Re: Integrating documentation and training

Subject: Re: Integrating documentation and training
From: Steven Brown <stevenabrown -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "Stevenson, Rebecca" <Rebecca -dot- Stevenson -at- workscape -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2004 11:14:00 -0800 (PST)

Rebecca,

When I hear the term "leverage," people usually mean
"copy," which is what I would try to avoid. Here are a
few thoughts.

Gather all of the deliverables they produced for the
last release or feature. First, create a list of the
standard types of deliverables each group produces. It
might look like this:

Training
- Training guide
- Exercise hand-outs
- Hints and tips card

Documentation
- Release notes
- Quick Start Guide
- Online Help

Next, compare the contents of the deliverables to
determine if/where the content overlaps. There's
absolutely no reason for content to be duplicated in
training collateral and documentation, so determine
how different types of information are best delivered.

For example, conceptual overviews or some types of
background information might be more appropriate to
training. Detailed, step-by-step procedures are best
delivered in online help. Exercises for practicing
procedures might be one-off handouts among the
training collateral. And so on.... In general, I'd say
that training collateral are "throw away's," that is,
they're rarely used when the trainee returns to the
job. (That sounds harsh and dismissive, but I
certainly don't mean to imply that the training
experience is disposable.) Any training collateral
that's found to be useful on the job should be
incorporated into or owned by documentation.

As one of the trillions of tech writers who constantly
complain that users don't read our documentation, I
strongly believe that use of the documentation should
be incorporated into the training -- not a single
module, but part of the day-to-day, hour-by-hour
training experience. That was my experience 10 years
ago when I joined the customer service group of a
mutual fund company. Through our six weeks of training
we were continually asked to use our manuals to find
information ourselves. By week four, it was a habit.
It's easy and tempting for a trainer to simply answer
questions herself, but if you want users to work
independently AFTER the training experience, they must
have the confidence to find information on their own,
which means their being familiar with the
documentation's location, organization, and contents.

Some day I'll write a book on this, but I'll stop here
for now. I hope this is helpful.

Steven Brown
Technical Writer

P.S. Search on my name in the archives and you'll find
other instances of my jumping on this soapbox.


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References:
Integrating documentation and training: From: Stevenson, Rebecca

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