Creating online tutorials?

Subject: Creating online tutorials?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Sonja McShane <sonjamcshane -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 08:11:25 -0400

Sonja McShane wondered: <<I need to create some tutorials, using
MadCap Mimic, about my company's software products. I think I could
probably do a reasonable job with what I already know about tech
writing, but I really want these tutorials to be outstanding.>>

I don't know the tool, so I'll concentrate on the tutorial aspect.
See if you can't find a way to bring STC member Jane Smith
(jemcomm -at- sedona -dot- net) to your area to teach you. Do you live close
enough to an ASTC chapter that they might be able to help? Jane's
really good.

One key instructional design principle to keep in mind is that you
should always start by defining the learning objectives, not by
listing the software tools and features you're trying to teach.
(That's also true of documentation, btw.) Once you have your
objectives, gather them into logical (i.e., closely related)
groupings. Then figure out how to use the software's tools and
features to efficiently reach those objectives. That's a good
blueprint for your tutorial.

Ideally, you want to provide a combination of theory and practice:
theory, so that students understand the context for what they're
doing and understand what they need to know to work within that
context, and practice, so that the students can put that theory to
work and make it part of their "muscle memory". (That is: something
you learn only by reading or listening fades quickly, but if you come
at a concept from multiple perspectives, such as by practicing and
applying the theory, it's more likely to become part of long-term
memory.) Practice can include repeating steps learned in previous
lessons, since that repetition increases the likelihood that
something will

If possible, provide ways for students to explore and learn by
failure and continued exploration until they succeed. This means that
failures must have a sufficiently low perceived cost that students
don't grow discouraged. After all, one of the drawbacks of being
human is that we learn so much better from our mistakes. The
literature on "minimalism" (sensu John Carroll) is interesting in
this regard.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Creating online tutorials: From: Sonja McShane

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