Sep 032007
 

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Software Training Isn't.

Many projects I’ve worked on have involved helping a client’s employees learn computer applications as part of their job — sometimes off-the-shelf applications like a word processor, often large custom applications like Amtrak’s reservation system.

A fundamental principle for such projects: software training isn’t.

Yes, the client wants training. And typically the learners don’t know how to do their work with new or upgraded software. So there’s a genuine skill-knowledge gap.

But that gap isn’t between the learner and the software; it’s between the learner and his work. Or as Tom Gilbert would say, between the worker and his accomplishments — the results he produces on the job.

This is more than a semantic difference; I think it’s a beacon for helping people learn.

This post introduces a series I call Software Training Isn’t. I’ll talk about things my coworkers and I learned on a huge project for Caesar International (my fictional name for a Fortune 100 consumer-products company). The series will include:

  • The Intro: you’re reading it.
  • Water-Ski with Caesar: delivering 12,000 student-days of training in four months.
  • A Computer, Not a Way of Life: mastering basic skills without ever hearing the word “binary.”
  • They’re Applications; Apply Them: “How to Use Excel” isn’t an objective, it’s a sentence fragment.
  • The Way Things Work: narrowing the gap between the classroom and the real world.
  • She Doesn’t Work for Us? : preparing and sustaining effective instructors.
  • Liking, Learning, Using: tracking progress and demonstrating success.

You may know the adage, “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” I hope this series offers some experience you can use to enhance your own good judgment.

Note: I’ve fictionalized aspects of the client I call Caesar International, but not anything relevant to the backgrounds and abilities of the learners, to the design and delivery of the training, or to the results we produced. This was far and away the largest project ever undertaken by the Client Training team at GE Information Services, for which I was the chief instructional designer. It was also far and away our greatest success.