Slides from My 2012 TCANZ Keynote: “The Future of the Technical Communication Brand”

This session explored the following:

“On the one hand, the field of technical communication existed long before the dot com bubble and the recent economic crisis. On the other hand, both have had a profound effect on the communication industry in general, and technical and professional communication in particular. This presentation explains how-and what it means moving forward.

Specifically, this presentation places the current situation of the field into a broader perspective of our history, describes the opportunity presented to technical communicators by the economic downturn and the return (we hope) to worldwide economic prosperity, identifies specific projects occurring around the globe that could reshape and strengthen the technical communication brand, and explains how unity of vision about technical communication is central to all of these efforts.”

To see the visuals, visit

Learn@Work Week and Informal Learning Basics Profiled

Concordia NOW, the online news source for Concordia University, recently profiled two special projects:


Slides from September 19, 2012 Presentation to the Quebec Chapter of CSTD

Follow the link below for a copy of the slides from the presentation, Who Links the Learning Team and the People We Serve? A Preliminary Report of a CSTD Study of the Job of the Learning Consultant, which my students and I delivered September 19, 2012 to the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.–september-2012.pdf

(And congratulations to my terrific students–Andre Valle, Emily Sheepy, Chantal Saylor, Hiba Sabri, Ofelia Ribeiro, and Chantal Castonguay–for their terrific work on this presentation.)


September 19: Presentation on the Job Description of the Performance Consultant

Please join my students and I as we present the results of our study on the job of the performance consultant to the Montreal Chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD):

Wednesday, September 19

6-8:30 pm

John Molson School of Business, Room MB-2130

1450 Guy Street (southwest corner of Guy and DeMaisonneuve)


The presentation, which presents the preliminary results of our study into the job description of the performance consultant, won’t be a boring research presentation–it’s geared towards practitioners.

More significantly–if you agree with our conclusions, it strongly suggests that the Training and Development profession has some serious re-thinking to do about this important job role.

Visit this link to enrol:

Still need more information?  Check out the information below (it’s also at the link).

Who Links the Learning Team and the People We Serve? A Preliminary Report of a CSTD Study of the Job of the Learning Consultant 

Wednesday, September 19

6-8:30 pm

John Molson School of Business, Room MB-2130

1450 Guy Street (southwest corner of Guy and DeMaisonneuve).

About the Session: Since Dana and Jim Robinson formally identified the role in the 1990s, many workplace learning and performance specialists have aspired to work in the value-added role of a performance consultant.  But what does the performance consultant really do?

After comparing popular notions about the job with evidence from actual job descriptions, this presentation provides participants with a research-validated, general job description for the role and links that description to the CSTD Competency Model. Using that information, this session concludes by suggesting specific hiring and performance management strategies that learning leaders can use with their performance consultants, and professional development tactics that aspiring performance consultants might consider.


  • Using research-validated information as a guide, differentiate a performance consultant from other jobs in workplace learning and performance.
  • Using a research-validated job description as a guide, identify specific hiring and performance management strategies for working with or as a performance consultant.
  • Using the job description and the CSTD Competency Model as guides, identify specific professional development strategies for aspiring performance consultants.

Speakers:  Saul Carliner, CTDP, Chantal Castonquay, Ofelia Ribeiro, Hiba Sabri, Chantal Saylor, Emily Sheepy, and Andre Valle


  • By Metro: Guy-Concordia Metro.  Take the Guy Street exit to the street level. Exit onto the street.  The building will be opposite of you when exit the Metro station.  Cross Guy street (the wider street).  Enter the building.  Go to the second floor.  Look for Room MB-2130.  (There is an information desk near the main floor entrance should you want to ask someone for directions.)
  • Street address: 1450 Guy Street.  Although no parking is available in the building, several surface lots and on-street parking spots are available nearby.

Learning at the Water Cooler

Is chatting by the water cooler or engaging in an online conversation wasting time on the company clock? Not necessarily, says Concordia’s Saul Carliner, director of the Education Doctoral Program and associate professor in the Department of Education.

Both can be valuable learning experiences — what education experts call informal learning.

Read the entire feature about Informal Learning Basics at Concordia University’s Alumni website:

What Does the Transactions Publish? What Do Transactions’ Readers Want to Read?

What does the Transactions Publish? What do Transactions’ Readers Want to Read?, which I co-wrote with Nancy Coppola, George Hayhoe, and Helen Grady and was published in the fourth quarter 2011 issue of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication,characterizes the state of the material published in the peer-reviewed literature on technical communication and contrasts it with the preferences of readers of the Transactions.

As the abstract of the article notes:

Research Problem: The change in editorship of the Transactions on Professional Communication provides an opportunity for investigate the match between the content published by the journal and the content sought by its readers and to assess the uniqueness of the niche that it fills among peer-reviewed journals on professional and technical communication.

Research Questions: What content does the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication publish? How does that compare to the content published by other journals in the field? And what content do readers of the Transactions want to read?

Literature Review: Researchers in most fields occasionally analyze the entire body of literature within their disciplines as a result of a particular request or a research initiative.  The general purpose of these analyses is to assess the current state of the literature, although each analysis usually has a more specific focus that affects the entire field it covers.  Such reviews have had goals like identifying the leading works in a field, assessing the state of the literature of the field, providing a basis for changing the direction of a journal or body of literature, and assessing the alignment among different parts of  a body of literature. This study is rooted in a particular study intended to prepare for a transition among editors of a journal.

Methodology: To identify what the Transactions publishes and its unique niche among peer-reviewed journals in the field, researchers identified all peer-reviewed articles published by four major journals in professional and technical communication between January 2006 and December 2010: the Transactions, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Technical Communication, and Technical Communication Quarterly. Using the STC Body of Knowledge schema, two researchers coded the subjects of articles and adapting a schema by Klein (1999), they categorized the type of research underlying the articles.  To identify reader preferences, the other two researchers surveyed members of the IEEE Professional Communication Society (publisher of the Transactions) about their preferences for content and types of research (using the same schema).

Results and Discussion: The studies provide insights into the extent of alignment between  the material published by the Transactions on Professional Communication and the preferences of its readers on the types of topics covered and the methods used to generate them.

To see the complete article, visit  (Note: Only free to members of the IEEE Professional Communication Society and to those entering through university libraries with a subscription to IEEExplore.)

Ten Tips for Preparing a Business Case to Successfully “Sell” Major Technical Communication Initiatives

Are you trying to receive funding for a new content management system (CMS)? Do you need to convince your organization to invest in presenting content as a mobile application? Are your requests for funding regularly refused?

In any of these situations, perhaps you have not persuaded the decision makers and the people who advise them—decision influencers—that your proposed course of action can benefit the organization. Often, that’s because the decision makers and influencers feel that the proposal is either incomplete, that other options exist but have not been considered, or that the proposal is overly optimistic.

To avoid such problems, prepare a business case before requesting the support for a proposed course of action. My article Ten Tips for Preparing a Business Case to Successfully “Sell” Major Technical Communication Initiatives  in the June 2012 issue of Intercom provides 10 tips for preparing a business case.

To see all of the tips, visit the article at“sell”-major-technical-communication-initiatives/ (Note that an STC membership is required to view the entire article.)

Upcoming Featured Presentation at e-Learn Conference in Montreal

Really Ready for Prime Time?  A Framework for Considering the Practical Challenges Facing “Game-Changing” Educational Technologies


e-Learn 2012 Conference

Thursday, October 11,

Sheraton Hotel

201 Rene Levesque Boulevard West

Montreal, Quebec

 Will MOOCs really change the game in higher education?  Will social media really change the way we teach?  And by the way, did computers really change the classroom experience?  British sociologist Neil Selwyn argues that, because educational technology “is essentially a positive project,” it tends to focus only on the positive and that gets in the way of “mak[ing] these technologies happen.”  He suggests, instead, that educational technologists “engag[e] actively with the negative aspects of education and technology and explor[e] how best to withstand them.”  This session explores how to do so.  Through an interactive activity, participants experience roadblocks in implementing a new educational technology.  Through the debriefing of that activity, I present a research-based framework that educational technologists can use to identify contextual, educational, and financial challenges that might affect the implementation of a technology, illustrate the framework with the cases of real-world technologies, and suggest how to appropriately communicate those challenges when discussing new educational technologies with various stakeholders

Technical Communication and Training: How Similar Are

How similar are technical communication and training?  Although some characterize the two as nearly identical, a closer look at their occupational cultures suggests several subtle, but significant, differences exist.

My recent article, Different Approaches to Similar Challenges: An Analysis of the Occupational Cultures of the Disciplines of Technical Communication and Training, published in the second quarter 2012 issue of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, explores these differences.
Here’s the abstract of the article:

Problem:  Perhaps it is presumptuous of Technical Communicators to assume that, because some of their skills that might be employed in developing and delivering training materials, that those skills alone are qualifications to work in training, much less the source by which the processes of Training might be examined.  Using data from one survey and one interview-based studies of the work of Technical Communication and Training groups, as well as participation on committees responsible for certification examinations for Technical Communicators and Trainers, this tutorial analyzes differences in the occupational cultures of the two fields.

Key Concepts:  The work differs: Technical Communicators produce content that explains how to perform tasks; trainers produce programs that develop skills that a third party can verify.  To do so, Technical Communicators follow a process that emphasizes writing and production; Trainers follow a process that emphasizes the analysis of intended goals and evaluation of whether those goals have been achieved.  The guiding philosophy of Technical Communication is usability; the guiding philosophy of Training is performance.  Although both disciplines are rooted in cognitive psychology, the primary intellectual roots of Technical Communication are in rhetoric and composition, while the primary intellectual roots are in education.  The preferred research methods of Technical Communication are critical; the preferred research methods of Trainers are empirical qualitative and quantitative methods.

Key Lessons: As a result, Technical Communication professionals and researchers who want to work in Training should approach the field in a culturally appropriate way by (1) recognizing distinctions between a communication product and a training program, (2) recognizing distinctions in work processes, (3) recognizing distinctions in language, (4) recognizing differences in values and (5) acknowledging that an academic discipline of training exists.

To see the complete article, visit  (Note: Only free to members of the IEEE Professional Communication Society and to those entering through university libraries with a subscription to IEEExplore.)
Informal Learning Basics

Supplementing and illuminating the book, Informal Learning Basics

Museums: A Free-Choice Learning Experience

Reviews, Reflections, and Research on Learning through Museums

Malls Across America

Reviews of Malls and an Occasional Shopping Tip

Designing e-Learning

A fine site

Information Design

Models, Processes, and Techniques

The Commerce of Content

Managing People, Projects, and Business on Training and Communication Projects