After my virtual conversation with Cammy, I was reminded of one of the great instructional design truths:
If you know enough about a set of tasks to create effective training, you know enough to develop job aids for those tasks.
In fact, you can’t develop effective training if you haven’t done enough analysis to develop job aids.
That’s not to say you always develop job aids or performance support. (Insert the usual skill-and-knowledge-only stuff here.) What I am saying is:
- If you know you have skill and knowledge gaps, you must have data on the desired performance, the actual performance, the standards, etc.
- If you know that, then you know details like when to perform, how often, consequence of error, and so on.
- And if you know that, then the tasks themselves are telling you whether they’re suited to job aids.
Let’s say the job is to help the unpaid treasurer of a volunteer organization manage the group’s finances through QuickBooks Online Edition. The treasurer has never used the software, so we have a definite skill/knowledge gap.
My own task analysis would start with an outcome analysis: what are the desired results? Accurate and timely reports, accurate and timely entry of income, accurate recording of expenses…
Clearly I could create a training class for this stuff (meaning, to attempt to encode it in memory). For such a class, though, I have to figure out all the steps that lead to those accomplishments.
Which means that I’ll know enough to identify the steps/tasks I can cover entirely with job aids, and steps/tasks for which I can combine job aids and training.
Job aids often appear as step-by-step guides, flowcharts, and decision tables, but as the Rosset/Schafer book demostrates, they can take many other forms. Imagine a well-designed cascading style sheet with call-out boxes. It can embody the major components of a CSS, helping someone create a new one without having to dig the code out of a reference book. (The reference book is a job aid for recalling the requirements and options for an entire body of code.)
If you’re designing instruction, don’t overlook the high payoff that comes from providing job aids. (To say nothing of the intangible but very real value of not boring people by trying to make them memorize stuff they don’t need to memorize.)