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Old 22.02.2007, 09:08   #1
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Post Identifying the gap between technical writing and instructional design

This article was originally published in CommLink, the newsletter of the Society of Technical Communication (STC) Atlanta Chapter and is used with their permission.

Editor’s note: I thought this article was timely since we had Rives Hassell-Corbiell speak about instructional design at our October Chapter meeting.
Because the topic for the [Atlanta] September meeting is "Bridging the Gap Between Technical Writing and Training Development," I thought that this article should be devoted to identifying the differences.

The differences begin, well, they begin in the beginning. As an offshoot of documentation delivery, many documentation departments are tasked with writing training for the products that they document. This seems logical. After all, they documented the product: who better to author the training? But many documentation departments are at a disadvantage the moment they are contacted to write training because few companies want to invest the time and effort required to complete a user skills assessment.

A thorough skills assessment helps eliminate issues that arise during training material development. Without an effective skills assessment, all there is to go on is the needs assessment (if one is available) from developers or project managers. As a result, a knowledge gap may exist. A needs assessment, completed during product development, identifies needs and how a product might meet those needs, with little explanation as to why that specific need has been identified. The focus is on the overall project and the need for the product that is being sold (internal or external), not on why the need exists.

So from the beginning a technical writer simply assumes that the needs and users have been identified correctly and creates documentation. Instructional designers do not have that freedom, because writing effective training is crucial! A skills assessment, if completed, would identify the skills necessary to use a product and, if there is a gap, determine what that skill gap is and how to eliminate it.

http://www.stc-psc.org/Newsletter/ar...-29.4714929717
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