub for continued networking and collaboration.

Regional conferences like Conduit, InterChange, and Spectrum are a great benefit of STC membership. Shorter and less expensive than the big international Summit conference, regional conferences often feature some of the same speakers and topics. Smaller conferences make it easy to recognize faces and learn names, leading to better networking. The Conduit conference is an annual event and I urge you to make plans to attend in 2020.

Secretary’s Column

By: Marcia Shannon

This is my last secretary’s column; I am both happy and sad to write that. I am transitioning from assistant co-manager to co-manager in January 2019. Being secretary was a very satisfying, interesting, empowering experience. Answering, “I can do that,” when the secretary spot opened transformed me. I stopped lurking in the background; I discovered what I could do. Without that first step and the experiences that followed, I would not be ready to tackle the co-manager job. What looked too complicated a few years ago now seems like a manageable challenge. As with every role in the SIG, there are experienced members ready to help me succeed.

According to the STC charter, we need a secretary to help keep track of our SIG’s activities. It is an easy way to get involved with the SIG. It gives you a front-row seat to all SIG activity just by attending the monthly meetings and posting the minutes. I learned Google Docs and a good bit about the ins and outs of STC community activities. Writing the secretary columns and other articles for the newsletter helped me develop my personal style.  

The Instructional Design and Learning SIG is a dynamic collection of people with varied tech comm experience. We enjoy sharing what we know and helping one another solve those pesky TC issues that crop up at work. Seize this opportunity to test yourself, expand your skills, and keep our SIG a pace-setting community by stepping up and saying “I can do that”. If secretary isn’t your cup of tea, there are several other open positions you have the skill to fill. Involvement in the SIG will expand your STC experience and let you stretch past the everyday work world. 

How to Create Objectives

By: Daniel Maddox

Course developers seem to diverge in terms of how to create course objectives. I have observed two very different methods in use. This article examines the strengths and weaknesses of each method.

What do we need to teach?

Commonly, the first question that is asked when we sit down to create a course is, “What do we need to teach?” In a course I took in college, this was the question we were told to start with. It was also the question used by a documentation department I once worked for. This is a very simple question to start with, but it does bring with it some difficulties. Here is a brief description of how this method works:

Stage Description
Initial This question guides everything else that you do. You begin compiling a list of needed course content right off the bat.
1 After you figure out what you need to teach, you start asking questions about who you’re teaching, and what your goals are with that teaching. What is the audience’s background? What are their expectations? Where will they be trained? What technology is available?

It may be at this point that you write down the objectives for the course. However, you might wait until stage 2 or 3, when you have finalized your list of course content. That way, you can roll those categories of content up into objectives at the end of course preparation.

2 Based on your analysis, you create a plan for getting the content together. Who are the subject matter experts whom you need to interview? What will the weekly expectations be for completing the work?
3 How do you ensure that you have taught the content you intended to? How do you ensure that your audiences really gets it, knows what they need to know, and can do what they need to do?

At this point, all that remains is to create the actual course content, deliver it, and evaluate it.

This is a very simple method to use. Anyone can sit down with a couple of subject matter experts or salespeople and write down a list of topics that need to be addressed. And anyone can look at that course content and create objectives that relate to teaching that content. This is really the only strength that I can think of. Simplicity is nice.

There is one glaring weakness with this method: How do you ensure that you have solved the right problem? If you start out by discussing what it is that you need to teach, how do you ensure that, to borrow from Stephen Covey, you are leaning your ladder against the right wall? You can evaluate the course however you want, but if you don’t start out by defining the problem, then how do you know that the successful delivery of a given set of content will solve that problem? This method puts the cart before the horse.

What is the problem? What are our objectives?

Here is a description of the second option we have in creating course objectives:

Stage Description
Initial The first questions you ask are: What do we want class participants to walk away with? What do we want to achieve in this course, at a high level?

Based on your answers to these questions, you create a list of overall objectives right off the bat.

1 Based on your objectives, you know what content you will need to create in order to satisfy those objectives. The content begins to come together pretty quickly and logically at this point.
2 Based on the content that will meet the objectives, you figure out how to create and deliver the content in a way that satisfies the objectives most directly.
3 To do this right, you just go back to the overall objectives. Does the course content get us to these objectives?

In this situation, you will know at the end of your evaluations whether or not the course was successful in solving the original business problem.

There is a higher up-front cost to using this method. You might need to have a separate, initial meeting with subject matter experts to nail down overall objectives before you can begin actually deciding what content to deliver in the course.

Recommendations

How do you move from option #1 to option #2? What if there is significant resistance to this change in your organization? What if people just want to ask, “Hey, what do we need to teach here?”

Why not start with a testing of the new method? Use the old method to create one course. This is your control group. Then use the new, objectives-focused method to create a course. When you have performed your evaluations, go back and compare the two methods, to see which actually did more to solve the problems that they were created to solve. With careful analysis, you and your management will see how much sense it makes to create objectives before thinking about what content to deliver.

From the Editor Q32018

By Kelly Smith

At the 65th annual STC Summit In May, I had the great pleasure of volunteering to take the reins of IDeaL from former managing editor Crista Mohammed. In the months since, I have worked closely with the co-managers (Viqui Dill and Lori Meyer) and others to create this, my first issue of IDeaL.

At the SIG meeting in June, the group suggested that my first post as managing editor should include a brief autobiography, since I am relatively new to the STC and have not been very active in the SIG until now. I joined STC in 2015 and have attended every Summit since that first one in Columbus. I started out knowing almost nothing about the STC and knowing almost no one in the organization. Since then, I’ve made many friends and have learned more than I could possibly sum up. Each year I am struck by the diversity and vibrancy of our community.

My life as a technical communicator began when I volunteered to write a software user manual for a student project in 1996. Since then I moved from Canada to the United States to work and although my first job title was programmer analyst, I quickly transitioned into being “the writer” on every team I’ve been on. I eventually took some online classes and certifications to make my skills more official and since then, I have written two non-fiction books, have worked as senior editor for a national quilting magazine, and have written or edited hundreds of manuals, procedures, presentations, papers, and other IT and business-related documents, including other newsletters.

When I’m not working, I am studying to earn my MS in Technical Communication Management from Mercer University. I plan to graduate in 2019.

With that out of the way, welcome to the Q3 2018 issue of your IDL SIG Newsletter!

In this issue

Co-manager Lori Meyer congratulates people who have stepped into new roles within the SIG and puts out a request for new volunteers to fill several other roles. If you’d like to have a hand in running our SIG, now is the time to step forward! The SIG needs an assistant co-manager, a secretary, a membership manager, a social media and surveys manager, and a content curator. As you can see, there is ample opportunity to try your hand at a new skill, or provide your existing expertise to the SIG. In addition, the SIG has launched an awards program. Check out Lori’s article to find out more about all these topics.

In the Secretary’s Column Marcia Shannon discusses what dancers and technical communicators have in common.

Co-manager Viqui Dill wrote a wonderful recap of IDL SIG adventures at STC18 in Orlando, Florida. Be sure to check out her photos! In addition, Viqui provides us with a comprehensive review of Li-At Rathbun’s presentation “We Stoop to Conqquer: Adjusting to Mediocrity”. Viqui also provided us with a list of upcoming webinars on a wide range of topics.

Practitioner Rachel Musicante describes for us how she uses IDL concepts to enrich the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. Rachel incorporates music and games to reach all the residents, even those suffering from dementia. Music really is the universal language.

Student Outreach Chairperson Sylvia Miller wrote about the IDL SIG’s Student Outreach program. This is a great opportunity for undergraduates and graduate students alike to have their work published here, and possibly in the TCBOK.

My classmate, Elizabeth Patterson, reviews Digital Media Ethics by Charles Ess. This book explores ethical issues encountered in digital media and would be a great resource for students, teachers, and any technical communicator who works with online content.

Jamye Sagan is preparing for the bi-annual demographic survey of IDL SIG members. In addition, she reminds everyone of our sixth annual Virtual Open House. Check out both articles for details. She also wrote a recap of three wonderful sessions from Summit ‘18. Check out her summaries of the sessions on introverted leaders, podcasting, and what we can learn from rock & roll.

About IDeaL: Design for Learning

Giving Graduates an Edge in the Job Market

By Sylvia Miller, Student Outreach Chairperson

For the third year the IDL SIG is offering undergrad and graduate students a chance to publish an article before completing their degrees through our Student Outreach program. First, students submit a brief article about instructional design to our team of judges. If the judging team deems the article worthy of being published in our newsletter—the one you’re reading right now—the student is awarded a one-year STC membership that includes belonging to the IDL SIG. The potential benefits are multiple. Students can:

  • Get their name in front of hundreds of practicing professionals who read our newsletter.
  • Add a link in their résumé and on their LinkedIn page to the published article.
  • Benefit from feedback of practicing professionals—the judges team.
  • Present their published article during job interviews.

And that’s not all. With the student’s permission, the IDL SIG will submit articles we publish in this newsletter for inclusion in the Technical Communication Body of Knowledge (TCBOK). If the article is accepted for inclusion in the TCBOK, the student will earn an additional one-year STC/IDL membership! He or she can also insert another link in their résumé to the article in the TCBOK, which is available for reference by thousands of professional technical communicators.

Here is what L. Stoe said about having his article published in our newsletter:

“Being published under the Student Outreach Program provided a forum for me to apply and test my skills learned in my classes in Technical Communication & Professional Writing. The competitive process was fun and increased my self-confidence. I printed the published article and showed it as I interviewed for a new position as a technical publications writer just last month. I got the job and definitely feel that the published article helped me. Having a published article to show others strengthens any portfolio. I encourage others to go for it... I cannot overstate how nice it was to show my article during my interviews.”

Please help us spread the word!

Please help us advertise this unique opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to have an article published. Share information about the 2018-2019 Student Outreach program with colleagues, students, professor/instructor friends, friends with college-age children, and anyone who stands to benefit from gaining an edge in today’s job market.


All necessary details are at http://www.stcidlsig.org/students/youcanbepublished/, including a list of potential article topics, contributor guidelines, frequently asked questions, and a submission form. Thank you in advance for sharing this opportunity with others.