Thursday, February 5, 2009

Technical Communication studies now back on at George Brown College

Way back when, after I got back from Japan and decided to take up studies in technical communication, I went to George Brown College and took classes to get their Certificate in Technical Communication. A few years after, the program seemed to have disappeared.

Now, however, it's back. At the end of November and in early December (yes, I've been slow getting this onto the blog) I exchanged a few email messages with Lynne Kurylo of GBC and Scott Bootes, the lead instructor in the program. My first conversation was with Lynne:

Milan Davidovic: I see at your site that you are offering a "Revised" Technical Communications Certificate. Can you tell us about the "Revised" part?

Lynne Kurylo: We are introducing a certificate program consisting of six new courses which focus on the principles of technical communications practice and address current specializations or market niches. The courses are short (21 to 36 hours) and designed so that students can build a portfolio as they progress through the program.

MD: So would it be fair to say, then, that the course has been revised to be shorter and more concentrated?

LK: You are correct, the courses are slightly shorter and more concentrated, most are 36 hours in length with a couple at 21 hours (versus the previous 42 hours). The other difference is that all 6 courses are compulsory, no electives. The courses are structurally aligned so they fit together and address the use of multiple media. There is an additional pre-requisite now, students must be familiar with the use of Microsoft Word.

MD: Judging from the courses listed at the site, the certificate program doesn't require students to take classes in specific tools, such asFrameMaker, InDesign, and so on. This is a departure from the past,but an interesting one. Can you tell us about it?

LK: The tool requirements are integrated into each course. Courses will take place in labs using the appropriate tools as needed.

MD: What would you say differentiates GBC's Technical Communications Certificate program from other similar offerings in the GTA?

LK: This is a part-time study program offered in a classroom setting. The core courses can be completed in six semesters. The courses offer a broad exposure to important topics including managing and consulting.

MD: When I looked, I saw that half the compulsory courses are "under development". Can you tell us when you expect these to be ready?

LK: We are rolling out the first three courses between January and June, 2009. The remaining three courses will be offered between September, 2009 and April, 2010. Details of the three remaining course dates will appear in the 2009-10 Continuing Education Calendar, available in early July.

MD: Of the three courses that are ready, can you tell us about who is teaching them?

LK: Scott Bootes, our lead instructor, will teach COMM 9093 Technical Writing and Analysis starting in January. He is an experienced teacher and a practicing technical communicator. We are in the process of recruiting additional instructors.

MD: Is there anything else you'd like us in the technical communication community about this program?

LK: We are confident that this new program presents an up-to-date introduction to the key principles and skills required for planning, developing and producing publications. It is intended for those at entry level and for those who want to develop existing skills and knowledge.

My second conversation was with Scott Bootes:

MD: How is this new program different from past offerings?

SB: The new program takes a generalist approach so that learners are exposed to technical writing in a variety of markets beyond just software. The core structure has four required courses that integrate concepts and practice in a clear progression from writer, to compositor (or designer), to editor, to manager. The "focus" courses are offered to help students acclimate to specialized roles. Business process and software writing are currently offered but more specialties may be offered depending on how the program goes.

MD: How does this program seek to differentiate itself from similar offerings by other institutions (Seneca, Humber, et al.)?

SB: The George Brown program is organized for learners who want part-time studies that provide the structure and interaction of in-class experience. Some blended and on-line activity will be used to complete the learning but the focus is on face-to-face communication. Humber's program is now run entirely on-line while Seneca is a full-time program. However, no one else offers "focus" courses to orientation students into specific markets.

MD: What do you see as the most important aspect of educating new technical communicators?

SB: Production ability is the "technical" skill that new communicators learn as they go along. While it can be picked up anywhere, the core courses of this program cover skill development in a comprehensive manner. At the same time, we offer them a chance to "live the experience" so that these skills can be placed in context. Covering both dimensions helps students learn what it is they want to get out of the profession and how to negotiate for what they want.

So, if you're in the market for technical communication classes, go give these ones a look. And if you're in any of these classes, leave a comment on this blog post and share your thoughts.