Category Archives: How-to

My digital workflow as a Master’s and PhD #Techcomm student

This post is a long time coming. I began compiling a list of the technologies I used and how I implemented them while in my Master’s of Technical Communications program last year.

First my thesis took all my time and I was unable to make many blog posts and then just as quick I was accepted into and began a PhD in Technical Communication & Rhetoric. I had planned to write a blog post about why I chose to pursue the PhD (and the end of the previous sentence is a perfect place to hyperlink to it). However, as the next semester begins for many (including me), I thought it would be more useful to post the digital workflow that helped me earn my Master’s with a 4.0, be accepted into a PhD program, and earn an A in my first PhD course.

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Filed under How-to, Social Media, Technical Writing

Redesigned Help File with graphics and video

My work machine uses the program IZArc for compressing (zipping) and extracting archives. Some time ago, I was looking for some information in the Help File (a .chm file called “IZArc Help” that comes with the program) and noticed that it covered many topics but that the topics I was interested in (compressing and archiving) contained little useful information. Most of the topics could be considered “glossary” information rather than “help.” Furthermore, the entire Help File didn’t contain one graphic for procedures, or even a graphical overview of the user interface (UI).

What is a help system?

A help system is a reference document designed to assist users with learning how to use a product or feature. This form of documentation creates Continue reading

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Filed under How-to, Technical Writing

Using Google Trends in Technical Communication

Google Insights is now officially Google Trends. According to Google, the combined capabilities are Insights into what the world is searching for.

As a technical writer, I have used Google Insights from time to time when choosing between a variation in spellings or choice of term. Not every term choice can be accounted for in a company style guide, Continue reading

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Filed under How-to, Rhetoric, Social Media, Technical Writing

Report: Webinar Best Practices for Online Learning and Collaboration

Last semester (Spring 2012), I worked on a collabortive project with students in my International Technical Communication class (Minnesota State University, Mankato) along with students from the German university Hochschule Karlsruhe – Technik und Wirtschaft (Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences). I met with my German counterparts throughout the semester and my Mankato-based team completed a project that documented webinar best practices for online learning and collaboration.

Introduction to the report

With the increasingly global nature of business and education, both have been challenged with adapting current models to facilitate learning to accommodate diverse and globally located audiences.

From the business perspective, webinars are an inexpensive, quick way to reach out to users and employees while still maintaining a semblance of personal contact—using a webinar’s video component, this face-to-face (F2F) capability of a webinar allows for collaboration and interaction among the webinar’s participants. This is preferable to a ‘static’ recording or pre-recorded tutorial that is ‘mass produced’ with a general audience in mind (for example, “customers” or “employees”) but cannot compare to the personal aspect that a webinar has.

Social Constructivist Pedagogy

For education, an example of one pedagogical proponent of webinar and F2F technology is the social constructivist pedagogy. The constructionist pedagogy believes that for true learning to occur, students need to experience knowledge outside of their individual framework and this concept is advanced by “collaborative learning”, which Bruffee defines as “a process that constitutes fields or disciplines of study. Collaborative learning is based on the rationale that the task of learning to think and write as a knowledgeable peer is not solely an individual and mental endeavor but instead occurs through interaction” (Thralls and Blyler 1993, 251).

Download the PDF report: Webinar best practices for online learning and collaboration.


Filed under Collaboration, How-to, Presentations

What to Expect Presenting at an Academic Conference

Last month, I submitted a proposal to present a research paper on technical communications and rhetoric and it was accepted. The conference was in Albuquerque, New Mexico and would be my first academic conference as either an attendee or presenter.  I wanted to recap my experience and provide some answers to questions that I had going into the conference. Continue reading


Filed under How-to, Presentations, Rhetoric

How to password protect files

Below is a video tutorial showing the step-by-step procedure for archiving and password protecting files using the shareware program IZArc.

This procedure is based on version 3.81 build 1550 using Microsoft Windows XP. If you notice any procedural differences performing any of the steps using a different operating system, please share with us by leaving a comment below.


Filed under How-to, Technical Writing