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.