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Two Recommendations to Overcome Two Important Training Challenges (Interview)

Jean Church is a Technical Editor and Writer for Northrop Grumman. His major strengths are in Configuration Management; creating training videos and presentations; writing Help Files; designing e-learning material; writing administrator, user, reference, and service manuals; and working with government documentation.

He can be contacted at

Q. From your perspective, what are a few of the greatest challenges facing the training profession today?

Two challenges I’ve faced are keeping my edge as a designer and watching my work be “in-sourced” to another department.

Be a student. Take classes when you can, even if they are free-bees online. Exposure to many training styles will help you redefine your own development and training style. Also, if you know what you like and don’t like as a student, you can let your experiences guide your hand as you design your training classes, elearning, and so on.

Be a mentor. Tools are getting easier to use. If you see the “tools of your trade” going to other departments to develop their own training programs, you may see your workload go down. Offer to help those departments get started. You can still keep that work in your department and set yourself up as the “mentor maven”.

Q. How are these challenges different from the ones trainers of the past have faced?

No one can be complacent anymore. Tools are coming and going, almost as fads. You need to create a mental “style” of design and training that fits well with the corporate image.

Q. What are some technology and research trends today that will have an impact on tomorrow?

For some, I think tomorrow’s “office” won’t be an office at all. It will be more “location orientation”—where people are physically located at the moment. For others, maybe more work from home programs, necessitating more special equipment and applications. For the military, I think more unmanned planes and vehicles will be employed. For medicine, I think more computer assisted care and surgeries will start to become common. For all school grades, more computers with online coursework. For many industries, I see many opportunities for training to prepare people to work in this new technological world.

Q. What might organizational learning look like 10 years from now?

Why wait 10 years? How about 5? I see more training material being available on more mobile devices, so the applications need to be more quickly explored and absorbed by training developers. Training styles need to shift to employ an interactive “let me try” style for audiences who are more sophisticated at younger ages and who are extremely used to manipulating all their mobile devices. Even the techno “pas” and “mas” have mobile devices.

Q. Could you envision a 21st century training program for us? What might it look like?

I see a program that is self-contained, that doesn’t have “handouts” or additional links to chase. I see programs designed by users, customized by users, like from a la carte menus. Course material would be portable, interactive, and “remember” the user. I’d LIKE to see a program that could be adapted to a user’s everyday work or to problems that he could bring to “class” so he could immediately see how the course could benefit him.

Q. What’s on your bookshelf?

I’m graphically oriented so, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam

Also, join the Society for Technical Communication (STC). It’s a great organization!!

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