Technical Writing Tips for E-learning Solutions

Anuradha Technical Writing
Technical Writing Tips for E-learning Solutions

What’s the big deal about E-learning, one might ask. It’s just delivering training content online. How much more complex can it be as compared to face to face training? Get a Subject Matter Expert to speak or write about the subject. And as a technical writer, all one needs to do is get the video tutorial or slide presentation up and running on the internet. Right? Wrong. Building an E-learning solution is not a one-step process, it’s a universe in itself!

The purpose of developing an e-learning solution could be manifold. Let’s list down the most common business use cases where e-learning is employed.

Employee On-boarding – Training newly recruited employees on products, technologies and the company ecosystem. Most corporates have replaced classroom training sessions with computer-based training. The effectiveness of the training is measured by the speed with which the new employee becomes a committed and productive member of the team. Making these pieces of training experiential and interactive is the best way to increase their effectiveness. Technical writers must be able to curate training content with case studies, interactive demos, and hands-on training.

Product support and maintenance – Troubleshooting and preventive maintenance of product deployments on remote site locations rely heavily on e-learning. Companies use online, interactive learning methods to guide the on-site support team and the client team. This works for both periodic preventive maintenance and emergency defect fixes within SLAs. You get your work done with a fraction of the resources deployed earlier.

Reskilling training and certification – Keeping the company’s human resource abreast with the latest developments in technology and business, management is a critical responsibility for the HR department of a company. Getting the entire team to dedicate several working days exclusively for training them isn’t feasible, as product delivery suffers in the mean-time. Instead, setting up a credit points based e-Learning package personalized for each employee is a very effective solution. It allows the employee to complete the training at their own pace and time. As and when an employee completes a training module and clears the assessment criterion, he or she earns credit points that get counted against his/her performance appraisal. The effectiveness of the training and the associated employee performance can be tracked on an individual level.

User On-boarding – All the above use cases were within the organization’s workforce. But when it comes to facilitating a user to adopt a product/solution easily, a technical writer needs to think from an ‘outside-in’ perspective. This use case is more prevalent among business users of B2B products, and complements the Product Adoption business function. The e-learning modules must focus on speedy and complete adoption as the end goal. Many large corporations spend billions of dollars on deploying enterprise application solutions within their company only to witness poor adoption rates, caused due to a lack of understanding among end-users with regards to software usage.

So, what can technical writers do about e-learning?

The first thing a tech writer has to do is to understand the scope and wide application of e-learning across business functions. The responsibilities are not just limited to creating and publishing training material. They begin much before that and have an end-to-end impact on the product lifecycle. The key tasks and responsibilities of the technical documentation team (overlapping with the Learning and Development team in this context) are divided under Pre-training, training and post-training phases. Here are some tips applicable to each one of these phases.

Technical Writing Tips For Every Phase Of Training

Pre-training phase

  • Deploying an LMS framework in the organization helps to formalize the various steps involved in curating training content.
  • Preparing an L&D roadmap with quarterly targets in consultation with the product teams. Skill gap analysis of trainees is prepared to see where the major lacunae are.
  • Mapping the skill requirements for each project/department with the corresponding training modules to be designed.
  • Consolidating your existing knowledge repository, built over the years. using sources like customer query database, manuals of older versions, client case studies, recordings of classroom training and so on.
  • Picking the appropriate training format for each skill gap. Gaps in theoretical knowledge are to be addressed by technical modules and case studies. If the lacunae are visible during implementation, customer focus or non-technical skills, the training needs to be experiential and hands-on. For this purpose, it is ideal to plan on-the-job training assignments.
  • Figuring out the intervention points where the historical training repository can be plugged into the e-learning modules. This can also serve as additional reading material for offline reference.
  • Matching the training calendars with that of the recruitment and project team. This ensures that training is planned well before the task at hand and the team has sufficient bandwidth.
  • Just because it is an online format, all training content does not have to be video-based. Product demos can rely on videos. Whereas for technology training, slide shows may work better. Audio transcripts, textual prompts work for on-site engineers who might have access only to limited network bandwidth. They wouldn’t prefer data-heavy formats. Instead, they might prefer content that’s mobile-friendly. The format is not a constraint, it is the responsibility of the tech writer to pick the most appropriate one for the purpose.

When training is in progress

  • Personalized training console for each trainee must be available with a dashboard where they can assess their current status.
    Tracking trainee’s learning progress in real-time. Trackers assessing the rate of course completion can be embedded into the e-learning application.
  • For experiential learning activities, tech writers can design shared team assignments, they work well.
  • The order in which training modules are presented is important. It also varies depending on the employee’s role and project situation. Unless the basic foundational modules are completed, the trainee must not be allowed to skip to higher levels.
    Training related notifications, reminders can be set up for trainees’ convenience.

Post-training phase

Technical Writing Tips for E-learning Solutions

  • Course completion and scoring must be linked to the trainee’s performance appraisal and future growth in the company. Only then will the training activity get the focus that it deserves.
  • Analytics is a key part of an e-learning solution. Training administrators and project managers must be able to track user views, completion status and test assignment results for their teams.
  • Collect feedback from every trainee on content effectiveness, trainer competence and the relevance to their work. With every cycle of feedback, the e-learning modules need to be improved iteratively.

Final Thoughts

Technical writers need to bear one critical point in mind. Curating e-learning solutions to enhance the L & D function of your company is no different from designing and delivering an entire product. Your employees become your end-users. After completing the e-learning intervention, your workforce must be able to show tangible improvement in their deliverables. That’s the real test of whether the training has delivered the intended outcome. Top Fortune Companies use Whatfix for their content authoring and training delivery needs as it provides interactive and contextual in-app guidance. The interactive guides will help you become more productive by providing you a quick and effective way to create Technical Documentation. Request for a personalized demo to know more about the capabilities offered.

Anuradha

Anuradha

Anuradha is a freelance writer cum corporate trainer in the IT / telecom domain with over 16 years experience. She served in senior technical and management positions in Huawei and TCS for 10+ years. Then gave up the traditional corporate ladder to go solo - in order to escape horrendous city traffic and to be her own boss !
Anuradha
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