Training programme for managers of documentation teams: an update

Earlier in the year, we asked a number of people in the technical writing community for their thoughts on what should be included in a training programme for managers of documentation teams. We received a lot of great ideas and ended up with a list of over 60 potential topics.

We’ve initiated the development of some training modules, but we’ve been wrestling with the issue of how this content should be best delivered. The questions we’ve been asking are not unique to ourselves, so we thought it might be useful to outline some the challenges we’ve been facing.

Should the way people consume information and learn via the Internet today affect the way we deliver our content?

Should we pay attention to the arguments of Michael Wesch (students of today learn differently from their predecessors) and Sir Ken Robinson (don’t kill creativity)?


How will new Web technologies, such as Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web, affect learning in the future?

Our training courses are in a niche market, for people with limited budget, and there are many new ways of delivering information emerging at the moment. So how do we avoid spending time and effort developing training modules that become obsolete in a short space of time?

Where should the topics fit within the curriculum?

We’ve found some topics fall into more than one area. For example, Web Analytics could be part of a Project Management (post project evaluation) and part of a Web technologies track. Wikis could fall under authoring tools, Web technologies and project management tracks.

How important is the ability to discuss ideas?

The greatest intellectual and scientific accomplishments in history have normally come about from where people have been able to:

  1. Question and debate their ideas with others; and
  2. Draw upon ideas from many different subjects.

For example:

  • The 18th Century Scottish Enlightenment (which laid down the mental foundations for the modern world) emerged from clubs and associations dotted around Edinburgh.  What’s more, their discussions ranged ranged from broad intellectual and economic topics to the specifically scientific –  again, topics fell into more than one subject area.
  • The early 20th Century industrialists in America used to meet in Mastermind groups to share and debate ideas and experiences.   

We’re experiencing a similar period of rapid change today.

Our conclusions

These considerations have lead us to the following conclusions:

  1. Learning how to manage documentation doesn’t finish at the end of a course – it’s a lifelong process.  So we’re now approaching this programme from the view of career development.
  2. Topics shouldn’t be pigeonholed into a single narrow track.
  3. There are benefits to people learning through exploration and discussion with their peers.

Is this the correct approach? What do you think?


Julio Vazquez

You make some good points about discussion and interchange being the best drivers for learning and in the case of documentation management there are some areas where that should be encouraged.

However, not all facets of documentation management are necessarily ripe for forums and a lot of decisions on the best delivery mechanisms depends on the content. I would think something like estimating the cost of the project might be more of a canned approach through an online module than, say, handling project speed bumps.

I see a mix of delivery vehicles, webinars, self-paced CBT, and possibly mixed media for some modules as being the best way to handle this curriculum.

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