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Subject:Manuals for tasks that require hands-on training? From:"Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Wed, 3 Jan 2001 11:08:11 -0500
John Locke wonders <<How do you write instructions for tasks that usually
require hands-on training?>>
You don't: if it really does require hands-on training, you provide hands-on
training. <g> More seriously, you can provide support material that educates
the trainee so they're intellectually prepared to actually begin the
hands-on part of the training, but you can't eliminate that aspect of the
training entirely. Interactive tutorials (various forms of multimedia) are
becoming much better at filling this need for tasks that only require the
use of your hands, to the point that reasonably good surgery trainers are
now in development, but any task that requires more than moving your hands
is going to require actual use of the student's whole body, at least for the
<<Seems like a great illustration of the biggest problem of technical
writing: the media are limited to, at best, two dimensional moving pictures.
None of that can capture all of the sensory information you put to use
riding a bicycle.>>
Guess we're going to have to steal a leaf from the notebooks of game
designers. Many flight and car-race simulators now include code that drives
a "force-feedback joystick", thereby providing a literal hands-on
experience. And anyone who's tried the Star Wars ride at Disney or sat in a
real flight simulator knows just how good an illusion you can create with a
seat mounted on hydraulics. (For that matter, some stationary bikes now have
screens that display scenery that matches the difficulty of pedaling. Maybe
we could use that technology? <g>) At some point, I imagine truly immersive
virtual realities will become cheap enough and common enough for us to make
them part of our training. Watch this spot for late-breaking news!
<<Describe how you would approach the problem of teaching someone who has
never seen a bicycle to ride one--with contemporary technology, a limited
budget, and no personal contact with the end user. Bonus points: do it on
Well first things first; I'd pull a Kobyashi Maru on you and change the
conditions of the test by starting with one of those cool three-wheeled
bikes. That greatly eliminates the need to explain "balance" on paper, and
once the reader can ride on three wheels, two wheels is a much easier task.
<g> More seriously, you'd be surprised at how good a job you can do at
teaching the basics with skillfully executed illustrations.
"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer
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