Some weeks ago, I visited Visuon to talk about virtual reality and Visuon’s tools for producing VR content. I was naturally interested in Visuon’s VR CMS, as all sorts of content management systems are my bread and butter. After talking and demoing, we started to discuss the future of learning, training, and virtual reality, and you can read about that on Visuon’s blog.
Since that, I’ve been thinking about the past, present, and future of both technical communication and my career. Most technical communicators have started their career working with paper and prints. The main concern was the text, or the images, or the co-operation of those two. Then along came videos and animations, and we had to learn to design things that weren’t static anymore. And now, we’re thinking about how to reuse and single-source content in different virtual reality/augmented reality/mixed reality applications. The advances in technology have also changed the channels to which we produce our content, and that’s the natural evolution of this profession. But it’s not just about the technology, even though that is a big deal for technical communication. It’s mostly about learning. Technical communication is all about teaching and learning.
I’m an author, but I identify also as a teacher (and not just because I have taught short courses at the Tampere University for years and currently online at Cork Institute of Technology). Therefore I’m not only interested in how people read, but also how they learn. Look, for example, at the article about learning in Wikipedia: there’s a lot to be interested about!
For me, the “three learning styles” thinking is very familiar, as that’s what I’ve been taught. In case you’ve forgotten, the three learning styles are:
- auditory (learn by hearing and listening)
- visual (learn by reading or seeing pictures)
- tactile (learn by touching and doing)
It has been recommended for years that you should provide something for each of these groups. However, even though people have their own learning styles or rather, learning preferences, these preferences may not matter.
I believe that it’s always the engagement that matters most. You have to provide people engaging (learning) content. Quite often that means visual, moving content. Naturally there are people (much like me) who prefer text and who don’t like to watch a video because they want to proceed at their own speed instead of at a speed that someone else dictates (yes, there’s always the pause button, but still). And naturally, there are people who dedicate a lot of time checking out the materials that are provided to them, and people (much like me) who have a shorter attention span than a goldfish and move on immediately if the first bit of content doesn’t pique their interest. It’s all about knowing your audience, and how to engage them!
It will be interesting to see how the technical content that we create and its channels continue to evolve, and how do we transfer the know-how of producing text and images to the know-how of producing content for virtual reality. Or, will it still be just about providing the right amount of information to the right person at the right time in the right way?