Instructor guides?

Subject: Instructor guides?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 15:28:53 -0500

Aviva Wulfsohn wondered: <<Although my title states that I am a Technical Writer, I seem to be doing more instructional design work in my (relatively new) position... Does anyone out there create both user guides and training manuals? Other than the obvious need to include practice exercises and review questions in a training manual, how do the two guides differ?>>

A training manual is intended to support a learning exercise, whether instructor-led or independent study. In both cases, you must start the design process by identifying clear and objective goals (i.e., what the student must be capable of doing by the end of the training), then developing a curriculum (series of lessons) that will let the student achieve these goals. For example, a typical training manual for beginners might be designed to get them sufficiently proficient with the software that they rarely need to consult with the user manual for routine tasks, and are comfortable using that user manual when they must. (This latter statement is not a "clear and objective description" of the goals, by the way. It's a summary of how to get to those goals.)

In contrast, a user manual is not intended to support formal learning; instead, it targets "learn only enough to accomplish something new or unfamiliar". There is generally no overall structure intended to lead the reader from the basics through more advanced topics. Though a well-written manual may have such a structure, and may support learning for the odd character who reads it front to back. that's a bonus rather than the primary goal; the primary goal is instead to help someone who arrives at a given topic (usually without having read all the preceding pages) to achieve something without having to read more than the current page.

In short (and thus simplistically), a training manual builds foundation skills; a user manual lets you put those skills to work.

<<Also, I have been tasked with creating instructor guides where none have previously existed. Our instructors currently teach from the participant guide. I personally don't see a problem with this method; however, my boss has asked me to create an IG.>>

The problem with the current approach is that instructors and students are different audiences. If you think of the instructor's guide as the user's manual for the student guides, you'll see the difference. An instructor's guide must dovetail neatly with the student's guide--if it doesn't, the instructor will find themselves teaching a topic not present in the student manual or following a different sequence from the students. But it must also contain a whole set of information that the students never see: for example, tips on what approaches have been proven effective or ineffective in a specific topic, and suggestions for a range of exercises (from which the instructor chooses).

<<Her vision, though, is to have one manual where the participant guide pages are on the right-hand side and the corresponding instructor guide pages are on the left. I find this method way too tedious and cumbersome.>>

Have you asked the instructors whether they like this method? After all, they're the ones who have to use the guide, so it doesn't much matter what you and your boss think. If they agree with your approach, you can return to your manager and propose your solution, using as evidence the preferences of those who must actually deliver the training. If they disagree with your approach, you need to persuade them that it's better, or come up with a compromise that they'll accept. If they're constantly complaining about the guides, don't bet that it's your boss who will take the heat.

<<Doing it my boss' way would involve re-creating the IG every time updates to the PG are made, sometimes 4x a year or more.>>

That would suck if your software doesn't support parallel flows on the right and left pages of each spread. On the other hand, if you can print on an 11x17 page in landscape mode, you can set up a template that lets you do this. Set the right side (11x8.5) to contain the student text, and the left side (11x8.5) to contain the instructor text, set up as a text box tied to the correct paragraph in the student guide, but positioned (floated) way outside the student margins (i.e., on the lefthand page). Not easy to set up, but easy to maintain once established.

Conversely, you could create two entirely separate documents, much as you're currently doing: If you print the student's guide with only odd page numbers (i.e., righthand pages), then print an instructor guide with only even page numbers (i.e., lefthand pages), you can manually adjust the page breaks in the instructor's guide so that the text falls opposite the correct pages for the student guide. then compile the two sets of pages and photocopy the document double-sided. Kludgy, but workable. An advantage of this latter approach is that it lets you create both the manager's guide (as just described) and your own style of guide; that lets you satisfy the needs of instructors who prefer different approaches.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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Instructor Guides?: From: Wulfsohn, Aviva

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