The second pre-conference event at the BESIG annual conference 2016 was on Creating excellent ELT materials. In this session five experienced ELT authors who have written teacher training modules published by ELT Teacher 2 Writer gave 15 minute workshops related the topics of the modules they’d written. This was a whirl of brilliance: a fast-paced but at the same time very hands-on session packed to the brim with invaluable insight. Below are my notes from the first of those mini workshops. It was delivered by Evan Frendo and focused on one of the topics that he addressed in his book on writing corporate training materials:
Evan started his workshop by looking as some of the reason that might motivate a company / training department to commission in-house materials:
- current materials are inadequate
- company enters a new market / launches a product with specific language needs
- a request from in-company language trainers
- feedback on current materials from learners might trigger a request for company-specific materials
- it can be as simple as a new HR manager
- or you sell them the idea
Next he shared two examples of timelines for material writing projects that he’d done, the first one for a ‘traditional’ set of materials and the second one for an e-learning course (his e-learning courses are show-cased here):
Next Evan asked us to imagine we are sitting down for an initial meeting with your potential client. What do you want on the agenda? Here are his points that he recommended discussing:
- Objectives: what do they want out of the project? Often this is not done well and this is revealed half way through the project.
- Approach: are you going to adhere to the approach they want or will you try and insist on your approach?
- What human resources do you need? Who is the team on your and their side.
- Timelines: milestones, etc.
- Risk management. ‘What happens if’-type questions. Rarely done well – but up to a third of projects might not see the end due to force major factors like the change of company management, acquisitions, etc.
- Communication with stakeholders: face to face? online? Evan recommends doing at least a couple of face to face meetings to build rapport and relationships – if things start to go wrong, it’s the relationship that was forged during those meeting that will help you to weather the storm.
- What are the constraints? What happens when there are changes – and there are going to be changes?
- Access to places and people: you do need a corpus. Unless this is put this down in writing, you’re unlikely to get this access.
I found this mini session very interesting and informative. I’m currently enjoying the security of writing materials for a company where I’m employed full time, and the reality of writing in this setting is obviously a lot less harsh than writing as a freelancer. So I can see how I might start taking some things for granted and so, when I venture ‘out there’, it will be all too easy for me to overlook some crucial things that need to be discussed. For instance, I would never expect up to a third of projects to never see completion. So for me Evan’s checklist of things that need to be discussed at the start of the project is simply invaluable, and so are the other tips he gave, e.g. how to actually land a project. But the real gem of the session for me was the two project timelines that Evan shared. I’ve never participated in creating an e-learning course, and it was very interesting to sneak a peek at a real project with its stages and the associated timelines.
Also, as Evan’s session was related to his book ‘How to write corporate training materials’, I just have to mention that I can’t recommend this book enough. In this book he offers a very clear framework for creating a company-specific course and liberally supports it with examples from his own experience and from research (I particularly enjoyed the case studies at the end of the book). This title was an invaluable resource for my Delta Module 3. It’s also short, which means it’s an ideal starting point for someone who teaches general or exam English but is thinking of venturing into business English, so I’ve been recommending it to my friends who’re thinking of taking that step.