Choosing the Right Tools to Build Digital Learning

by Susan Fisher

If you’re like many technical communicators, you may fall into one of these categories when it comes to building a mobile learning (or any e-learning) program:

1)   What’s the big deal? It’s just a matter of picking up the nearest authoring software (e.g., Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate) and cranking out the screens.

2)   It’s a mystery. Only a trained programmer can do it.

Of course, as with most things, reality is not that clear-cut; it’s a continuum between these two extremes. Fortunately, with some basic knowledge you can determine the tools and resources required for your project — and talk intelligently to your developer or programmer if one is needed. Continue reading “Choosing the Right Tools to Build Digital Learning”

Ignite UX Michigan Draws Standing-Room-Only Crowd

Five minutes, twenty auto-advancing slides, and an excited standing-room-only crowd. Are you a little crazy? Not at all. You are a presenter at Ignite UX Michigan.

On October 21, 2014, thirteen people presented their thoughts about user experience at Ignite UX Michigan at Conor O’Neill’s in Ann Arbor.

Big Ideas

We heard about some big ideas: the user interface as a magic ritual; a future with many more do-it-yourselfers who will need to know the same basic design principles we use now and who will have limited resources; embedded user research as another approach to [qualitative] research, based on a summer teaching experience with Girls Who Code; and philosophical questions: How does LATCH—Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, and Hierarchy—a way to organize information, intersect with reality? How do we make reality?

End Users

However, the majority of the rest of the talks focussed on end users in one way or another.
One person talked about some common disabilities and how to design for the using good writing and good HTML design, while another gave some quick examples of good and bad design when telling stories with data visualization.

One speaker had an epiphany on a trip to Paraguay. Speaking no Spanish, the best visual and social cues she used were nonverbal ones. Her big questions were: What would it mean to be a traveler on a website? How can we extend the nonverbal communication of login pages and search bars to other areas?

A content strategist who is the one-person UX team at her company explained how to create plausible streamlined personas even while lacking time, budget, or even users.

Academic software design was critiqued, and suggestions were made for creating smaller products grounded in learning theory for the primary end users, teachers and students.

Business

There were also business-focussed talks. One speaker talked about how to have jobs come to you. A visual designer explained how UX people can work effectively with visual designers.

Another speaker talked about applying user experience to project management: What if, instead of having processes and procedures coming from the top down, workers became participants in creating their work environment?

The last presentation was a cautionary tale of a website project that got too focussed on implementation instead of goals. That speaker reminded us to solve the right problem at the right level for the right reason.

The program ended with a raffle: nine books and six posters, contributed by sponsors, were given away. Many people lingered to talk afterwards. The presentations were very stimulating, and many of the slides themselves were both interesting and well designed.

Looking Ahead: World Usability Day in the “D”

Whether you are conscious of it or not, successful technical communication always involves creating a good user experience. Your will have a chance to learn more about user experience on November 13, 2014, World Usability Day.

Final Program Recap

By Sharon McDonnell

Wednesday, June 25, 2014, a dozen or so of us met at Little Daddy’s in Livonia for our final program of the 2013/2014 season. We met for several reasons: to network, to acknowledge and appreciate, to brag about our work, to announce the changing of the guard, and to eat!

Secretary, Susan Fisher, presenting her Information Architecture wireframes for a software application.

The member showcase portion of the program featured several very interesting offerings:

  • Technical and marketing copy in print form authored in Word and Acrobat
  • Online training materials authored in Flare and Captivate
  • Information architecture wireframes for  a web application describing body systems
  • Portfolios in online and print formats

 

Each contributor briefly presented his or her offering and afterwards we perused them.

Our outgoing president, Tom Glennan, recapped his goals for this year and compared them to the accomplishments we have made. Most of the things he set out to do were done, so he can be proud of his effort. Continue reading “Final Program Recap”

Congratulations, Maryann Bowen!

Written by Tom Glennan

President Glennan presents dedicated volunteer Maryann Bowen with DCSACongratulations to Maryann Bowen, who was approved by the STC Board of Directors to receive the Distinguished Chapter Service Award (DCSA) for 2014! Maryann was recognized as a DCSA recipient at the recent STC Summit in Phoenix as well as in the online STC Notebook and in the May 2014 issue of Intercom.

The DCSA is bestowed in recognition of the recipient’s exemplary effort, energy and dedication to his or her community and its activities. Maryann was nominated for her commitment and service to the technical communication profession, and to STC-SM in particular. Whether it’s her service to the chapter by serving in a variety of elected and volunteer positions, her dedication to providing value for our chapter members or her tireless efforts to develop and present meaningful program events and speakers, Maryann has served as an inspiration and model we would all do well to emulate.

In recognition of her significant professional and personal accomplishments, Maryann was presented with her DCSA certificate at the STC-SM volunteer recognition dinner meeting held on June 25. Please make a point of congratulating and thanking Maryann when you see her at an upcoming STC-SM event.

 

Program Recap: I Could Never Be a Contractor…or So I Thought

Submitted by Sharon McDonnell

Wednesday, May 14 was the night. Blue Care Network headquarters in Southfield was the venue. The panel consisted of three presenters: Thomas Glennan (Technical Writing Solutions, LLC), Patricia Gómez Martz (Inkberry Solutions) and Mary Jo David (Write Away Enterprises).

The three panelists each took turns at the podium, followed by a question-and-answer session for all three. The common themes were: get an attorney, get an accountant, market yourself even when you already have projects to work on, and make time for yourself and your family (in other words, don’t work 24/7 or you will burn out).

The panelists shared many tips and tricks about how to run your business and set rates and gave some history of their experiences. Everyone gave positive feedback on this program; some who had been freelancing in the past said they learned things they didn’t know! One of the attendees said, “Great program last night! Even though I was an independent (freelancer/consultant/business owner?) for 15 years, I learned a lot from all of you — i.e., that I did a lot of things wrong! You gave us a ton of useful information that I’ll be able to use the next time I go solo. Thanks!”

Many thanks to Catherine Vera-Burgos and BCN for allowing us to use their beautiful venue. Many folks mentioned how nice and comfortable it was, not to mention the great audiovisual accommodations.

The Passion of Grant Writing

Written by Mary Jo David

Grant-writing presentation at WCC May 2, 2014On Thursday, April 24, 2014, STC/SM sponsored a Grant Writing 101 program for members and non-members alike. Three panelists provided valuable insight and anecdotes about their experiences assessing grant opportunities and writing grants. The panelists included:

  • Dawn Massie: Grants Manager at Hope Medical Clinic (Ypsilanti)
  • Laura Crane: Grant Administrator at Washtenaw Community College (Ann Arbor)
  • Scott Gifford: Vice President of Community Development & Grant Management at Matrix Human Services (Detroit)

The panelist perspectives were interesting and varied as they crossed the spectrum of non-profit and for-profit organizations. Dawn’s presentation included her thoughts about the qualities of a good grant writer. She also mentioned the unique opportunity she has at Hope Clinic to describe the good work being done there, not just for those awarding the grants but also for an internal audience of those who work at the clinic who don’t always realize the impact of their work. Laura focused on the grant process and emphasized the need to clearly show how the needs and goals of the organization requesting the grant align with, support, and further the purposes and vision of the grant funders. Scott stressed the importance of relationships and suggested that successful grant writers must recognize the importance of developing strong relationships with the grant funders long before these writers prepare and submit their grant requests. One message that came through loud and clear from all three panelists is that to be a good grant writer you need to be passionate about the organization you’re working for, the topics you’re writing about, or best case, both.

The program was well attended by a mix of professional writers and students. Early in his presentation, Scott inquired about the make-up of the audience: the vast majority had no experience in grant writing, and most were there just to learn the basics about what’s involved in this field.
As always, time was provided at the beginning of the evening to encourage networking among attendees. Special thanks to Lisa Veasey, Programs Manager for STC-SM, for organizing this program and to Washtenaw Community College for providing the venue.

Northeast Ohio/STC Chapter’s Program Meeting–“Component Content Management Systems”

submitted by Tom Glennan, STC/SM President, 4-18-14

Last week I had to the chance to attend the Northeast Ohio/STC Chapter’s program meeting on component content management systems (CCMS). Yes, it was a long, 3 ½ hour drive to Akron (I guess that’s why God invented XM Radio), but I am a member of the NEO chapter and hadn’t seen other chapter members or been to a meeting in quite a while. Besides, I was really interested in the topic since I currently have a client who has asked me to develop a content management system (CMS) for his small I/O device manufacturing company. So I figured this would be a great opportunity to learn more about what I was getting into (ignorance may be bliss, but it also usually ends up costing you customers).

The program speaker was Ms. Suzanne Mescan, Vice President of Marketing for Vasont Systems and a contributing author for the book Virtual Collaborative Writing in the Workplace: Computer-Mediated Communication Technologies and Processes. Ms. Mescan has worked in many aspects of the information management and publishing industry, including content management, editorial, art and design, project management, and pre-press production. So I figured that if anybody could help me with CMS, she could. Plus, the information announcing the program began with the words, “If you’re a technical writer who has no reason to go beyond MS Word, get ready to explore strange, new technologies…” – hey, this sounded just like me! Now I was hooked! Continue reading “Northeast Ohio/STC Chapter’s Program Meeting–“Component Content Management Systems””

The Brainiac Paradox

Written by Tom Glennan

Mark Cornille

STC/SM members and friends who attend our program meetings come for a variety of reasons and that was indeed the case for the “The Brainiac Paradox” program on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. For example, I attended “The Brainiac Paradox” event because I was curious about how Mark Cornillie, the author of the book by the same title and the featured speaker, defined the term “brainiac” and wondered whether I qualified as one. Mark Lockwood, a chapter member and past president, half-jokingly told me that he attended to “find out why he has a job as a technical communicator.” I’m guessing that some guests came just for the food. But regardless of the attendees’ personal reasons for going, the brainiac event was a great opportunity for everyone in the room to hear about Mark Cornillie’s investigation into the world of individuals whose superior mental abilities don’t always make them successful in other areas of their lives.

Mark explained that the brainiac paradox he investigated involves people who demonstrate recognized genius but are often socially “atypical” or disadvantaged. He asked why some people excel in one area of their lives but not in others. He discussed how the individuals he studied strongly display the characteristics of the brain’s left hemisphere (they are often logical, analytical, mathematical, and organized) but seem to be severely lacking in the brain’s right-hemisphere traits (they are typically not intuitive, empathetic, emotive, or holistic). He gave examples of the impact this paradox had on these individuals’ performance in both personal and organizational settings, and how hard it was for them to relate to others in team or collaborative settings. Continue reading “The Brainiac Paradox”

Recap of January 14 Program—Beyond the Heat Map: The Future of Eye-Tracking

Jon West

We were treated to a very interesting presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Jon West, Director of Marketing and Opportunities for LC Technologies, Inc., located in Fairfax Virginia, was our speaker and demonstrator. He began the evening by setting up his eye-tracking device and software so that before the talk the attendees could experience first hand how this technology works.

In his presentation, Jon covered the history of eye-tracking as it applies to human-computer interaction. The technology was developed as far back as 1898 and some of Jon’s slides showed mechanisms that appeared almost like medieval torture devices! Jon discussed the evolution of this technology through the years and told us about the implications that it has for today. Among the applications that currently benefit from this technology are: marketing research, usability, and medical. Jon also predicted that this technology would be used in the future with robots, cell phones and other devices.

After the talk, Jon again demonstrated the eye-tracker device to the attendees who were interested in having their eye movements calibrated and then analyzed to show how they were interacting with what they saw on the monitor.

We thank Jon West for a very informative and fun presentation and we also thank Cengage Learning® in Farmington Hills for allowing us to use their facilities and for arranging for the food and drinks.