Subscribe: Learning TRENDS

« 65 - Pricing On-Line Learning: A Moving Target | Main | 64 - People Skills Grow in Importance for Technical Staff; Training Professionals Understanding Y2K Issues »

Special TechLearn Trends Report

On August 27th, the following question was posted to TechLearn Trends:
I'm a training specialist with a software subsidiary of AG Communication Systems in Phoenix. We make an information management product used by crime labs across the country.

Typically, my training sessions consist of both lecture and hands-on computer training and delivery lasts about three days. We are about to release a new version of our software and a number of our clients are opting out of this full training; they want me to provide a one-day training session without any hands-on work.

I'd like some suggestions on how to make this one-day refresh-training more engaging and enjoyable for the participants. I don't want to lecture about a piece of software for a whole day, but without the hands-on training exercises, I'm stumped. Thanks for your help!

Paul Tracy - JusticeTrax( Training Specialist)

Here is a list of the fabulous replies we received:


Gail Pentz:
Find an analogy you can work with, and use it to liven up the class. I train several control record classes for a software development firm that can last from 1.5 to 2 days each. Since control record classes focus on setting parameters, there is no user portion. To give folks the big picture of how the system works, I do an activity with little plastic army men. My analogy is that accounts are sent to our collections product and are treated and prioritized the same way wounded troops in a M*A*S*H unit would be treated. We walk through what happens in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and then I explain how our product works. I leave the army men and a couple of plastic jeeps on the table for the duration of class to serve as a reminder of the analogy and to add a bit of playfulness to the class. Participants tell me it's helpful. I also let them take a toy soldier with them as a souvenir.

Jeff Defren (Benchmark Computer Learning, Training Advisor):
Perhaps you could develop role playing exercises outlining problems that come up/or may come up, and have solutions delivered through role playing also. Then have a discussion of the how's and whys the solution fits the problem! I would think something that actively engages the students will help to make the ideas stick. Just a thought.

Dennis DiLorenzo (Usertech Multimedia):
Have users solve a crime. Make sure that the crime demands that they use the key features of the software. Work in groups and give a real prize to the first group to solve the crime.

ROBERT M. DUFF: (Visual Information Directorate - Naval School of Health Sciences, Head, Training Technology Department)
This is in response to your request for suggestions on how to cram "hands-on" training into a one-day refresh-training episode.

I would suggest combining your past experience for the most informative FAQ's. Do as much answering of these as you can on a CD-ROM (quick, cheap). Choose the most difficult hands-on to describe in words and illustrate that with live action AND words (voice-over) on the CD. Before duplicating the CD, beta test it with the lowest common denominators and modify accordingly. Provide a HELP line number and/or URL.

It will take some real skull work to review the 3-day course to weed out what can be taught/demonstrated on CD-ROM and what DEMANDS live, on-site, hands-on contact, but it can be done ... and it seems keenly in your interests to do it. The One day can be devoted to the most salient points that require on-site, hands-on contact and it should include a brief "How To Use This CD-ROM we're going to hand out."

Big advantage to the CD-ROM (which I suspect you've already considered) is that they can take it home and use it for its immediate purpose and - if planning is good - for reference in future. Interactivity would be SUPER if you have the time and money. Also of some importance is the cost saving of a one-day over a three-day training. Cost avoidance could pay for the CD-ROM effort if you have very many students. Another hidden advantage is: I need (so-and-so) and I need it by close of business. Only "FRED" can do that. Great! Where's Fred? Gone for three days. Awk !! Hope this helps.

Christine Rennie:
I have a question:
Are your clients looking for a transition to the new version class? If so, my thought is that you may not need an instructor-led class at all. What about a video showing the differences in the software? Or a CD/CBT/book where on the left hand side of the page shows how the software used to work for a particular function and on the right hand side how the new version works.

If there is additional functionality, the self-study could explain through an example what the new functionality is and then give instructions on how to use it. What about a web-based tutorial with you available as an on-line tutor?

Sheri Enault (Franklin Templeton Training & Development):
Since your information management product is used by crime labs, perhaps you could build on that theme (sort of a Dick Tracy style). You could introduce a hypothetical case about a recent crime that occurred. Perhaps you could even develop fictional characters, like the evil Dr. Know Z. Body. Your training could show how the software unravels the case. NOTE: Themes can be beneficial for learners by allowing them to practice the material mentally while you are presenting. However, using themes can be harmful if the learner cannot see how it applies to the content or the theme overshadows the content.

Bob Wincentsen (Cubic Applications, Inc.):
Regarding the new version of crime lab software, we have found that the 3 day seminars are wasted effort for many actual users. A better approach is to spend development time in the software on site maps, search engines in the helps areas and addition of a glossary. Users want to learn only what pertains to the immediate task at hand. Another area that is well accepted is to have situational tutorials- harder to build but it demonstrates the product and gets the users in an exploratory mode. Then the trainer needs to emphasize these areas in the one day sessions. We have incorporated these ideas in a series of instructional CD-ROMs and it seems to be satisfying the users. Best wishes on success.

Patti Combs (Management and Technical Training):
When there is no hands on computers for your participants...
* Plan to break up your day long presentation with small group interaction. For instance, after showcasing a new feature, say take 2 minutes and discuss with your neighbor how/when you plan on using the feature. Like, dislike, etc. Just getting them to talk about it will help them to retain it.
* Plan games. Incorporate the new skills you are teaching into the games.
* Ask for volunteer drivers of your computer. Incorporate this into your games. To answer the question regarding a skill you taught, a team member must demonstrate or find the answer at your computer.

Phyllis Aniello:
If they know the old software, how about the old Socratic method. Identify the critical procedures and ask "How did you do this task in the old version?", just to keep them awake and thinking. Then teach them the new procedure. Of course, document all procedures. Tell a couple of jokes, tap dance a little and you've got it made. Good Luck!!!

Marjorie Osborne (Training Specialist - Polmar Technologies):
I have had that similar situation happen to me and what we did was to have a "What's new in ...." class. I wrote a short tips and tricks manual and just showed (with the aid of a system and an LCD panel) the "new" features of the software. At the end of the "class" I let the students come up and experiment with the software and answered their questions. The day went well, to my surprise. I am a firm believer in hands on training. I would not let my child drive by just reading a book or going to a lecture.

FYI, 6 weeks after the "class", I held a full fledge class with at least half of the students attending from the original class. "Go figure!"

Gene Wood (Training and Applications Manager - Zomba Recording Corporation:
I'm not sure how much time you have or what equipment your training facility has, but maybe a PowerPoint presentation with screens showing the differences and enhancements the new version has over the old version. If any of the windows or dialog boxes look different, capture those windows and put them in the slides. This way they can visualize and be an active part of the learning process rather than just passively sitting there, falling asleep.

David Grebow (Director, Educational Services - PeopleSoft):
Since Time has become the Number One scarce resource, I've been faced with the same problem on numerous occasions during the last few years. Here are some of the ways I've been able to say "Honey, I Shrunk the Course!"

For starters, let the Learners become the Teachers ... take the modules from the 3-day (or break the three day into modules), add the time it takes to present them, and let each class determine the mix of modules they need and want for the 7-8 hour lecture. Building your own course is a great way to get to know what your Learners really need and want and makes the training truly relevant.

Show-and-Tell the hands-on part. Choose the key pieces of learning that you think really need hands-on training - maybe the key differences in versions, new logon procedures, new functions and pathways. Use the Preview-View-Review approach and lecture about what they need to know; demo to show what they need to know how to do; and use the graphical pop-quiz approach for review. The graphical pop-quiz is "Watch me do it again and tell me if it was done correctly or if not, why not?"

Get creative. Have the Learners become teams and use the scenario approach to start time-based contests. The Learners need to "Develop the Dancecard" and list the steps involved in completing the situation the scenario calls for. Winning teams get a prize (TBD). If you have the course development budget make the scenarios video-based to add some additional teaching tools to the program. These days, it doesn't have to be extravagant anymore with digital video. A little sound and video can do wonders to wake them up and gives you a chance to breakaway from being a "talking head."

Take a lesson from Madison Avenue. We've all seen (especially those of us who spend too much time in airplanes and airports), the Visio thin laptop ads. In the User Guide or Student Materials, have a simulated keyboard, mouse and blank screen. Tell them to keep it in front of them as you do the demos and make sure they follow the keystroke sequence for commands. It will work to reinforce their eye hand coordination and nobody has to worry about setting up a classroom or a system crashing.

Finally, and most simply, don't lecture. Talk with them. Engage them. Use stories frequently to make teaching points. Set up the room when you can using non-academic lecture seating. A U-shape that allows you walk in and around and have people see each other works. Get rid of any podiums or other elements you can hide behind that block your self from the Learners. Use one of Elliott's reader's ideas and get a stool to sit on. Keep the dress business casual. Have a working system setup during breaks and invite people to play (aka hands-on learning) and hang-out by that machine as a ready and willing Mentor. Try and remember what made the 3-day program enjoyable, fun, interesting - use the Learner Evals for reference to reality check you memory and incorporate those moments.

And last but not least, leave them with a GREAT Users Guide or EPSS program or Reference Job Aid on a CD-ROM. Use it during the class to get them into the habit of looking for answers in those places. Have your website extend the training with Version X.2 Chats, FAQ's, Forums. The training program may only last one-day, but the real learning goes on forever!

John M. Cozzoli (Education Services - Computer Associates Int. Inc):
I think a PowerPoint presentation with screen shots (or live demos where appropriate), interspersed with QA segments to keep their concentration focused, may work well. You also may want to consider a little off the beaten path approach. For instance, write up a script (like a movie script with dialog) for one section of the presentation, and have a few volunteers read it. Keep it short (15 or 20 minutes) and humorous, and use it when you or your audience is starting to fade.

Diane M. Weldin (Director of Marketing - Business Works, Inc.):
I am a TechLearn Trends reader responding to another reader's dilemma: They ran a three-day training and hands-on program for their crime lab software product -- but clients now only want a one-day lecture with no hands-on. I have a solution that addresses both of these training issues.

Our company, BusinessWorks, develops multimedia interactive (and also entertaining!) training courses/business learning projects for companies. We can deliver your training project via a CD-ROM or over a Corporate
Internet or intranet.

A "virtual" presentation shows the trainer/speaker, in full-color, full-motion video and audio, with the speech text, and presentation slides -- all synchronized on-screen at the user's desktop. Additional features include, languages (for global training and distribution), menu driven glossaries, non-linear slide and text searches. We can even provide "software emulation" so the "hands-on" can still happen during the training-- they can try it as see actual examples of how your software works. If tracking, testing and reporting are necessary, that can also be included. We would be pleased to discuss these solutions with the reader directly if you would be so kind to connect us.

Doris AuYeung:
It sounds as though the "hands on" exercises are not stimulating for the learners. The perspective from the receiving side of computer training is that learners are often put through "the paces" geared for the slowest common denominator. I suspect those opting out are individuals who want advanced levels of usage in addition to basics, for whom the class is moving too slow.

Most learning takes place after the course is over anyway, in the context of the job. My suggestion is to give the learners enough to work with on the job, a few advanced tips, and things they can try on the job. Have the employers agree for you to conduct follow up a few weeks afterward to see how much learners picked up from the one day course (you might be surprised). Also, the instructor is far more valuable in engaging the learners than any hands-on exercises! Good luck!

Rich Michaels (Michaels McVinney, Inc.):
Concerning the above situation. From the information provided I assume that the "clients" who are making this request are already familiar with a former version of the program and are thus concerned that the new 3-day class will be covering information they already know. If that is a true assumption then you may want to consider just providing them with instruction on the new features of the software. If the new features require hands-on experience to understand/use them then you must explicitly state to your clients why they must attend a hands-on workshop. If understanding how to use and benefit from the new features is primarily a cognitive function (i.e. doesn't require practice) then give them what they are asking for - abbreviated instruction.

As to how to be creative in a non-hands-on instructional setting here is an idea which presuppose that the mind is the center of creativity and not just a persons fingers!

Using an interactive lecture format supported by of course "computer generated slides/overheads" describe a new feature of the software. Then through the art of human conversation and interaction ask the participate how/where in the software interface do they suppose this new feature is accessed. As added complexity to creative thinking and learning ask them why do they think this feature is included under this menu/pull down window/function key/etc. Engage the participants in a discussion of the purpose, rationale and reason for this feature. Let them tell you how it will benefit them. Continue in a similar manner until all new features are covered.

This process is guaranteed to not only teach the participants about the new software - it is also guaranteed to demonstrate the participant's current knowledge of how to use the software. As a summation activity in the training consider using a "Jeopardy" style game to assess their mastery knowledge of the software's usage and/or functionality.

The technique as outlined above can also be implemented without the need for an instructor. A properly designed CBT. Multi-media, or Web based application could also deliver the instruction in this manner. (Sans real-time human interaction and spontaneous dialog.) However, if the audience really doesn't understand how to effectively and efficiently use the current software, the self-paced training on the new features of the product will fail. This is also guaranteed!

Only a live instructor has a chance of saving a class when the wrong participants, with the wrong prerequisite knowledge and learning expectations are put into a forced learning situation by "clients" who are trying to save a buck by cutting out training days. On the other hand, feedback like this from your clients may be telling you more than you at first think. Is 3 days to learn your product necessary? Are you really providing meaningful adult oriented instruction? Are the hands-on activities of your current instruction instructionally challenging or instructionally demeaning? Do your clients love your software but hate how they have to learn it? Tough questions that need your honest and thoughtful contemplation.

David I. Stevens:
In reply to the request made by a reader regarding providing a one day training session without hands-on activities. A couple of things come to mind. First you have to ask why the clients do not want hands on activities. Is it because they are not needed? Is it because they are, dare I say it, bored? Or is it because the client does not need the activities to be able to use the product.

It might be a good idea to do a needs analysis. Develop a profile of what the client needs with respect to the product. Once that is done treatment can be assigned to the various parts of the profile and it might just be that hands on activities are not needed or can be reduced to a minimum.

You might also, in the interest of making learning fun or at least different, put the materials into an on-line learning environment. This way the client can "learn" the materials in their own way and in their time. This course should be a structured environment that takes the client through the materials in a systematic way. Use a Presentation Tutorial or a How-To or Choice Driven Tutorial. You may also want to consider burning the new materials onto a CD. Again the client can use the materials as and when they see fit.

If both you and the client really, really want to engage in a face-to-face session and in keeping with the idea of fun learning and providing "hooks" on which the client can put the learning consider integrating the materials into a "treasure hunt". The client has to "find" the new materials, manipulate in some way, use it and when they are finished they can collect their prize. In the same mode consider a "car rally". Look up the rules of a car rally and integrate your product into the rally idea or concept. Again offer prizes for the winners. Remember that when gaming with learners they are ALL WINNERS!!!!

Robin Seitz:
Just because YOUR CLIENTS don't want to have hands-on training exercises during the one day class doesn't mean that YOU can't demonstrate the new version in a hands-on manner. By this I mean setting up your laptop/PC and demonstrating a few specific performance-based scenarios (if you want to do XXX, you used to go to screen YYY and click on ZZZ) using the old software and then showing the same scenarios using the new software (NOW, with the new version, if you want to do XXX, go to screen AAA and click on BBB) .

You can use a product such as Lotus ScreenCam to capture the operations of the old software and the operations of the new version. Your demonstration can be supplemented with PowerPoint slides and/or paper handouts of the screens of the new version, along with the step-by-step instructions on the operation of the new software.

Kim Baker:
I'm intrigued with the possibilities offered by Microsoft's NetMeeting software. With it, a trainer can demonstrate other applications to individuals around the country who are sitting at their desks. The default is 20 participants at one time but I understand that this number can be increased to 50 or 60. The software will accommodate audio and video transmissions as well although bandwidth issues may suggest substituting the audio with a telephone conference call and foregoing video. The software can be downloaded from and can be installed on private servers if intranet use is preferred.

Eileen Licerio (Director, Education - IMA, Inc.):
In response to the one day course. This is where multimedia based training really pays off. I've found in the past that customers won't travel for a one day class, and it's too expensive to send an instructor cross country for one day. If the course is primarily lecture, multimedia is the answer. After my customers have attended my classroom training, I keep them updated with new features via MBT courses.

Rose M. Dorsey:
We created a system simulation demo model where the student watched the simulation of a computer system at work (via a cd-rom multimedia course). The audio talked the student through the process while arrows and labels walked them through visually. We even showed the appropriate buttons being pressed when we simulated a conversation between an employee and a customer. The purpose of this model was to give the students the big picture of how the system worked before getting into the nuts and bolts. If you could demonstrate your system this way via an LCD projector in front of the class that might be a good way to start.

Also, discovery type of learning within teams is another good way of engaging the students without actual hands-on. Give them pieces of information and have them figure it out in teams...then have a spokes-person from each team share their findings with the group.

Ron Nawojczyk:
I would suggest creating some Lotus ScreenCam demonstrations that can be shown and then distributed to the class attendees. ScreenCam allows you to capture any actions performed on a Windows computer screen. I use them frequently to send information to our remote sales offices so that the people there can go through some training examples without having to attend a class and can also view them on their own schedule. In your class, you can run through the ScreenCam examples once during class and then each person could view them as often as they wish on their own. When they are ready to do some hands-on work on their own, they would have a library of example to use as a reference. You can capture voice as you record the ScreenCam so that you have sound included in the examples or you can also use the built in text screens to overlay the examples with textual explanations.

Dave Quinlivan-Hall (Knowledge Navigators International):
We develop annotated screen shots or more elaborate screen cams for the demo part; then use assignments that have people work through the key components. With a project-based pedagogy perspective, divide the hands-on components into smaller, stand-alone deliverables. Determine assignments that will deliver these learning outcomes (assignments can be done individually or in groups). Depending on the complexity of material and dollars to invest in on-line design these assignments can be fully automated or instructor/navigator evaluated. These same modules can be used for quick reference and refresh training later. The data for assignments can be the participant's own stuff or you can create a training database to draw upon -- or you can use both. We do this type of design & development work from instructional design to appropriate multi-media build -- and all in Canadian dollars.

Carolyn Woodie (Woodie Computer Associates, LLC):
I have found this to be a common problem. Software has many new features to help with productivity, but companies want to cut the training time in half! Lecture does not work! Try to provide handouts with as many screen shots as possible for the user to take with them. Use the exercises that you might have used for the user in a hands-on class and walk through them demonstrating the software. If possible, have a couple of users come to the front to have some hands-on training on the demo machine that everyone can see. The users watching will then see some of the errors that they might do when they finally get to use the software and how you (the instructor) help the individual solve their problem.

Always provide quick reference cards for the common key/mouse strokes and a whole batch of shortcuts! I'm looking forward to seeing ideas from others and the whole question of cutting training time is something that I want to see addressed at TechLearn98 when I attend in the fall!

Doug Woodard (Manager of Learning & Communication - L.L. Bean):
I am responding to the August 27th edition of TechLearn trends e-newsletter regarding the request for help. The request centered around a reader looking to reduce overall re-fresher training time from three days to one. The problem as I understood it was the balance between hands-on and ILT learning.

My name is Doug Woodard and I am the manager of learning and communication for L. L. Bean's Customer Satisfaction business unit. I started in this brand new position back in January and I oversee all technical, customer service, product, leadership, team building, OD, (the list goes on!) training (as well as all communications) for all of L. L. Bean's call centers and CSRs. This includes our seasonal workforce which numbers in the thousands. Before coming to L. L. Bean I was a change management consultant for Andersen Consulting where I worked with Fortune 500 companies on planning, leading, and implementing wide-scale change programs. (This work included performance design and development consulting...)

When coming to L. L. Bean I brought with me an approach to learning that may help your reader. It is an approach that we are using here at Bean's to completely re-vamp our training programs: Business Simulation.

Business simulation is an approach whereby you look to replicate the learning participant's actual on the job work environment in the classroom. The learning design should focus on attempting to duplicate the actual characteristics, resources, limitations, and goals that participants face on their jobs. Business simulation is a non-directive learning approach that may typically combine ILT, structured discovery, job-focused activities, and even a little GBL (or goal-based learning).

It sounds like your reader may be able to combine her ILT and desire for hands-on training into a business simulation approach. How do the participants use the application on the job? What goals do they have when they engage the tool? What resources do they have? How could you simulate the job experience in the classroom such that you could highlight the differences/benefits of the new release? The answers to these questions may help to start drive her down the path of integrated business simulation.


Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
Editor Permission Required
You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.