Chapter 6: Knowing How to Train Users|
What types of training are needed?
Illustrating how your new technology improves the potential of reaching your organizational goals should be a cornerstone of your training. This, along with the need to develop a high comfort level with the computer system, especially for novices, will be essential to your training objectives. Training should be based, to the extent possible, on the user's prior knowledge. If users are currently using a computer system and you are merely upgrading the system, a certain level of understanding can be assumed, and training can proceed without much basic information. You may be able to classify some users as beginners and others as advanced, and plan two levels of training. However, it is critical not to assume too much - it is better to err on the side of being too basic, particularly when a new system with many new possibilities is being installed.
You should plan to have manuals and other materials to give to users in the training sessions. They may be developed in house or by a consultant, or bought from a store. These materials are important because they give users something to refer to when they have questions after the training. The materials should refer both to your system and how to use it, as well as to the applications available. In addition, examples of success stories of how technology is being used elsewhere might further motivate staff receiving training.
In general, the manuals that come with applications are often hard to understand for novice users. A whole publishing industry has been created to develop user-friendly manuals for computers and applications. Some are just less technical and easier to read; others are more entertaining. Whether you use these published manuals in your training or not, you may want to purchase a few copies to have around as references.
Planning Basic Training for All Users
Training should be geared toward the skills and experience of the users. All users should be provided training materials for later reference.
All users will need basic information about your computer system and what applications are available. Topics should include:
Training Novice Users
For this group of users, training should focus on basic functions of computer systems and uses of applications. For instance, both Windows and Macintosh operating systems have functions that are used with most applications, such as file and edit commands. Novice users should be taught about using files prepared by others as well as those they prepare themselves, including what happens when the user requests a file and saves a file. Losing a file on which a lot of work has been done is traumatic, especially for novice users. Providing basic training in these functions will make it easier to understand the related applications when they are introduced.
For novice users, it is critical that the training materials you provide are simple and easy to understand. You may want to develop training materials that have graphics showing what computer screens will look like for the various system applications. Novice users should be encouraged to try to figure out the answer to problems before asking someone for help; however, they should be encouraged to ask for help if they cannot figure out the problem, no matter how small the problem may seem.
Training Advanced Users
Training for advanced users, those who have experience with and feel comfortable using computers, should contain much of the information included in the novice user training; however it can be abridged and presented in much less time. In addition to providing overview training on all applications, you will want to provide more advanced training on applications for those users with an interest in becoming proficient. The training materials provided can be the same as those used with the novice users or different.
You may want to provide even more advanced training for persons who are "power users." Certain people enjoy learning new bells and whistles, particularly with computers. These are generally people who already know more than just the fundamentals about applications. If they are willing, these same people could be effective resources within schools, university departments or offices, and libraries. They can answer user questions and be available to offer information that will refresh the memory of those who forget what they learned in training sessions. These people can be given periodic update training for new versions and releases of software before the upgrades are installed in the system and then train other users how to use the upgrades. They can also provide information on new Internet resources that can be employed in the classroom.
Training Technical Support Personnel
Just as teachers need to learn how to use a computer system and the applications that are available, they also need to receive training on the use of available instructional software and how to access other technology resources. In fact, there are now nationally recognized standards for teacher technology proficiency. To meet these goals, training for teachers (after addressing the most fundamental of technology issues) should be based primarily on their curricular needs and demands with a secondary emphasis on their administrative responsibilities. The focus of the training must be on the curriculum, not on technology for its own sake. If this is not the case, it will be difficult for the teachers being trained to understand why they should include technology in their lesson planning. In addition, since your system most likely provides access to the Internet and other network providers, you will want to include training both on how to access the network(s) and, more specifically, how network use can be integrated into classroom learning activities.
Finally, there may be general computer applications that can be used for instruction for which special training is needed. For instance, teachers may need special training sessions on setting up data bases and spreadsheets for student use in the classroom. This training should also be based on the curricular needs of the teachers. One example of integrating technology into the curriculum might be the use of a spreadsheet as a tool for manipulating U.S. Census results and thereby studying local, regional, and national demographics. If such an activity were to be modeled during training, teachers would leave the training session with ideas and lessons that could immediately be translated into student learning in a "technology-enriched classroom."
An important part of your training program should be on how to test and evaluate instructional software. Teachers may see software demonstrated at professional meetings that seems useful. It is important that any software purchased be able to be used within the infrastructure of your system and that the concepts in the software fit with the learning goals of your school. Teachers also need to see the importance of practicing the use of software so that they can avoid interrupting classroom sessions while trying to "make the software work". Finally, teachers should also be encouraged to note successful technology practices in their classroom that might then be replicated in other settings.