Thursday, January 27, 2011

Announcing Associate Editors for IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

I am pleased to announce that the following people will serve as Associate Editors of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.  

Joining as Associate Editor-in-Chief, a new position, is Constance Kampf, an associate professor with the Aarhus School of Business at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark.  Kampf will oversee the ongoing sections of the journal as well as special issues.  

Returning as Associate Editor for Teaching Cases and Tutorials is Nicole Amare, an associate professor at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama, USA. 

Returning as Associate Editor for Book Reviews is consultant, Tiffany Craft Portewig, from Texas, USA.

And serving as Associate Editor for Special Projects is Jo Mackiewicz, an associate professor at Auburn  University in Auburn, Alabama, USA, and the outgoing editor-in-chief of the Transactions. 

I expect to name two more Associate Editors by mid-year, so stay tuned for announcements. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Check out my other blog

I have a blog that specifically explores Managing Training and Technical Communication Groups.

It was created to continue the discussions of basic principles and practices in people, project, and business management for training and technical communication groups from my academic course, Administration of Educational Technology Units, and professional courses, Training Manager Certificate Program, Technical Communication Manager Certificate Program, and the upcoming workshop on writing business cases.

Some recent posts:

  • Employment Issues and Keith Olberman's Firing (Do I get political? The only way to find out is to check it out)
  • Can Bosses Be Friends?

Visit the blog at Managing Training and Technical Communication Groups

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Guide to Transferable Credentials--and a Certification Decoder--for Trainers

From Training magazine online:
Thinking about certifying as a training and development professional? You certainly have many choices. U.S.-based professionals can choose among the CPLP, CPT, and CTT and those living in Canada have national certifications.
In addition to spelling out those acronyms, this article identifies the certifications available to training and development professionals. But first, it places certification within the broader scope of external credentials, and describes the role of transferable credentials in attesting to the qualifications of training and development professionals.
Check out the entire article at

Recent News about Higher Education that Caught My Eye

Three themes unite news that I've recently read about higher education.

The first is for-profit colleges and universities.  They've been in the news because the U.S.   The U.S. Department of Education placed restrictions on the programs for which it will underwrite student loans.   The qualifying criteria are the percentage of graduates who are able to pay down the principal on their student loans and the ability of those students to get jobs that will allow them to pay off the student loans.  The majority of graduates who have difficulty repaying their student loans come from programs that do not meet these criteriap--and the majority of the schools offering those programs are for-profit colleges and universities.

Some successful American attorneys who recently asked me about my opinions on the situation, felt that the regulations limit student choice, ultimately amounting to government control of educational choice.
I didn't respond that the government controls choice by which programs it funds and whicih ones it doesn't (an issue for all Canadian universities, and many public universities in the U.S.).

More significantly, why should the government underwrite loans students won't be able to afford? The attorneys with whom I was speaking said that the conditions leading to the mortgage crisis of 2008 had already established a precedent and implied that was OK.

But is it OK?  Most students only make the choice about attending college once, maybe twice.  Most are not as fully informed in making this decision as might be preferred.  So it's not surprising that stories frequently appear in the news that report on recruiting practices by for-profit colleges that target particularly vulnerable populations or steer applicants to programs  that are not likely to lead to success (such as telling convicted felons that they have futures in criminology and education, where the majority of jobs require a clean record).

If the promise is that higher education in a professional discipline is going to lead to gainful employment and taking out a student loan is great investment in one's own future, shouldn't some checks exist in the system to make sure that colleges can actually meet these claims?

To learn more about the new regulations on student loans that affect for-profit colleges and universities, check out the New York Times article, Rifts Show at Hearing on For-Profit Colleges by Tamar Lewin, at

To learn about the types of practices that led to these types of regulations, check out Profits and Scrutiny for Colleges Courting Veterans by Eric Lipton at

And to find out what's at stake, consider John Philpott's argument that the number of graduates might exceed actual needs, at  Philpott is not alone in arguing that higher education should not be the automatic choice for students; it's a question that Anya Kamenetz frequently raises in her book DIY U.

The second theme is the assessment of the performance of university professors.  Simon Head's  The Grim Threat to British Universities, from the January 13, 2011 New York Review of Books, (, is ostensibly a review of  the 2006-2011 strategic plan of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the books, The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers by Jack Schuster and Martin Finkelstein and Academic Capitalism and the New Economy by Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades.

Head explores the impact of the introduction of performance metrics into the higher education system of the UK and their origin in American consulting firms.  Head warns that such a system could eventually find its way to other higher education systems, including the U.S.

Head objects to such systems, commenting that
The British universities, Oxford and Cambridge included, are under siege from a system of state control that is undermining the one thing upon which their worldwide reputation depends: the caliber of their scholarship. The theories and practices that are driving this assault are mostly American in origin, conceived in American business schools and management consulting firms. They are frequently embedded in intensive management systems that make use of information technology (IT) marketed by corporations such as IBM, Oracle, and SAP. They are then sold to clients such as the UK government and its bureaucracies, including the universities. This alliance between the public and private sector has become a threat to academic freedom in the UK, and a warning to the American academy about how its own freedoms can be threatened.

The theme is a timely one as my own employer considers instituing its own system of performance metrics.  On the one hand, no system of metrics is flawless.  On the other hand, systems that track activity and results often provides useful insights into effectiveness and impact.

Consider this example.  

Suppose I weigh myself with all of my clothes on, with keys and a lot of change in my pockets and my heaviest boots on.  My weight will admittedly be higher than it might be if I stepped on the scales without clothes.  But if I had gained more than 5 pounds, I'd still have a hard time arguing that I had gained weight.

By the same token, suppose I had published just one peer reviewed article in the past 2 years, had not generated any research funding, had not participated in any committees, and had lousy teaching evaluations.  I could probably quibble with the numbers but the reality remains the same: my performance would be something short of what's expected for a university professor.

Over the years, I've observed as many organizations have introduced evaluation systems. Some organizations introduce evaluation systems with great fanfare then ignore them.  Other organizations introduce evaluation systems with promises that poor performance won't be used against the people and organizations evaluated, then go and use poor performance against them anyway.  And in a few situations, organizations use evaluation as a tool for continuous improvement.

Fearing that the evaluation systems will be used against them, some advocate actively resisting the evaluation process.  It's an understandable fear; indeed, many people have lived it.

But if the same people aspire to greater things, then they must embrace the  evaluation process all the same, because it's the only means of finding out if the individual or organization is actually making progress against these greater goals.  Flawed or not, the evaluation can help people figure out what's working and what isn't working, so they can effectively focus their efforts at improvement.

The last theme in articles that have recently caught my eyes is learning (a surprising topic for higher education, I know).

  • As the behaviorist - constructivist battles continue to rage, comes a piece of evidence that will probably boost the behaviorist camp.  In a controlled experiment, published in the journal Science,  students who studied for a recall test (the behaviorist model) were able to retain more information from the same message that students who used concept maps (a constructivist learning tool), studied repeatedly, or were assigned to a control group.  Check out the abstract of the original article at  and reaction in a New York Times article at l. 
  • As evidence continues to mount about grade inflation, some universities are trying to address the problem.  In A Quest to Explain What Grades Really Mean, New York Times reporter Tamar Lewin describes some of the many attempts by universities in the U.S.  Some have instituted targets for the percentages of As and Bs that professors can assign,  Others won't do that, but will try to put grades in context for those who review transcripts, providing information such as the average; a high grade could lose some of its lustre if the reviewer learns that an A was the average grade in the class.  (Of course, that assumes that people reading the transcripts are really reading them closely.)  See the entire article at

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Upcoming Presentations During the First Half of 2011

Following are the presentations that I am scheduled to give in the first half of 2011.
They tend to focus in three areas:
  • Specific issues and techniques in instructional and information design
  • Issues in the business and management skills of groups that design and develop learning and communication materials for the workplace
  • Reports of my recent research

Slides for these presentations are typically available through the Concordia University repository about 10 working days after a presentation. Slides and papers for older presentations are currently available.
Presentation Event Location Date
Spending on Training Stuck in Neutral Training 2011 San Diego, California February 5-6, 2011
An Integrative Review of Literature on Perceptions of Training Held by Clients (with Colleen Bernard) Academy of Human Resource Development Research Conference in the Americas Schaumberg, Illinois February 23-26, 2011
Bridging Research and Practice: An Interim Report on 5 Pilot Projects Academy of Human Resource Development Research Conference in the Americas Schaumberg, Illinois February 23-26, 2011
Certification and the Branding of HRD Academy of Human Resource Development Research Conference in the Americas Schaumberg, Illinois February 23-26, 2011
Research-Validated Practices for Designing Effective e-Learning The User Assistance Conference by WritersUA Long Beach, California March 13, 2011
Eight Design Lessons We Can Learn from Museums Learning Solutions Conference of the e-Learning Guild Orlando, Florida March 23, 2011
Out of Range or Out of Touch: Verifying that the Development Staff Has Up-to-Date Skills Learning Solutions Conference of the e-Learning Guild Orlando, Florida March 24, 2011
Is Informal Learning Right for You? Ten Issues and Technologies to Consider Learning Solutions Conference of the e-Learning Guild Orlando, Florida March 23, 2011
The Incredible Shrinking e-Learning Program Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Annual Conference Chicago, Illinois April 12, 2011
Profession Building: What the Peer-Reviewed Literature Tells Us (with Nancy Coppola) Society for Technical Communication Annual Summit Sacramento, California May 15-18, 2011
Narratives Over Numbers: Why Qualitative Research Is Essential (with Jamie Conklin, George Hayhoe, Hillary Hart, and Menno de Jong) Society for Technical Communication Annual Summit Sacramento, California May 15-18, 2011
Informal Learning and You: 10 Issues and Technologies to Consider American Society for Training and Development International Conference and Exposition Orlando, Florida May 21, 2011
Visions of TechComm 2.0 Metro New York chapter of the Society for Technical Communication New York, New York June 16, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Upcoming Workshops

Following are the workshops that I am scheduled to teach in the first half of 2011.
Several develop skills in instructional and information design; the others develop business and management skills for instructional and information designers.


Workshop Event Location Date
Advanced Design for e-Learning Certificate Program Training 2011 San Diego, California February 5-6, 2011
Writing Engaging eLearning Exercises and Test Questions The User Assistance Conference by WritersUA Long Beach, California March 13, 2011
The Incredible Shrinking e-Learning Program Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Annual Conference Chicago, Illinois April 12, 2011
Technical Communication Manager Certificate Program Society for Technical Communication Annual Summit Sacramento, California May 14-15, 2011
Developing the Business Case for a Major Project American Society for Training and Development International Conference and Exposition Orlando, Florida May 21, 2011
Following Form: 13 Real-World Insights for Template-Based Writing Metro New York chapter of the Society for Technical Communication New York, New York June 16, 2011
Additional Half-Day Workshop Metro New York chapter of the Society for Technical Communication New York, New York June 16, 2011
Technical Communication Manager Certificate Program Online Education by the Society for Technical Communication Online TBD

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Starting Term as Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

Effective January 1, I have started my term as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.

I'm excited about working with this journal, which in its half century of publication, has earned its place as one of the leading journals in the field of professional and technical communication.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Transactions, it publishes original, empirical research (that is, research that collects data first-hand, and reports that research in a way that others can replicate the studies).

The Transactions is still focused on research typically addresses one of these contexts:

·         The communication practices of technical professionals, such as engineers and scientists
·         The practices of professional communicators who work in technical or business environments
·         Research-based methods for teaching and practicing professional communication

The Transactions is specifically looking for articles presenting research on these topics:
·         Communications technologies and their impact on the workplace, such as the impacts of content management systems, social media, electronic books, intelligent agents and similar technologies
·         Design, techniques and readability of communication materials in various media, such as the design of web-based materials, online help, printed and electronic books, user interfaces, and live presentations
·         Design, techniques, and impact of communications materials in various genres, such as technical reports, user assistance, proposals, public relations materials, slide decks for presentations, and engineering specifications 
·         Management of groups that produce professional and technical communication materials
·         Social impact of communications and related technology to engineering efforts
·         Reports on the effectiveness and limitations of research methodologies used to study these issues

The Transactions will continue to publish teaching cases, tutorials, and book reviews. 

The research submitted for consideration might have been conducted using:
·         Quantitative methodologies, including experimental and survey-based studies
·         Qualitative methodologies, including action research, design research, ethnographies, case studies, interview-based studies, and usability test results
·         Critical methodologies, including discourse analysis and integrative literature reviews.

Primary readers include:
·         Professional and technical communicators, including corporate communicators, editors, linguists, technical writers, translation specialists, and visual communicators (graphic designers and illustrators)
·         Engineers, scientists and other technical professionals who communicate as part of their job, such as consulting engineers, technical authors, and technology-transfer specialists
·         University instructors who include professional communication as part or all of their courses

If you're interested in learning more or want to discuss an idea for an article, please contact me.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Target Comes to Canada--this Time, It's Not a Rumour

FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After teasing me for nearly all of my 8 years here, Target is finally coming to save Canada. by taking over Zeller's leases.

It's about time.  As I noted earlier (, Zellers was in desperate need of a facelift.

This also explains why, after I've noticed a dramatic improvement in appearance in Bay Stores (as dramatic as a makeover on Oprah), Zellers haven't looked any different.  HBC must have been getting ready to sell them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Will e-Books Change Higher Education?

Many people--like DIY U author Anya Kamenetz and the 2010 Horizon report--believe that e-books will have a significant effect on higher education.

Certainly that's the hope in the province of Alberta. "E-books may cut fees for Alberta students" explains how the Advanced Education Minister in Alberta is actually trying to bring e-books to university students. Check out the details at

Copyright expert and University of Ottawa professor puts Alberta's project into a broader perspective in his article, "Canadian education faces technology tipping point." He suggests why excessive cost and duplication in print of resources that are already available to the university community online will drive demand for electronic course materials. Check out his article at

But maybe it's holiday gifts that will really drive demand. "Christmas Gifts May Help E-Books Take Root," published in the New York Times, explains how e-book readers being given for the holidays could drive e-book sales as early as this month. Check out the article at

Saturday, January 08, 2011