I recently joined Allen’s team, bringing my background of collegiate instruction and professional editing with me. I have quickly discovered that many of the principles in solid instruction are the same, whether they are applied to a university student or to a web-based learner. As an instructor, I routinely taught various rhetoric and composition courses. My students were very aware of my two-tiered mantra: Know your audience, and once you know your audience, write to them. At Allen, this translates to, know your audience and then design the instruction they need.
Any person in the writing profession knows that audience assessment is essential to effective communication. Anyone in education knows that clear instruction begins with solid content and an honest audience analysis. Of course, audience analysis is only a starting point; you can’t neglect the content and presentation. You can have the best ideas out there, but if you don’t present them in a way your audience will understand and relate to then you will have no substantive impact. Additionally, even the most glitzy presentations can only distract learners from poorly written content for a short period of time. One of the most important qualities I’ve seen at Allen is the desire and ability to capture solid ideas and clearly present them to various types and levels of learners.
I’ve been reminded of this design process in my current project, which is an instructor-led training course that needs to capture the specific voice of the client while being general enough to reach the various types of instructors who will be trained on the material. It must then effectively instruct the learners of the course about the client and its products. The challenge is seamlessly meeting the needs of all three groups: the company, the instructors, and the learners. The known audience base of the company is easiest to assess since I have direct access to their employees and materials. The unknown audience of individual instructors is a little harder access, and the unknown learners are the hardest to access because they aren’t all on board yet.
The fun part is learning everything I can about the company and their specific voice and presentation style and then working up a typical demographic for their instructors and learners. That process is under way, which means the best part of the process is as well—creating the learning atmosphere that meets the style of the clients while effectively instructing the learners. And, at the end of the day, that is what good learning is all about—producing the best instruction possible for specified discourse communities.