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Nov 3, 2013

Kilgray training resources: is this what you need?

Some years ago I was relaxing at an informal occasion with one of Kilgray's directors, who expressed concern that the growing number of features might lead to confusion among users and obscure the basic simplicity of memoQ, which at the time was the company's only product. I think version 3.5 or 4.0 was the current release at the time of our chat. I disagreed with him at the time, because compared to other tools at the time, memoQ was easier to understand, more ergonomic than any of the leading tools. It still is.

But as most users of the software know, things have gotten a lot more complicated since then. As memoQ has taken a forward position in the market for translation environment tools, many features have been added (by necessity one could argue) to accommodate various interest groups. Some of these features I find very good and useful, others inspire a response that cannot be expressed in polite company, because they support server workflows which I personally find exploitative and offensive in the hands of some companies. But any tool can be used for good or bad purposes, and one of my favorite tools for planning my time accurately - the homogeneity analysis - is sometimes abused by Linguistic Sausage Producers to put further economic pressure on individual translators, yet I would not wish it to go away.

Many, many features to master for a wide range of work challenges. Even the so-called "experts" often don't have a clear overview. This problem is, of course, common to almost any popular software application: the situation with SDL Trados Studio is similar, and look at Microsoft Word, my God. An "expert" might understand 10% of Word's features.

Kilgray, it must be said, does try to go the extra mile and provide information to users in many ways so that they can work effectively and avoid frustration when navigating the sometimes tricky paths one must follow in a complex project. Each month the company offers free webinars, and recordings of these are available for later reference in most cases. There is also a knowledgebase (which is quite a challenge to keep up to date given the software's rapid pace of development). The company has also produced a number of shorter instruction videos. The Kilgray YouTube channel has a wide mix of material, including some recordings of past conferences, which are not always easy to understand but which contain a lot of interesting and useful material for some groups. There is also an extensive collection of user guides and white papers on the Kilgray site.

More recently Kilgray as taken its first steps with integrated e-learning, adopting the Moodle platform popular with many educational institutions. I think this is a very interesting new direction; since late spring I have been researching and testing such platforms myself, and I expect very good things to come of this in the future.

The first Kilgray e-learning course was a memoQ basics course, consisting of ten recorded PowerPoint lectures, each about 10 to 15 minutes long. There is a short review quiz at the end to give learners some feedback on what they have retained, and a certificate is offered for those who get a certain number of questions right. Although this course structure uses only a small part of the potential of the Moodle platform, it is easier to navigate and find particular information than it might be in a webinar, for example. The basics course is free to any memoQ user with a current support contract and is worth a look. Others can take the course for a fee of €90 (which is close enough to the cost of annual support that you might as well update your contract and enjoy the updates it includes). Feedback and suggestions should be sent to support@kilgray.com to help in the planning of further courses to help users.

More recently, another Moodle course was published for project managers working with the memoQ server. I know from my own experiences as a consultant and someone who occasionally has to deal with the frustrations of misconfigured server projects set up by my clients that there is a real need for better training for those who work with the memoQ Server. Many of my clients who have adopted this solution have had very little prior experience with CAT tools at all, and given the many pressures of a production environment, they may find visual media a more effective form of support than "RTFM".


The structure of the PM training course is similar to that of the memoQ basics course: ten recorded PowerPoint lectures in English. There is also a quiz at the end. The course is available free to all licensed memoQ server users, who should contact their Kilgray support representative to arrange access.

As the screenshot above indicates, Kilgray has moved its e-learning resources to Language Terminal, and along with all the other plans for that platform, there are many under consideration to expand the scope and quality of learning resources available, not only for Kilgray's products, but perhaps for other knowledge which can contribute to their successful use in the complex world of real projects.

What is your experience so far with Kilgray's training resources? What has worked for you? What has not? What kind of resources do you think would help you and those with whom you work to master the challenges of your daily routine?




4 comments:

  1. Morning Kevin,

    Your post seems to be a good summary of what Kilgray has been offering memoQ users so far in the way of educational material. I like the fact that so many of these offerings are free to use rather than being paid extras, which even goes for the user guides on the various versions of memoQ, unlike the manuals produced in connection with SDL's Studio suites. Kilgray has provided free webinars for ages and its first e-learning course on the "basics" about memoQ also only requires registration beforehand, which is generous of them. I did this first course back in January this year and thought it was quite good - self-paced, easy to follow (in my opinion), covering a range of subjects and suitable for advanced users as well as beginners and intermediate users (which is quite a feat, really). It would be interesting to hear what newcomers to memoQ have to say about the basic course, though.

    Having done the first course, which Kilgray calls "level 1", you'd expect to be able to continue with levels 2 and 3, but these are still in the pipeline, apparently. It would be nice to see a properly structured programme of courses being launched soon and ultimately leading to some sort of official certification, by which I don't just mean an e-mailed "certificate" for completing a course, which is what you get for doing level 1. I’ve heard that Kilgray’s working on this, but I have no idea about their schedule.

    More interactive e-learning courses would also be good - that would be a more modern teaching approach than non-interactive webinars and training courses. I know you're working on stuff like this at the moment based on Moodle and am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

    Regards,

    Carl

    Amper Translation Service
    Fürstenfeldbruck

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    Replies
    1. Carl, you might be getting Mat's book (which is sort of the SL Trados Studio equivalent of my memoQ tips book) confused with official SDL manuals because it's also sold through their Open Exchange. It's called "The Manual", but it's written by a private translator like you and me. I don't know what their documentation situation is otherwise, as I only look at their API manuals and don't concern myself with the user documentation for Trados, etc. Like Kilgray they also do a lot of YouTube videos (Paul Filkin has some really good ones he produced on his own time), which vary in quality.

      I'm glad you mentioned the Kilgray manuals in any case, because there are quite a number of them covering various topics and roles, and most users of memoQ are not very aware of them. I have had a number of project managers call to ask me how to distribute ELM licenses from their server, etc., completely unaware that this is nicely covered in instructions that can be downloaded in a PDF manual from the Kilgray site. Unfortunately, Kilgray is so busy growing right now that sales and marketing personnel do not always communicate clearly to new customers what resources are currently available (or maybe they do, and it's all so new that the message is forgotten and the thread isn't picked up again). I had a recent discussion with Kilgray about content plans for Language Terminal, and though in the long term there are some very interesting things planned, the statement was made that in the short term, it's more important that sales and marketing get their "act together". I'm not really sure what that means, but my personal observations of the many troubles that new customers have - particularly those who purchase a memoQ server with no adequate IT background and little or no experience with CAT tools - indicate that education is the area in which the company as a whole should most urgently concern itself with getting acts together and finding even more and better ways to train - and communicate these clearly and frequently. A colleague recently told me of a discussion she had with an agency that wanted her to work on their memoQ server. She mentioned LiveDocs, and the PM replied "What's that??" I wasn't the least bit surprised, because I have grown used to current and former clients of mine adopting these solutions and then never following up with the training and consulting they need for success. This is, of course, as much or more the fault of the customers really, but even if they try to do what they should, I don't feel there is really enough on offer right now.

      My long experimentation phase with media is drawing to a close now, and I'm going to focus more now on actual, finished courses and support others in doing the same. That draft of the Portuguese Moodle basics course on my personal development server is one example of that; it was created by a new user from the perspective of what she needed for success in her first translation assignments with memoQ. It reminds me a lot of the comparison videos on Jost Zetsche's Translators Training site, but there is more potential for adding other media for training. I liked it so much that I plan to copy her approach (but in English) and add a few twists for the new release of memoQ (2013 R2).

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  2. Hi again, Kevin,

    Yes, I was thinking about Mats Linder's e-book on Studio, which isn't free. It's been mentioned by SDL, so I assumed it was part of their own documentation. (Now I know better.) You're right - SDL does have free video material (e.g. on YouTube) and other free training material (on translationzone.com).

    In Kilgray's case, it might also be an idea to have a corporate blog in which different people from the firm (to share the workload) write posts describing aspects of translation work using memoQ - roughly similar to Paul Filken's practical approach using Studio and SDL's other products, for example.

    A lot could be done for user education, but it's obviously a matter of finding the time and money to do it and then preparing the material carefully and (ideally) presenting it professionally. Like you, I feel this is an important area that a CAT-tool maker ought to prioritise as it can help it to keep its user base happy - customers can stay up to date with developments and get a constant stream of relevant input from the source, as it were, not just from an independent third party. (However, the good thing about third-party offerings is that they ARE independent and may put software developments in a different, un-hyped light, which is good for users - we ought to learn about the practical limitations of current versions of the software we use as well as what they can theoretically do. And independent bloggers/trainers are also in a position to compare various tools.)

    Look forward to seeing what materials you come up with.

    Regards,

    Carl

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    Replies
    1. Well, Mats book is no more free than mine is, but that's because we both have to feed our dogs and ourselves ;-) But István and others at Kilgray have mentioned my book as well, and last February it was even bundled with support contracts, but I think the relations Mats has with SDL are like mine with Kilgray: mutual respect between independent business entities who recognize that the other has something to offer that they can use.

      Kilgray does have a corporate blog, though it doesn't go to the level of detailed tips; that's what their knowledgebase is for. The blog (which is linked in my blogroll on the left) covers more strategic stuff. But the 6 or 7 staff in the Kilgray Support department and the rest of the company are rather hard pressed to keep up with the pace of growth at times, and I often find information in that knowledgebase which could be updated or which could be presented from a different angle to be more helpful to some users. But this is not really a flaw, it's normal. There are so many complex differences in the work processes of translators and language service companies that nobody should even pretend to have a complete overview. My perspectives are largely limited to the circle of my professional friends and clients and their troubles in the domains of scientific, technical, legal and financial translation, and if someone starts asking me a lot about optimizing games translation (which I find interesting, but don't really understand), they'll get a blank stare and a lot of dumb questions before I can even begin to comprehend what they might need.

      I think it's unrealistic to expect everything to come from the tool provider, though I do believe that all of them could do better on the information and training front. We all can. I think the best results will come from cooperation and clear communication between everyone involved in these processes; that also includes reputable agencies, who understand very well the need for better training and work methods. There is really no way that I can reasonable expect Wordfast, SDL or Kilgray to know every best method to share with high volume, high pressure legal translators knocking out over 50,000 words per week personally and pushing LiveDocs farther than it was even thought to go by its creators. It takes a lot of time to understand the needs o high octane professionals in any area, and if any company manages that and then can also articulate those best methods consistently, then they will have gone as far as I expect any mortals to make it.

      We all need each other as well as some collaboration with clients to do our best. And we need to find sustainable models of collaboration on work, training and development so we'll stay on top of the game in the future.

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