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Writing Successful Instructions, Procedures and Policies
When your team is doing iterative development, you may be called on to describe the vision, document the requirements in use cases, and write test cases to determine whether the product really meets the user's needs. You're focusing on what the stakeholder should be able to do concrete actions, described from the point of view of a real user.
And when you document the final product in a user guide or help system, your procedures are key. You have to be alert to the doubts, uncertainties, and inarticulate needs of the user, from moment to moment. You have to rewrite and test and revise again, to produce step-by-step instructions that users can really follow.
Of course, if you come to the attention of the boss, you may be asked to write up corporate policies, and their accompanying procedures. You'll probably get conflicting pressures from the executives and the lawyers, and you may be the only representative of the employees who must carry out these policies, so your prose must cut through the bureaucratic fog. Your steps must be clear enough to follow, while acknowledging the messages coming from the board room. Now that takes some fancy footwork!
In all these areas, there are some fundamental principles that will help you help your readers. In this online course, we'll focus on writing in each of these contexts. Each week, you'll download some lecture notes, join a discussion with other students, take a quiz, and write in one of these procedural genres.
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
- Understand the role of the writer in eliciting software requirements, supporting iterative development, and doing user testing
- Create a vision statement and use-case model
- Create scenarios, fully realized use cases, and activity diagrams
- Create test cases to ensure that the code does what users expect
- Create step-by-step instructions suitable for user guides or help systems
- Write policies, requirements, processes, and procedures for corporate governance
For Online Sections of this course: Online courses are largely self-study with instructor support through threaded discussion groups, email and sometimes scheduled online chats. Some instructors may allow students to pace themselves following the published syllabus, enabling them to accelerate through the material and finish early. However, all students must complete and submit all assignments by the schedule end date. Grades are issued for the entire class approximately two weeks after the scheduled end date.
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