Tutorial to do a tutorial in open source software for water resources


Let’s have a look at the tutorial concept in its real dimension. A tutorial is a period of instruction that provides practical information about a specific topic. The tutorial can be given by an individual or institution and has a goal to teach you something or master you in something you didn’t know before. 

However in water resources software, we don’t see the tutorial as a part of the documentation or a key part of the learning experience. The tutorial is in fact an essential part needed to understand the whole capabilities of the software in practical exercises. It´s true that most software delivery exercises of different applied cases, but we can’t say they are tutorial in fact because those exercises lack a perspective of guided work.

We won’t discuss whether tutorials (or some tutorials) are in fact a type of scientific production however we will provide some basic guidelines that from our experience will improve the quality of tutorial content and the knowledge sharing. 

Main steps for a tutorial

Why do you want to do a tutorial?

In case that you have decided to open a Youtube channel or a blog where you passionately want to become an influencer by delivering edge tutorials on a specific topic, you are cordially invited to do so. However, the main question is not how great your tutorials are, but how many tutorials you will make in order to increase your audience. Since we work on the digital form, the content without an audience is quite unknown for the search engines and therefore for the general public.

Why you do a tutorial?

Another great question quite independent from the previous one. 10 years ago our main motivation for our blog in spanish was to improve the knowledge and capabilities in groundwater modeling, after some years, we found that other great open source software didn’t have the appropriate resources to be used, so we made tutorials of hydrological modeling software, computational fluid dynamics software, and Python for water resources applications.

Now our main motivation is to share what we have mastered, even though a secondary reason is to create a repository from the process we developed since we are frequent visitors of our own tutorials.

Create applied knowledge

Basically a tutorial is designed for knowledge sharing. The overall learning experience needs to be regarded as a whole, and most importantly the experience have to be over practical examples, with the appropriate resources as input data, procedure steps, and a explanation and most desirable a discussion of the main criteria for the selection of the tools and a regard of the software capabilities and limitations on specific topics. We don’t expect to give a class, but we have to think of the questions from the audience when they are completing the steps.

Focus on rich media

That is another unknown topic for water related professionals: how we communicate. If you are thinking of web resources, you have to consider the resources that can have more sharing potential and that is the video where you can share audio, image and text together. Use of graphics and formula deductions are helpful as well, together with the input files to reproduce all the involved steps.

Get the appropriate hardware / software resources

10 years ago and probably 5 years ago we did our tutorials with the resources a common laptop can bring. From some comments from the audience we realized that the audio was crappy and we improved that. The video quality is also an issue. Other things to consider are the hosting of your website and the CMS software you are going to use.

Listen to your audience

There is something we don’t do or we do a few times, and that is to answer the questions as comments in Youtube because it’s really hard to give support to a problem that is expressed in a comment. We give more attention to emails and keep a healthy communication with related professionals about the quality of the tutorial and potential topics for new tutorials.

Final remarks

Something extremely important to take into account is that a tutorial is not designed to help someone with their specific requirements, it is designed to teach how to do a process that can help to solve a problem. It might be that you don’t find the right tutorial for your case, but related tutorials are better than dealing with the software manual.

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