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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For New Software Training: Spend a Full Class on the Help System

I frequently get calls from clients, students and others who want to know a certain piece of information and call me hoping I will have that piece of information at my finger tips. They might want to know the different types of e-learning awards that can be won by an excellent e-learning course they are developing.

When I get that call, the first thing I do is access an online search engine and find what I need. The person making the request could have performed the same search but the concept of searching for the information online doesn’t occur to them. For some reason, it is not ingrained in the thought pattern for information retrieval; instead, the person is more comfortable and familiar with looking up a phone number and calling someone who might know. Think of the time and effort that could have saved both himself and me by simply conducting his own search.

An important element in providing information to employees is to teach them how to access the necessary information. Because it is impossible to teach an employee everything that he or she is going to need to know to complete a job in an environment that is constantly changing, teach them how to maximize their existing systems. We need to spend more time teaching architectural elements of a software application than the content of that system. You can always look up the content in the online help (which, admittedly is not always that good).

Learning professionals need to take time to teach learners layout of a job aid or help system and how to use it properly. This time will repay itself over and over again to the organization. The content in the help system may change but the basic tenants of the system usually remain the same. This is often overlooked within an organization. Stop, teach people how to use the built in tools to help themselves, don't always teach them the details of the system.

How to enforce this? Take a full class period and teach help, you'll be surprised by how many questions that answers.(again assuming the help system is decent, if it isn't you need to get involved at the design level to help the software developers and documentation folks to develop good help systems.)


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