Phillip Large – Faculty - Business at Higher Colleges of Technology

This article originally appeared on page 10 of the November edition of InfoPlus+. In this article, Philip Large, a student on the programme, discusses his motivation for taking the MSc and his experience on it so far.

Making the decision to study Information Design and Development

Actually, my decision was quite spontaneous to enrol in this course, as I wasn’t aware it existed until recently. I had previously investigated courses in instructional design and tech writing but couldn’t find any suitable since a lot of them were based in the US and I was looking more for a qualification that was in Ireland or the UK. I have been a life-long learner having gained all my qualifications part-time (BSc. In Information Systems, Master of Business) and by distance (PG Diploma in HR and PG Cert in Research) so I saw the MSc in Information Design and Development as a good opportunity to move a different direction in my career.

My background over the last 12 years has been in the academic area, having taught at college level in Vietnam and in the UAE. As part of being an academic, I have had to design curriculums, design slides presentations and create assessments. My audience has been second-language learners so I often have to simplify difficult business and IT concepts. Previous to my academic career, I worked in IT/admin roles in Ireland for about 10 years so I was looking to consolidate my experience which attracted me to the area of technical communication.

After doing some online research I saw that there were numerous job prospects in technical writing but also that this skill may serve as a stepping stone to other roles such as professional training and/or instructional design.

Why study at CIT?

Through a Google search I found that CIT (Cork Institute of Technology) in Ireland offered an online Masters course in Information Design and Development which suited me as I currently live in the UAE. From my knowledge, CIT has a good reputation for providing job-ready graduates to the job market. They provided very comprehensive details about each of the courses they offered on the program. I had some knowledge about HTML/XML and the other courses seemed interesting and challenging. I also saw that the lecturers had solid educational backgrounds, with all holding PhDs in technical areas.

From looking at the job descriptions for Technical Writers, I could see the jobs advertised were very closely aligned with the contents of the program for example XML, DITA and information analytics.

My knowledge of Technical Communication is still quite limited as we have just started the course. At this moment, I am just focusing on the course content and trying to read as much as possible, both kindle e-books and the recommended readings. Of the two mandatory courses offered in the first semester, I can see that XML is more practical and the other course, “Information Design and Development” is more theoretical giving a comprehensive background to the subject area. We are now into Week 3 of the program and so far my experience has been positive. Lectures are run once a week (through Adobe Connect) with an extra lab (if needed by students) for the XML course. We use Blackboard for course materials as well as Google groups to collaborate.

My previous experiences of distance education were a lot more simplified/dissatisfactory with more of a one-way communication approach, however, with this course it seems they have incorporated more tools to allow for 2-way communication and provided more of an online classroom environment.

I can see that there are a few people in the class who have years of experience in technical writing already and it seems their aim is to gain a formal qualification but hopefully this will allow the inexperienced tech writers (like me) to collaborate and gain some insights.

My experience so far

At this point, we have completed about 6 weeks of the course, and my opinion is still very positive about its content. Personally I have enrolled in the first two modules which are ‘XML in Technical Communication’ and ‘Information Design and Development’.

The online lectures have been thought-provoking and our first assessment for XML has been submitted where we applied our knowledge of DTDs/XML and built output via XSLT sheets. The course in Information Design and Development has so far covered background theory in Technical Communication through assigned readings. At this stage, there seems to be a good balance between practical hands-on and theory-based courses in Technical Communication.

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