If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning (or read old posts), you’ll know that I started with several posts discussing the “All Systems Go” article from the August 2016 issue of TD magazine and how it relates to planning online learning for software customers.
For the final part to this series, I’d like to discuss the sidebar titled “four ways to give practice instructions.”
This quick visual part of the article provides visual examples on different approaches to handling multi-step procedures in eLearning. I’d like to adapt these to customer-focused software training.
However, there are cases where you can use this option for efficiency. For example, you may give the task without the instructions for an easy task, like when you instruct the customer to log in.
Consider that in cases such as when narrating a show me video training, every word you say makes the training that much longer. It’s important to keep learning segments short. So can you show a title or step as an overlay without explaining it? Sometimes, users just need a nudge in the right direction.
The second option is “provide the steps needed for the whole procedure.” The example illustration shows four steps shown on one screen that is meant as a practice activity for the user. This is a way you can minimize the narration time, while giving the customer a chance to explore the procedure on his or her own. This reference information can stay on screen for the entire time the user performs these steps.
The third option is “provide each step as learners are ready to perform that step.” This option is a merge between the first two. You are providing the individual steps at the time the user needs them, without giving too much away about how the step is done. This allows the user to discover the process which helps the information sink in better.
The fourth option is to “point out what the learners need to do for each step.” Similar to a "show me" video tutorial, this option pretty much spoon-feeds the procedure to the user as they are learning it. The advantage is that it leaves no room for frustration or confusion. The problem is, there’s no guarantee that the user will remember this step even 30 seconds after performing it.
If you really want to teach your customers how to use your software, leave this level of support out of any learning interactions that you develop. Instead, use a combination of the first three options, depending on the task and learning interaction, to create an exercise with some instructional interactivity that allows the users to truly learn the procedure so they can be self-sufficient in your software.
This post continues the discussion of the "All Systems Go" article from the August 2016 issue of TD magazine and how it relates to planning online learning for software customers.
One of the sidebars to the articles brings up an issue worth exploring. The sidebar is titled "Click or Select? Creating a Style Guide for Software Training." It discusses three categories of items to include in a style guide for maintaining a consistent approach in your software training.
The first category is verbs. It doesn't matter whether you use "click" or "select" (in most cases) -- just pick one. You are giving the user cues that will make their learning experience more streamlined. For the record, my preference is usually "select," unless you end up selecting the Select key.
The second category is features. When you talk about your software, do you refer to a drop-down menu or a pull-down menu? Again, the wording (including hyphenation and capitalization) you use is not necessarily that important. It is just important that you make a decision about each item and stick with it.
The final category in this discussion is formatting. This is where you decide to bold the key names and italicize the screen names (my usual preference) or however you are going to handle the specific items that the user interacts with for your particular software.
A good writer and designer knows that the most important thing to remember is to make your content easy to understand. Being consistent is an important way to do that.
These decisions apply for your style guide and ultimately your user-focused content, whether it is a user guide, online help, software "show me" videos or instructional interactivity that really teaches the user a new skill.
This series explores the six decisions to make when planning software training from the August 2016 article in TD magazine, “all systems go”.
The fourth decision is “how will you incorporate practice and reinforcement activities?”
The authors of the article give three approaches: “show me”, “try me”, and “test me”. The customer-facing online training I’ve developed thus far usually only includes the first approach of simply showing the procedure. But consider how providing more engaging learning activities can reinforce learning so that customers get the most out of your software or decrease the load on your help desk or support team.
Practice and reinforcement activities don’t need to be included for every procedure, but can be worth the extra development time and cost for high-impact procedures if you really want to change your customers' behavior.
The fifth and sixth decisions both relate to practice assessments and may not apply as much to customer-focused online software training. The fifth decision is “how much instruction do you provide before a practice or assessment? The sixth decision is “how much help do you provide in the feedback?” Again, if you aren’t providing practice activities or assessments, these decisions aren’t relevant. However, consider the possibilities that activities and assessment can be the instruction, and are much more engaging than an explanation.
And engagement is key to learning and changing your customer’s behavior so that they can get the most out of your product.
This series explores the six decisions to make when planning software training from the August 2016 article in TD magazine, “All Systems Go”.
The third decision is “Are you targeting new or existing users?”
In the case of customer-focused online software training, perhaps a better question is “what is the goal of the training?” Are you using the training for marketing, onboarding, or support for existing customers? The answer may be a combination of two or three answers, and that is where micro-learning and single-sourcing can come in handy for reuse of learning content for different purposes.
The authors of the article discuss the possibility of creating two versions of training for different audiences. If you break the learning content into the smallest task-based chunk of information, it can be woven into different contexts, depending on the goal.
Next time, we’ll discuss the last three decisions from the article.