For writers based outside of the UK, we’re also considering offering this course in a “live and online” format over the Web. Using Google+ Hangouts, the course would be spread over a number of days, rather than delivered as a full day’s worth of training. The price of the course would be the same. The first course would be limited to just 5 or 6 delegates. Do let us know if you’d be interested in attending this course.
About the course
In this course, you’ll find out how Technical Authors in leading companies are now applying techniques from other disciplines (such as psychology, copywriting, usability and elearning) into the information they create.
Using examples of Help pages from a number of applications (including from vendors such as Apple, Facebook, Google, HTC and Mozilla), you’ll learn how to spot where these techniques have been used, and you’ll have the opportunity to practise these in the workshop.
One of the most frequent questions we’re asked at Cherryleaf is if we can deliver our advanced technical writing techniques course as a distance learning class. We only offer it as a classroom course, which effectively limits us to teaching students who are based in the United Kingdom, Ireland, or mainland Europe. Being able to offer a training course worldwide is tempting, but is it really possible to deliver distance learning when you want to get people to question and rethink the way they do things today?
Mozilla has released Version 1 of Popcorn Maker, a free HTML5 Web application that enables you to create videos that interact with images, text, maps and other media.
This means you are able to add live content to a video. For example, if you have a video telling a user how to purchase an item, you could include details on the specific item they want to purchase, within the video.
Mozilla is promoting this as a tool for video makers, but it offers new capabilities to those involved in corporate training, support and user assistance.
In the upcoming weeks, Cherryleaf be advising our clients how they can use the technology in their training videos and screencasts.
One of the limitations of video-based information has been the difficulties for users in finding a particular piece of information in a video. Usually, they have to watch the whole video, or “peck and hunt” to get to the moment containing the information they were searching for.
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, HTML5, an emerging Web standard, enables Technical Authors and courseware developers to synchronize different media. One application of this is enabling users to search a text for a key word and then start a video or audio at that point. Here is an example.
In addition to making it easier for users to search videos for the information they need, it will also mean the pages will be more likely to appear in the search engine rankings. In other words, there will be an SEO benefit as well.
We believe this is an exciting development in the field of user assistance.
As we mentioned in previous posts, HTML5 enables Technical Authors and courseware developers to synchronize different media. One of the key areas where this can be applied is in eLearning, where users are now able to toggle between text-based content and video tutorials.
As a consequence, Technical Communicators will need to decide which form of text to provide with the video.
Should it be:
a transcript, faithfully documenting every word that was said in the video?;
an edited, but still conversational, version?; or
text written in the minimalist writing style we normally see in User Guides and Help files?
Let’s look at the case for and against providing an exact copy of what was said in the recording.
The case against a transcript
The manner in which we speak and the way we write are often significantly different. Hugh Lupton, from The Company of Storytellers, once said:
It’s a very different journey from the eye to the mind as from the ear to the mind.
In oracy, the artifices of the speech are very important. These are what Marie Shedlock called “the mechanical devices by which we endeavor to attract and hold the attention of the audience.” They are the gestures, the pauses, the repeated phrases that a good presenter will use.
For example, in this performance by Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton, Daniel repeats “not for you” as a way of keeping the audience engaged (from 0:13):
If we make a transcript, we retain these artifices in the written word. Instead of improving the comprehension, when published in written form, they can make it harder for the user to understand. For example, if the user searches for a key word or phrase, the repetition of those key phrases by the speaker is going to make it harder for the user to find the right instance.
The case for a transcript
Unlike the storytelling examples above, eLearning is rarely delivered in audio form only. In most cases, the presenter and the audience has a shared visual image to view. This helps ensure there is shared understanding.
A transcript gives a true representation of what the presenter said.
If a user remembers a key phrase or word in the presentation, then they may want to search for that moment to replay it. If the text has been edited, or is significantly different, then that phrase may have been omitted.
Which approach should you take?
We suspect over time that the text provided in synchronized elearning courses will follow the minimalist style that works in User guides and Online Help, where the subject matter is technical in nature. A more conversational tone may work where the material is non-technical (e.g. easy to use consumer goods), providing an overview, or where there isn’t the time to do anything more than provide a transcript.
One of the topics Ellis covered in his presentation at Technical Communication UK 12 conference was how media synchronization is likely to affect online training, online Help and other forms of user assistance.
HTML5, an emerging Web standard, will enable Technical Authors and courseware developers to synchronize different media, such as live data and video recordings.
One key area where this technology is likely to be used is where you are looking to use video to guide users through a specific task. For example, if you had a video explaining how to bid for an item on an auction site, you could include, dynamically, details on the product into the video itself. If a different user watched the video, then the product details appearing would change to the one they were interested in.
At the moment, HTML5 is still an emerging standard. However, it is likely to be an important development in the field of eLearning and technical communication.
Yesterday, we launched our online Technical Writer induction course.
This online course covers the technical documentation process and the skills you need in order to be a successful Technical Writer or Technical Author. Created by the authors of the popular “How to Write Instructions” book, this 14 module course explains the technical communicator’s role in today’s environment.