What’s the secret to creating application training?

Having just finished a big project for creating application training for a major fast food chain, I was musing on what are the important ingredients in producing learning for a new application or piece of software.

In my experience, there are two really challenging aspects:

  • coping with software that is changing
  • unlocking and capturing the knowledge of an SME

For coping with software changes, I know there are some high end application such as Vimago which claim to be able to cope with application changes, but most (Storyline,  Captivate, Camtasia et al) require either :

a)  some nifty footwork re-editing screen shots or videos to band-aid on any change to the core application

b) re-recording the application process.

Either of these is not great use of time so my advice is to try to hold out until the last possible minute before doing the app recording. Map the process, work out what you want to say, but hang tight as long as you can ….

For the challenge of unlocking an SME’s knowledge, often an SME doesn’t have much time (incredibly busy with the many aspects of launching the new application) and tends to be dauntingly knowledgeable. This huge knowledge translates into a tendency for SMEs to describe any process at warp speed leaving you breathless and spinning.  The best advice here is to record by any method – video, screencast or audio – get the pearls of wisdom down in some method to avoid you needing to rely on scribbled notes and your own memory.

The last important ingredients in creating application training are context, context, context.  It is all too easy to get obsessed with the clicky-clicky aspects of a process rather than asking:

  • what is the purpose of the learner doing a process?
  • how does it sit within their overall role?
  • can we use examples and scenarios to bring the process to life?

For great application training, create introductory, interval and summary screens to put the process in context or use an example (“A customer arrives in Mrs Miggins shop with an order for 20 cupcakes, what does she need to do?”) and to relate the process to workflow.

This is a great article on the capture process itself but don’t forget to add that context!




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