Report from the STC Virtual Conference Applying Research in Practice

On Wednesday, November 9, the Washington DC – Baltimore (WDCB) chapter treated members to a screening of the "STC Virtual Conference Applying Research in Practice". It was a treat in every sense of the word. Provided at no cost to our members, the webinar offered presentations from researchers who are analyzing current trends in technical communication.

All the presentations were excellent. In addition to delivering some very interesting research results, the speakers provided links and references to other content that will keep many of us busy learning for the next few months.

Here are some highlights:

Rebekka Andersen in The Effect of Content Management Systems on Processes in Technical Communication Groups described research that shows how important it is to consider the culture of an organization when attempting to implement content management systems.

David Farkas described a new non-proprietary format for documents called QuikScan that he and his colleague Quan Zhou developed. The process, which incorporates content summaries within documents, can be used in many writing tools. It saves time and enhances reading comprehension.

Wendy Freeman in What the Research Says about Use of Social Media by Younger People (It Might Surprise You) presented a thorough analysis of how young people are using social media with some interesting conclusions about what digital literacy means today.

John Killoran in Search Engine Optimization and the Web Work of Technical Communicators discussed how search engines work and provided tips about writing web content that appeals to search engines.

Brad Mehlenbacher in Social media and sustaining technical communication summarized the history of social media, explored it strengths and weaknesses, and provided a useful conceptual view of social media that gives a framework for evaluating and using the various forms of media available.

• Martine Courant Rife's presentation Copyright Law and Professional Online Communication gave us plenty of food for thought about how copyright laws affect technical communication. She also answered our questions about copyrights and requirements of new laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Ann Rockley in Changing Publication Processes introduced us to some newer forms of publication, including eBook readers and tablet devices, and described the potential of these forms of communication. She showed how to use these emerging technologies and in one case how not to use them.

Aimee Kendall Roundtree in Medical Writing in Social Media: Practices and Challenges discussed how the health care industry is using social media for communication. She provided a number of very interesting case studies and addressed some interesting issues related to health care and social media, such as whether online social networks can affect long-term health behavior and the competition between the emerging media and traditional, one-way communication policies in the field of health care.

Stuart Selber in iPads in Technical Communication described a research study at Penn State where students were given iPads to use in English classes. The study explored how users implemented the technology and the challenges that students and teachers faced using this form of technology as a medium for communication.

All in all, this was one of the most interesting webinars that I have attended. If STC offers it as a recording, be sure to take advantage of that opportunity.

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