e-Learning – A Growing Field For Technical Writers

A number of companies are migrating towards e-learning. This migration has opened up new opportunities for technical writers.

e-Learning can be defined as training programs delivered via Web Based Training (WBT) or Computer Based Training (CBT). Admittedly, these terms are a bit confusing. You might ask isn’t Web Based Training part of Computer Based Training?

Here’s how the e-learning world distinguishes one from the other:

Web Based Training means delivering training via the internet or a company’s intranet.

Computer Based Training is training delivered via a CDROM or DVD. In most cases, this type of e-learning is used when the end user has a very slow internet connection or limited bandwidth.

Now that we’ve defined e-learning, let’s look at how this can be a goldmine for technical writers. Businesses and companies are investing in e-learning to train and prepare their employees for their jobs. Due to the cost and delivery advantages of using the internet or intranet, there is no limit to the amount of training companies can create.

A number of companies are switching from classroom based learning to e-learning. A new survey by Cegos, part of Europe’s largest learning and development organization, reveals some encouraging data about the future of e-learning. According to the survey, the biggest area of growth next year will be e-learning, with nearly three quarters (73%) of organizations planning to use e-learning for professional development in 2009, and 36% saying they will increase their e-learning efforts.

Since e-learning involves an end user interacting with a computer to receive the training course, technical writers are necessary to create the course content.

Note that there is a difference between a technical writer and an instructional designer. The role of an instructional designer is to design the training course. This involves doing front end research, selecting which computer applications to use for course delivery, working with graphic artists and determining what goes into each screen of the training course.

A technical writer writes the content for each screen of the program. Often, the role of a technical writer and instructional designer may overlap. But a technical writer is not an instructional designer and vice versa.

Put e-learning on your list when searching for your next job or project. It will give you a break from writing user guides and manuals. And it will give you the opportunity to use your skills to create something that can be distributed all over the world.