LearningDITA.com: A new online learning resource for DITA by Scriptorium
A Free Course on DITA
One common question I receive from people on this site is how they can learn DITA. Scriptorium has published a new online course (their first, I think) called LearningDITA.com. The first course available is “Introduction to DITA.”
About the course
The course is well-organized and oriented for beginners. Here are some general characteristics of the course:
- The course is primarily text-based, but there are about half a dozen short 1-minute videos peppered throughout. (I could hear Sharon Burton’s voice in the videos.)
- After each lesson, there’s a quiz to test your knowledge. The quizzes aren’t hard, but if you don’t pass, you must retake the quiz in its entirety. (If you get a wrong answer, an explanation of the correct answer appears.)
- There aren’t many mentions of tools, but when there is mention, OxygenXML is noted briefly. (Oxygen is one of the site’s sponsors.)
- There are links to additional learning resources (often to the DITA Style Guide) for each lesson.
- Some of the questions involve drag-and-drop activities to match topics with descriptions. (I liked the interactivity of the drag-and-drop.)
- The course lasts about an hour. Some of the concepts covered include topic types, tables, links, relationship tables, conrefs, and maps.
- When you finish the course, it just shows all modules being complete. (You don’t get a certificate or anything, which is what a lot of new technical writers want.)
Who created the course
Multiple contributors put together the course. From what I could tell, the main contributors included:
- Simon Bate
- Sharon Burton
- Sarah O’Keefe
- Bill Swallow
What the course is built on
The content for learningdita.com was developed using the DITA learning specialization. As explained on the About page:
The content is written in DITA using the DITA learning specialization. LearningDITA.com runs on WordPress; we created XSLT transforms to publish the content here.
It’s interesting to see that Scriptorium created XSLT transforms to publish DITA to WordPress. I think that’s a great example of publishing DITA content.
My overall feedback about the course is that I thought there should be more hands-on activities. People primarily learn by doing, so there should be more activities that help people create the content talked about in the course.
To credit, there is a lesson that shows how to create a topic in Oxygen, but that’s it. I think there should be a walk-through from beginning-to-end on how to get a simple DITA project authored and published.
Most of the information needed to create a project is provided in the course, more or less, with easy code samples that one could copy and paste. But it would be nice to see an actual step-by-step tutorial for executing a project inside Oxygen or some other tool. Since this is just the “Introduction,” maybe a future course will provide this detail.
Why am I reviewing this course?
If you know me, you may wonder why I’m reviewing a course on DITA, since I abandoned DITA for Jekyll some months ago.
Well, I’m interested in seeing different approaches to online courses and learning. Whereas Peter Gruenbaum’s course on API documentation was primarily video-based, the learningdita.com course is primarily text-based.
Also, I’m trying to highlight more newsworthy events on my blog, and this course on DITA is a first of its kind. Congrats to Scriptorium for making this information available for free on the web.