For Consulting and Contact Information

For Consulting and Contact Information

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Interview on Packt Publishing

Packt Publishing is the publisher of my book User Training for Busy Programmers. Based on that book, they published an interview with me on their site. We discuss some of the hard, real-world lessons I've learned as a technical trainer. It's a quick read, so if you're interested in training, check it out.

"User Training for Busy Programmers" is not just for programmers

I wrote User Training for Busy Programmers because I felt sorry for the programmers I worked with. Several of the software companies I have worked for had their programmers develop and deliver user training for their product. This was usually because the company started small, and did not have the budget to hire a full-time trainer. So the programmers were given the task of end user training. As the company grew, the programmers became too busy with programming to continue training and they became profitable enough to bring in a full-time trainer. In those cases, the programmers were very relieved to have me join the company!

I realized how common it was for small and medium sized software companies to have programmers, customer service representatives, and even salespeople conduct end user training. While many of these people have a natural talent for teaching, they are not professional trainers. They usually learn how to develop and deliver a software class "the hard way," by trial-and-error. And their employers have no intention of bringing in a professional trainer to take over the end user training. I wrote this book for them.

So don't be fooled by the title. Even if you're not a programmer, if you've been told to develop a software training class and you don't know where to start, this book is for you.

Why did I write Moodle Teaching Techniques?

I collect techniques. Techniques for writing clearly, techniques for constructing e-learning courses, techniques for making the best tiramis├╣ (there is more to life than work, no?). When I began writing my collection of teaching techniques for Moodle, my intent was to add them to my first book, Moodle E-Learning Course Development. By the time I collected a handful of Moodle teaching techniques, I realized that they didn't belong in the same book as the general how-to instructions for using Moodle. Is this because the techniques in Moodle Teaching Techniques are more advanced than those in Moodle E-Learning Course Development? Partly, but if that were the only reason, I would have folded them into the first book anyway. It's because these techniques are developed and written from a different point of view.

When I wrote Moodle E-Learning Course Development, I started with Moodle and worked towards creating an online course that adheres to good teaching practices. The book is organized according to the workflow that works best in Moodle: create your course, add static course material, then add interactive material, then add social material, then customize the roles for your course...and so on. The approach in this book is to start with what Moodle can do and work towards creating an effective e-learning experience. The keystrokes and clicks in this book apply only to Moodle.

When I wrote Moodle Teaching Techniques, I started with a list of proven learning principles. I then developed Moodle techniques that used these principles. Some of these techniques work around Moodle's limitations, which makes them inappropriate for a book on using Moodle as it was intended. Others combine features, or use features in unexpected ways. In each case, the approach in this book is to start with a research-based learning principle and work towards creating an effective e-learning experience. Moodle Teaching Techniques is less about keystrokes, and and more about teaching techniques. You could probably apply all of the techniques in this book to another LMS, like ATutor or ILIAS. The keystrokes and clicks would change, but the most important parts of the book would not.

So here are two approaches that hopefully take you to the same place: creating an effective, engaging e-learning experience for your students. And that's the result all e-learning developers are striving for, no matter what tool we use.