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Transitioning to eLearning, Conducting Informational Interviews, and Professional Development Resources

By Philise Banner | Guest Columnist

Ask a Tech Comm Manager is an advice column geared toward answering all those questions you have, but might be uncomfortable asking. We glean the questions from social media, forums, and most importantly, from you, dear reader. If we don’t know an answer, we will interview experts and get information for you. Send Kit and Cindy your questions to kitbh.stc@gmail.com or tweet them to @kitcomgenesis or the hashtag #askTCmgr.

I have a lot of techcomm experience and want to transition into elearning. What are the differences and similarities between instructional design and techcomm skills?

Here are a few skills that will translate well to instructional design work:

  • Making the complex clear. Technical communicators do a great job of taking content and making it simple to digest and understand. Instructional designers need to be able to do the same.
  • Structuring content. Having the ability to sequence information to present to the user translates well into the instructional design space—learning is a scaffolded process, after all.
  • Providing direction. Knowing where you are within any experience is inherent in good design. Making sure your learners know how to progress through a learning experience is an integral part of instructional design.

Before you make that transition, you may want to focus on:

  • Understanding how humans learn. Learning theory guides the practice of instructional design. Take the time to learn about the evolution of those theories, and how they have impacted the evolution of instructional technologies.
  • Assessing how, when, and where learning takes place. Most learning experiences are designed to be measured in some way. This requires a deep understanding of knowledge, emotion, and action-based domains that guide the development of measurable objectives and assessments in alignment with those objectives.
  • Facilitating interaction and dialogue. Instructional design is all about bringing meaning and motivation to the learning experience through conversation and participation. The art of instructional design is knowing how and when to ask the right questions.

Here are some resources that you might find helpful:

What is an informational interview and how do I conduct one?

The goal of an informational interview is to research the type of skills you need, jobs you might be interested in doing, and companies or industries that might interest you. You are talking to people in your network to find out what they love about their jobs and what they think is important for job seekers. They typically do not have a job available at that moment. You can use an informational interview at any point in your career.

It differs from a job interview in that you are the one asking the questions. Kit wrote a more in-depth article on this topic for this issue. Check it out on page 23.

What are some resources where I can get more training on tools and other topics I’m interested in?

  • Lynda.com (www.lynda.com) is now part of LinkedIn. There are courses for most tools that we use in our profession.
  • Coursera (www.coursera.org): Many topics are covered here, from data science, gamification, and language to Web development and social entrepreneurship. Most courses are free and self-directed. The classes tend to be robust and high quality. Supported by multiple universities.
  • Udemy (www.udemy.com): Most courses cost at least $10. Variable quality. Variety of topics.
  • Iversity (www.iversity.org): Available in multiple languages, variety of topics. Variable quality. Supported by Springer Nature.
  • YouTube (www.youtube.com): This is good if you just need a quick reminder for how to do something.

PHYLISE BANNER has been designing, developing, and delivering learning experiences for over 25 years. She is a certified Learning Environment Architect and STC Fellow.

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