Dec 17, 2008

the smart cut : why do we need click here click there application training?

Why do we still make such an amount of e-learning that is nothing more than 'click here, click there' application training? That is sooooo last century.
When productivity tools like office applications were on the rise and getting employee productivity to new heights, it was a very natural thing to have book shelves full of 'how to work with application X'. I guess it's because that was the way we learned back then: thorough, step by step, building knowledge that would last a lifetime because things never changed. But these applications kept on changing every year, books were reprinted and reprinted, and e-learning took off with one of its killer applications: application simulations. The camtasias and other tools of this world specialised in making 'click here, click there' training got big. They even got into 'application cloning' for training purposes (like Datango or Assima).
Now we see the rise of social software that will bring the next productivity kick, moving productivity from the individual to the group. Did you notice the total absense of traditional learning for these tools? There are no shelves at my book store full of books on how to use Facebook, write an article on Wikipedia, twitter or blog or how to use Yahoo Messenger or Skype. We have gotten used to working with applications without needing the details. It's like getting directions in a building: we are just told where to go, and we find our way. Nobody at the reception desk will explain how to take the elevator, open a door or such things. We kind of collectively figured out that a button with 'cancel' will cancel the transaction, please stop teaching us that already! We have figured out how to interact with an application and get what we want. And applications have learned to ignore the engineering design and go for somewhat usability. That helps too. Finding your way around a web site or application is a basic skill. Acquiring that skill should have been done years ago and if you are not on that waggon, it's too late for businesses to spend money on that. Go back to school, or have the government take that up.

I would say: it's time to cut most of that 'click here, click there' training. If I would ask you what you learned in the end you would say 'I learned to click a button'. Kudoos, you're an A student. What we need is to know what the application is capable off, how it fits in what needs to be done (process, task, whatever), the 10 basic things to get us started, who we can ask for help if not the person next to us and especially what it will change in our work lives (and by the way, for the better.)
Allow me to suggest an alternative to application training. Did you ever hear of Jing? It's made by TechSmith, the creators of CamTasia. It is a very easy stripped down version that allows end-users to take a snapshot of an area of their screen and annotate it, or to make a small video recording of their application. Try it out, a child can do it. I imagine a 'learntube' site in your corporation where you host channels like "How to ... with SAP", "How to ... with Lotus Domino". The learning department makes the first 10 movies with basic tasks and posts them. All others are uploaded by users. It's rated by the community and the best rated will be on top. It's searchable. It's a community tool for and by the community, out of the formal learning loop. And it wouldn't cost a great deal. Makes sense? Stupid? Let me know...

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