Successful Computer Training Using Scenario-Based Learning and Interactivity
What makes a computer training program successful?
Whether teaching an in-person class in a classroom, conducting a remote computer class online, or developing an e-learning course, when you allow students to “do”, rather than just “watch”, they will learn a lot more. People remember better and learn a lot faster when they practice what they learn. Interactivity may involve face-to-face interaction, drill and practice, or completing a series of summary quizzes to review material. All of these types of interactivity should allow some time of hands-on practice. If possible, provide correct or incorrect feedback so the learner can track how he or she is doing.
One of my favorite quotes is:
Whether you are a computer instructor, developer, teacher, or parent, there are many things you can do to ensure success when training.
Prepare the Learner on What They Will Learn
Before starting your training program, let the learner know what they will be learning. One approach is to define objectives for the course. For example:
In this lesson, you will learn how to:
- Create a new spreadsheet
- Enter information in your spreadsheet
- Add mathematical functions
- Graph your data
After completing this training session, you should be able to:
- Organize project tasks
- Use project management software
- Assign target dates to project tasks
- Track task completion
In addition to using the traditional approach of listing objectives in the beginning of a course, consider scenario-based learning. Learners can best relate the material learned to their own life experiences if they can picture a real-life scenario where the material is utilized.
In other words, if you are creating a course on how to use spreadsheet software, paint a picture like this:
You are a financial analyst, and you have been asked to give a presentation on your company’s sales figures over the past 6 months. Your manager has asked you compile data and create a series of graphs to present the material.
By using scenarios, you can help the learner relate the material to real life, which may increase their interest and help them to best utilize what they learn.
In addition to either providing objectives and/or a scenario to prepare the learner, be sure to provide instructions on how they will navigate within the course. This may include using navigational controls which they may need to know while they are completing the program. If possible, let the learner know how long the training program will take to complete. Although this may vary, you can provide an estimated time for completion.
Without a scenario, a training program may offer tools to the learner, but the learner may then ask themselves, “Now that I have the tools, what do I create, or where do I go from here?” This may leave the learner feeling lost and unable to know where to begin. This is especially common when managers mandate employees to attend a training class, but there are no follow-up goals defined on how they will utilize the material to support projects in their workplace.
Are your instructions clear and easy to understand?
When developing a training program, consider the audience, as well as their level of expertise. Is your material easy to understand? Is there too much content presented in one section or module of your program? Try “chunking” your material into small sections, chapters, or topics, in order to prevent cognitive overload. If too much information is presented at once, the learner may feel overwhelmed and may not be able to keep up with the material. Presenting small amounts of material with periodic reviews at the end of each section, helps the learner to better absorb the material and take mental breaks.
Is your content written in an easy-to-understand tone with proper grammar and spelling? Consider using active voice vs. passive voice to “engage” the learner and keep the material interesting. Let others read your material as a form of QA’ing (for quality assurance). This may involve have your training program tested by fellow instructors, developers or co-workers.
How Can You Add Interactivity to Your Training Program?
There are many ways to add interactivity to a training program. Some suggestions for interactivity are:
- Periodically, ask the learner review questions. During an in-person training program, include a Q & A session where the audience can participate. In an online training session, include True or False questions, Multiple Choice questions, or graphical images where the learner can click on a hot spot to answer a question related to the material they have just learned.
- Use software tools to add interactivity. If your program is a training course for a software program, use a developmental tool such as Adobe Captivate to record screen activity and include hot spots, animation, prompts and captions to “engage” the learner and allow interactivity as you present content.
- Introduce more scenarios throughout the training. During training, include additional scenarios to further help the learner relate material to real-life experiences. If possible, provide multiple scenarios for the learner to select from, which may link to different training modules.
- Incorporate simulation exercises. Be sure to include some exercises with step-by-step instructions, for the learner to complete. This can be used as a form of drill and practice.
- Incorporate scored quiz or exam at the end of the session (if applicable). At the end of your training program, including a summary exam to help the learner review all material presented in the program. Online assessments may include a practice session which is not scored, as well as a scored assessment which is recorded in a database for tracking completion of training programs.
In summary, remember the following things when developing a training program:
- Know your audience
- Write clear, easy-to-understand instructions for your learner
- Include one or more scenarios for your learner to promote learning
- Include interactivity in your program to “engage” the learner
- Test your program for quality assurance
- Evaluate your training programs by following up with the learner, providing a survey, or asking for feedback through an online evaluation or comment box
By using some or all of these suggestions, you will achieve success in your training programs!
© 2011 Amelia Griggs
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