After studying DITA principles, I decided to test my knowledge by creating a user help guide where none currently exists.
I created my guide using a free trial of ClickHelp, which I chose since it is browser-based, requiring no additional software or downloads. Go to ClickHelp site
This platform is quite basic, but it suited my purposes since I wanted to be able to practice user guide documentation while demonstrating my ability to write clearly and concisely.
I created documentation for InTouch Language Inc, the phone-based English company I’m currently working with part-time. Their existing training for teachers exists in discrete documents scattered across emails, videos and various cloud drives. Not to mention, it’s not written by native English speakers.
My final version is, in fact, a draft, because I have created this independent of a team or subject matter expert. If this were more than a practice exercise, creating and maintaining user guides would be an iterative process.
Regardless, working on this project made me happy. I’d love to do more work like this in the future, especially with different platforms.
The guide exists in Word doc format and HTML. Here are some screenshots from the HTML version, which I’ve hosted on Github: See it on Github
In March 2018 I started tutoring with Varsity Tutors as an independent contractor. I was approved to tutor all levels of English reading and writing as well as test prep. See my profile on the Varsity Tutors site
My subjects included:
ACT: English, Reading, Science, Writing
PSAT: Critical Reading, Writing Skills
SAT: Reading, Writing and Language
AP English Language and Composition
AP English Literature and Composition
AP Psychology (and other social sciences)
American Literature (College & High School)
English (College & High School)
College Application Essays
I’d been trained by the Vanderbilt Writing Studio as a writing tutor, but I’d never tutored test prep before joining Varsity Tutors. My first few sessions of ACT English tutoring were surely cringe-worthy.
But I really enjoyed tutoring. Soon, I had several clients with standing appointments. By May, at the height of end-of-year standardised tests, I was tutoring up to 6 hours a day.
In my approach to tutoring, I generally relied on the study guides provided by Varsity Tutors, but I found so many mistakes in the SAT and ACT study guides that I started compiling the errata and emailing it to VT. So the process had a few kinks at the beginning.
But as I became increasingly familiar with the material, I knew exactly which sample passages to use during sessions to tackle various skill or knowledge deficits.
To help students brush up on their writing conventions, I selected errors I’d seen in real life. First, I would show the students some examples of various mistakes and explain them:
Then, I would offer some examples that the students could fix on their own:
I use a variety of resources to support my tutoring, including Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English Usage, a staple on my bookshelf for many years and now free and searchable online. Explore Common Errors
I like gauging students’ level by asking them to explain the difference between different words and usages; it’s both educational for them and helpful to me.
One challenge in particular was helping to prepare a student for a specialised reading comprehension exam in the state of Missouri. Let’s call him Zach. Passing the exam was critical for Zach, yet few test-prep materials were available online.
His mom sent me a book in the mail with some sample passages that Zach had already worked through. So based on the topics covered in the exam, I cobbled together relevant passages from ACT, SAT, and even GRE study guides. I supplemented our sessions with selected poems from ReadWorks.org, a great free resource for educators. Go to ReadWorks
My students generally met their goals for tutoring. Here is some of the positive feedback I’ve received:
“Very helpful introduction for the SAT!! Thank you very much. I look forward to working with you again.”
“Alisha is a spectacular tutor. My daughter adores her and wishes she could be her actual teacher. We are so thrilled to have found such a warm, kind, and enthusiastic tutor that makes a chore seem like a pleasure!”
“[Student] absolutely loves Alisha! Alisha is a fabulous tutor! Thanks so much for being so positive, warm and helpful!”
“Amazing!!! She knows everything backwards and forwards!!”
“She is a great tutor! [Student] loves her and she has seen such amazing results — highly recommend.”
Getting feedback like this is part of what made this job rewarding. I stayed active on the platform until I moved to New Zealand, when I then phased out support for my existing clients.