In recent years, I have created training materials for each one of these adult training situations:
I also either led or participated in the classroom training. In this article I offer my take on what seems to be working and what doesn't seem to be working, at least not as well as business and training managers had hoped.
The eCorporation Push
Thus, the major feat of delivering PDS training to remote locations is accomplished without the expensive overhead of sending George anywhere. Meanwhile, if any of the adult learners have questions about PDS, they can just open and read the online help.
This plan looks good on paper and usually shines in management meetings.
These statements are consistent with what I have observed in the corporate training world. In school, young learners tend to be motivated by completing something, rushing through the lessons and tests of an online training course, and then quickly moving on to something else. This also applies to young learners in the workplace.
However, mature adult learners learn and retain much more through face-to-face training, where they can have any apprehensions about the training subject immediately assuaged, and where they can see the facial expressions of the teachers, pick up the non-verbal cues, and ask their questions right at the moment the question occurs to them.
Meeting those Training Goals
Although WBT can save money over instructor-led training, research shows that the single greatest impediment to the success of Web-based training is a low completion rate. Some statistics show that it is not uncommon for large organizations to see a WBT completion rate of less than 10%. That means that the "solution" meant to train large numbers of people with one online training course results in less than 10% of the audience being trained. This is not a good outcome for the quarterly report.
One sure way to make certain that WBT succeeds is to bring people into a dedicated room during paid working hours for a dedicated period of time, and provide them with a skilled resource for demonstra-tions, help, motivation, and feedback. In other words WBT works best when it most closely simulates classroom training. If this is the case, then why bother with WBT? Why not save the course building costs and just send George on a plane to train those 20 folks in Hoboken?
by Ann Gordon, owner
When I left the world of education for a career in technical communication, I shied away from job descriptions emphasizing the need to "work on a team." These formidable job descriptions contained phrases like: "ability to work with a team," " enthusiastic team spirit" or "comfortable working as a part of a team."
Introduction to Teamwork
We owed our success to a capable team leader. Although she knew I could use the software tools and could follow the storyboard, she sensed that I was uncertain about working with others on the project. Without overtly addressing my fears, she took the time to undermine my fear and trepidation through her insightful suggestions. Since that positive experience, I have learned that working on a team has some advantages over working alone.
Loners: While loners make good fiction writers and even successful entrepreneurs, their difficulty with working on a team can jeopardize a technical communications project.
Meetings: Regardless of how team members feel about meetings, the first step in building an effective team is to meet on a regular basis, and with a set agenda. Regular meetings hedge against misunderstandings and unaligned objectives. Actually, I look forward to team meetings now, both those held at work and those away from work.
I especially enjoy STC meetings (which are mostly held on the phone) because group members not only have similar backgrounds, but share common goals.
Consensus: While regular meetings cannot guarantee 100 percent agreement, they do go a long way toward avoiding problems caused by miscommunication. Run correctly, where everyone has a chance to contribute, regular meetings can foster buy-in.
Some groups adopt the 70 percent comfortable rule, where consensus is reached when each member is at least 70 percent comfortable with a proposal. One by one the members are asked how comfortable they are with the decision in front of the team.
Leaders: Usually the team leader has the greatest influence on team member relationships. A good team leader helps the team decide what it can achieve, keeps team members both informed and involved, and lets members know how they are doing. On the other hand, team leaders cause stress when they spend more time pushing their agenda than listening to team member concerns and addressed disagreements, when they are more interested in punishing mistakes than handing out praise.
Some team experiences are more enjoyable than others, but technical communicators do well to embrace the concept. Technical communication teams are here to stay. For more information about working on teams, visit http:// www.dorsethouse.com/books/pw.html and locate the book "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams" by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister.
by Ann Gordon, President
The Way It Was
When I traded one form of technical communication for another, I earned more money, but I lost something in the trade. I lost contact with the end user. Like most tech writers, I worked with programmers, engineers, business analysts, and subject matter experts to gather the information I needed to produce technical manuals and training materials, but once the product passed quality control, I never heard any more about the book or the course. I had no idea how well it was received; I didn't know whether what I had written filled the client's needs or not.
As this company prepared to train thousands of employees to work with a new system, the managers decided to integrate the trainers and the writers so that everyone involved with a project would work with both the data and the business, from start to finish, including the classroom. In fact, the technical writers and instructional designers who create the help and the training materials also perform onsite support for the first week after a department goes online with the new system.
With this plan, train-the-trainer turned into a practice session where the technical documentation team members test the training materials and train each other. One member from another team audits this practice class, but no one from "training" has to ramp up on a new subject. The writers themselves are the trainers.
by Ann Gordon, owner
After reading all the survey comments about Captivate, I felt it incumbent upon me to download a trial version and try learning it myself. I wanted to know if my previous experience with software simulation applications would transfer to Captivate. Since so many of our members wanted to learn more about this application, I wanted to find out for myself:
My Previous Experience
After downloading and installing the trial version of Captivate, I viewed the tutorials available from the opening page of the application. They helped quite a bit, though they didn't explain all I needed to know, especially about setting preferences. After a full day of looking for resources and fussing with Captivate, I could create a demonstration (complete with sound) and an interactive training module. That would be good except that I didn't know enough to fix a problem I had with my software simulation. The interactivity and text boxes worked okay, but I could not get the movie to advance from page 2 to page 3. I had to do that manually, which certainly wasn't going to fly for either an employer or a client. More about this problem later.
I didn't pursue the ShowMe Solutions because their website requires a formal inquiry and response, but I didn't have time for that process since my Sunday night deadline loomed.
I didn't read the Captivate 1 manual because I learned that the latest version of Captivate, version 3, is a complete remake of the program. I needed a quick training resource for version 3, since it was the only version Adobe offered as a free trial.
Adobe Live Docs
Cool Captivate Features
Link to Photoshop CS3
Regarding my troubled simulation, I gave up on the dysfunctional transition between slides 2 and 3, deleted the entire file, and re-created the module from scratch. In the workplace, this could pose a serious production problem if the simulation had been longer, but this module only contained ten slides. My remake works just fine; I may never know what went wrong with the first one!
by Ann Gordon, Survey Manager