The phrase most likely to describe the author in the training and development process is “and then the magic happens.” The author is at the core of the content development process. He or she takes the input from the SMEs and the coaching from the learning designer and makes it happen.

What Is an Author?

The author of a course creates the bulk of the content and works with SMEs and learning designers to develop the most effective ways to teach it. He or she may be adept at creating instructor-led materials, computer-based training, productivity aids or supporting materials. The author will have his or her fingers on the keys pounding out the prose that students will absorb in the form of learning.

What Is Expected of the Author?

Authors are expected to have a basic command of their chosen tools. Certainly, a word processor and a presentation program top the list of tools in which they’ll need to be proficient. They may also be skilled in one or more of the content authoring tools and design programs necessary for creating visuals or productivity aids to appropriately communicate the material.

Authors will make up the bulk of the process, so they’ll be expected to be intimately familiar with the materials and to engage others, including learning designers and SMEs, in the process to help clarify points, evaluate instructional tools and improve the quality of the output.

What Is not Expected of the Author?

Authors can often be overwhelmed by the work of creating a course. Of the more than 40 hours of effort per hour of instruction, the author is performing most of the work. They’re not, however, expected to single-handedly breathe a course into existence without support. It’s not expected that their materials will be perfect the first time; that’s why there are instructors and quality control staff. They’ll help address any rough edges.

Authors are not expected to be the experts in the information; as we’ve already addressed, that’s the role of the SME. Nor are they expected to understand the best instructional methods to accomplish the training objective each time. They’re likely to have an idea for what will work, but they have the learning designer to lean on when they need a second opinion.

Where’s the Role Going?

Every indication is that our world is becoming more complex and difficult. We’re exposed to exponentially more information than our parents or grandparents were. It makes sense that we’ll need to be efficient in our learning, and that means that authors will always be needed to create the content.

Arguments arise from time to time that SMEs will be able to author their own content; however, since they are being pulled by their “real” jobs, where they’re expected to do more with less, it’s unlikely that SMEs will take the place of content authors in any meaningful way. If anything, the demand for authors is going to increase as we put more training in our training catalogs and as learners consume more and more each year.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  • Good: The role is critical for the development of good training content.
  • Good: The role has the broadest-reaching vision for the ultimate solution.
  • Bad: There’s never enough time, budget or information for creating the course. At some level, authors must turn over every piece of instructional material before it is “perfect.”
  • Ugly: Sometimes, there aren’t any known good ways to teach a topic, and the author has to try anyway.
  • Ugly: Ultimately, the author is responsible for the bulk of the work to create the course, and that process can drag on at times.