Bridging Products, Portals, and Content Gaps with Learning Maps

Presenters: Tyrin Avery and Erin Wagner Tidwell (Salesforce)

Learning Maps are a networked ecology of portals and/or products designed in such a way that people across businesses and even organizational entities are able to easily learn or locate information quickly. From a user interface (UI) perspective, Learning Maps allow the user to follow a staged path whereby selecting a topic from the path renders three additional tables of topics, narrowing the information to more specific content. The tool itself is built using CSS/HTML and some JavaScript, along with ‘Git’, an open-source tool created to control versioning, and ‘Heroku’, which functions as the publishing platform (it puts your content in the cloud).

What I found interesting about the presentation is that Tyrin and Erin actually walked us through the build, releasing snippets, of course. Because I had not seen any code in a while, to see it in action on screen was a bit overwhelming. I do understand that Tyrin and Erin were attempting to immerse their audience in the real play-by-play of what really happens when a Learning Map is produced. Be as it may, it is always amazing to see a content-related product being built and the result exhibited but getting us there…. Whew! That was a lot for my eyes.

In any case, Learning Maps are a fantastic idea! This would be a great tool to use in a classroom as a way of teaching HTML/CSS, JavaScript, version control, and publishing content in a Technical Writing course connected to a community or non-profit work setting. It would take some preplanning and a lot of collaboration, but I believe the exercise in building and parsing the content would be a great way to get students to discuss and share ideas. It is also a great way of thinking about how content and tools might be processed and shared across different platforms. Learning Maps turn the noggin up a notch.

As I listened to Tyrin and Erin complete their presentation, I also thought about how this might be applicable for the work that I do. Because I work within the complexities associated with delivering policies and procedures (P&Ps), my mind’s eye could visualize using Learning Maps to help my team organize the vast layering of complex content and solution this approach, so that our users/readers might be able to quickly locate what they need, when they need it.