User Assistance Course - Bellevue Community College

Bellevue Community College is offering a new course "Key Trends in Software User Assistance." Joe Welinske, President of WritersUA, is teaching the course on Wednesday evenings, Feb. 6 - Mar. 5. The course features a wide range of user assistance topics. The sessions take place in a fully-equipped, hands-on computer lab. Each session is three hours in length for a total of twelve instructional hours.

Course Description

Acquiring user assistance knowledge and skills is a direct pathway to success in the IT industry. The application of technical communication skills to the development of software user assistance has grown immensely in the past twenty years. This specialization is very fulfilling and challenging and technical communicators are finding their role in the software development process to be increasingly valued.

User assistance is much more than "Help." It encompasses a wide range of skills and technologies that are combined to improve the software user's experience. We contribute through wizards, tutorials, and web-based training. We develop and populate knowledge bases and content management systems. Printed manuals and their PDF equivalents are still an important element of our documentation sets. Many of us are now embedding helpful content directly into the user interface. We are involved with usability testing, localization, testing, quality assurance, and branding.

Elevate your skills and set yourself apart from others in your field. This course provides a cutting-edge exploration of the latest trends in software user assistance, defines the key terminology, highlights the most important tools and technologies, and offers predictions on future directions of our field. The course should be of interest to any technical communicators interested in being part of the IT industry. A solid grounding in foundation technical communication skills is a prerequisite.

Course Outline

Platform-specific Options for Online Help

  • Features of Online Help
  • Windows Help, including HTML Help, WinHelp, Help 2.0 for Visual Studio
  • Sun's JavaHelp, Oracle Help, Apple Help, and Help for PDAs

Design and Development of Web-based UA

  • Web "Applications" versus "Web Sites"
  • Browser-based Help
  • Custom and Turnkey Authoring
  • Oracle Help for the Web, IBM Eclipse UA, and Help for Linux
  • Optimizing Access to UA Content
  • Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) Page Design

Development Tools and Technologies

  • JavaScript
  • Dynamic HTML
  • Web Services, SDK Writing
  • AuthorIT, Doc-To-Help, Flare, RoboHelp
  • Accessibility

Emerging User Assistance Paradigms

  • Embedded User Assistance
  • Single-source Development
  • Structured Authoring
  • DITA
  • DocBook and PDF
  • Server-side Distribution
  • UA for Rich Interface Applications: Flash, Ajax
  • Web 2, Wikis, Blogs, Portals, Discussion Groups


Joe Welinske is the president and founder of WritersUA, formerly known as WinWriters. WritersUA is a company devoted to providing training and information for user assistance professionals. The WritersUA Conference draws hundreds of attendees each year from around the world to share the latest in user assistance design and implementation. The free content on the WritersUA web site attracts over 20,000 visitors each month. Joe has been involved with software documentation development since 1984. Together with Scott Boggan and David Farkas, Joe authored two editions of the popular and pioneering book Developing Online Help for Windows. He has also taught online Help courses at the University of Washington, UC Santa Cruz, and Bellevue Community College. Joe received a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1981, and a M.S. in Adult Instructional Management from Loyola University in 1987. Joe is in his second term as President of STC Puget Sound.


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