technical content

Increase collaboration and content reuse between documentation and training groups

Author: Matt Armstrong, Director, Vertical Solutions Sales at Author-it

For organizations focused on improving customer experience, linking the training and documentation teams seems like an easy win.  Our own work with these organizations shows a high level of interest as well an understanding of the business value that can be gained by increasing reuse and collaboration between these two groups.  After all, both groups touch the same clients and users with similar information, right?  Unfortunately, that collaboration win is never as simple as it seems, and the friction that slows these efforts is a mix of technology issues, business processes, and the team members themselves. 

Content in realtime cloud based collaboration

Increase collaboration and reuse

We’ve worked with dozens of organizations as they increase collaboration and content reuse between documentation and training groups, and add new content distribution channels.  Author-it Honeycomb is a recent Author-it update that reduces the effort and complexity of reusing content from different groups within an organization, with a focus on interactive new HTML5 application interactions for elearning, mobile learning, and assessments.  Honeycomb adds new ways to distribute high value content to users at the moment they need it, on any device, and in a significantly more engaging manner than traditional product documentation. 

In this blog post, I’ll focus on the process for using Honeycomb in a documentation team; the next article will be about using Honeycomb as part of a training team; and the final blog will discuss content strategy, for both documentation and training teams, to collaborate together, with a focus on user/learner requirements.

Assemble and Publish on demand

Documentation teams at the forefront

Documentation teams are usually at the forefront of creating high value content within the organization.  Sadly, this content rarely gets the opportunity to influence either users or purchasers outside the documentation portal.  Efforts to either increase user engagement, or distribute the content on other channels, are thwarted by issues of, among others, structure and purpose.  

Structure issues: technical content developers using structured content models spend significant amounts of time tagging, classifying, and structuring content, hoping there will eventually be a publishing process that turns this highly organized information into elearning that a user wants to engage with.  The XML tools and complex rules required for structured content alienate a lot of highly skilled SMEs, and slow down what should be a rapid and collaborative development process.  Worse, the current publishing processes produce uninspiring results that fall far behind the current state-of-the-art desktop elearning development tools like Articulate and Captivate, and have poor support for learning platform standards like SCORM and xAPI. 

Purpose issues: a skilled documentation writer structures content differently (eg. is it findable, structured consistently, easily read and comprehended?) to how an instructional designer structures a course (eg. is the learner prepared for this skill acquisition, is the skill relevant, is the skill retained?). While there is content overlap between the two, the core purpose often informs the how a single piece of information may be written differently. 

Update multiple courses simultaneously

What if?

What if: we provided documentation developers with best practice instructional design templates AND a publishing process that created engaging elearning/mobile learning content AND bundled the entire output as a standards compliant file for widespread distribution?

What if: this was fast and simple, and used both structured and unstructured content? 

These were the driving motivations behind Author-it Honeycomb: a simple way for documentation teams to repurpose their content for distribution as best-in-class elearning, mobile learning, and assessments.  You can check the video of Honeycomb in action to see for yourself both the process and final product.

 

If you are a training developer or instructional designer, check back for our next blog discussing how Author-it Honeycomb augments your existing training projects

How Do I Turn My Technical Content into Educational Content?

Guest blogger, Alynda Brown has advice for trainers who need to convert their technical content into educational content.

Technical content into educational content

You have a full library of technical material to support your new product offer. How can you use this resource to build an educational offer?

A good deal of the existing content can be reused – perhaps up to 90% of it could be reused over a curriculum spanning several training courses. However, if educational material is going to be created then the final content of a single training course won’t be 90% of the existing material. How much of it can be used depends on several factors.

Educational material is driven by the needs of the audience. The role of the Instructional Designer is to pluck out the relevant material for each course from the existing library and use that as a basis for building content that meets the learning objectives for each audience.

Step one: Define your target audience

The first step in Instructional Design is to define your target audience(s). The design of courses cannot take place until the learning needs of each audience are specified. An audience that is interested in sales is different to the support team. When building an educational program each audience type must be clearly defined.

Step two: Define the learning objectives of your target audiences

Next the learning objectives for each audience should be defined. The purpose of any training course is to change the behaviour of the student. When planning a training course there should be a very clear understanding of the behaviours that need to be changed. When these behaviours are determined they are then phrased as behaviours that can be observed. For example, learning objectives for a sales audience may be:

By the end of this training course the student will be able to:

  • Recommend the correct product for use in a high temperature environment
  • List the unique value proposition for each of the target markets
  • Deliver a sales presentation for a new customer

If the audience is going to be the technical support team the objectives may be:

By the end of this training course the student will be able to:

  • Answer the most common support questions from inexperienced users of our products
  • Explain to the customer how the financial accounting for an inventory replenishment purchase has been determined
  • Describe how the product is used to process a sales order for a batch controlled product

When the Learning Objectives for each course are defined these will help to determine the best type of medium to use for the course or courses. There are many different media that are available such as:

  • PDFs for Instructor Led Training
  • Instructor Guides and Presentations
  • Self-Paced in the form of eLearning and mobile learning material

In this blog we're focusing on self-paced eLearning and mobile learning as this is an opportunity for valuable reuse.

Step three: Review available material

When the needs of each audience has been analysed the Instructional Designer is then able to review all the existing content within the library to determine which material can be reused and tailored into courses that will focus on achieving the learning objectives.

Step four: Develop your training

A good library of technical content will provide a solid foundation for the educational content. Now is the time to source material to build the entire course/curriculum, and where appropriate update your organizations technical content library.

At this point experienced Instructional Designers will be starting to think about concepts such as "chunking" - or how to break the topic down into the best size for learning. With chunking strategies in play you can often make better reuse of existing material and it will impact positively on your learner’s experience.

Step five: Publish your training

Look for a system that allows you to readily template your training. As an Instructional Designer you want to focus on building the educational content. 

Standard templates allow an Instructional Designer to build courses using the format that is expected in all SCORM compliant Learning Management Systems. These include templates to create:

  • Synchronous and asynchronous navigation
  • Voice over content complete with closed captions
  • Flip books
  • Linked popups
  • Quizzes and assessments

Templates should provide some structure to the design of your online training and yet they are flexible enough to allow the Instructional Designer scope for their creativity.

Conclusion

The needs of your audiences are the best guide to developing your educational content. Good processes will help you to create new content while making the best use of your existing material. As a trainer in a company with a full library of technical content, look for ways to automate and template the conversion to educational content.

Information on Author-it Honeycomb

Author-it Honeycomb is responsive HTML5 elearning/mobile learning output that reuses content components from technical documentation, operating procedures, and other business critical information and automatically creates interactive self-paced training material. Create and publish high quality learning content in hours, not weeks, by tapping into the value of your existing content and delivering elearning, mobile-learning, micro-learning and assessments based on common templates. Request a Consultation to learn how you can leverage the power of your existing documentation.

 

Information on Alynda Brown

Alynda Brown has over 25 years experience in the Education industry, specialising in Instructional Design for blended learning, IT and Process Automation. She is currently consulting in the area of building educational content, teaching documentation teams to maintain content and delivering Train the Trainer courses for product professionals