Technical writer / instructional designer?

Subject: Technical writer / instructional designer?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Jul 2002 13:44:20 -0400

Valerie Brideau wonders: <<Might anyone comment upon the difference/s
between a technical writer and an instructional designer?>>

Depends on who is defining the two terms, since they're often used quite
sloppily; if it's important (e.g., applying for a job), find out how the
employer defines both terms. Technically speaking, an instructional designer
is someone with training in educational psychology who understands how
people learn and uses this knowledge to design instructional materials
(i.e., courses). Although a technical writer may have similar training and
use similar skills, their emphasis is more on communicating procedural or
descriptive information.

Since technical writers often have to teach readers how to do something, the
two jobs overlap to some extent, but are not identical. Here's one way to
think of the difference: the instructional designer teaches people how to
use a product well enough that subsequently, they can use the technical
writer's manuals during their daily use of the product.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
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