What are the Price Drivers for Training on Software Applications?

As with any custom training, defining the best solution involves consciously making tradeoffs between the nature and scope of the training and the costs involved. In addition to the normal price drivers for custom training solutions, the following factors specific to software application training will play an important part in this calculation:

  • The amount of domain or business knowledge on which the participants must be trained (e.g., a debit is … a credit is …)
  • The degree of complexity inherent in the software application
  • The size of the software application
  • The stability of the software application
  • The level of user ability
  • The desired level of interactivity
  • How Software Training is Built

Software training solution developments follow our standard development process with a few tweaks:

  • We make sure that we understand the domain or business knowledge that also must be communicated in the training.
  • We locate and leverage any existing training materials or technical documentation on the application.
  • We make sure we know the skills that are necessary to run the application, the skill gap level of the potential audience, the receptivity to various learning strategies, and any location or department customization needs.
  • We sit with the application itself and with your technical liaisons and subject matter experts to ensure that we understand and can use the application the way it was intended.
  • We construct useful job aids.
  • We rely on your technical liaisons and subject matter experts at each key decision point in the Rigorous Project Management process to validate the technical accuracy of the material and pay particular attention to testing any interactive simulations.

What’s Different About Training for Software Applications?

The custom development of training for software applications requires a specialized approach.

Such training can be delivered as an e-learning solution, as instructor-led, in a virtual classroom, or via some blend of all these approaches. A blended approach often works best, and many clients choose this route.

Instructor-led

If instructor-led is the alternative you think is best based on the number and distribution of the participants and other decision factors, we will design and create the course materials, including the presentation, instructor guide and the participant guide, based on the individual software application and the ultimate work product/activity needed. Envision will also provide an instructor as needed to teach the software application or provide a “Train the Trainer” session to enable your current training staff to deliver the materials.

E-learning

If e-learning is the way you choose, the possibilities get very interesting. Envision will create online modules and job aids to train the participants on the software application. There are a few ways to go about it, based on the importance of the software to the organization, its complexity, and your willingness to invest in interactivity.

Consider the following increasing levels of interactivity as the basis for the e-learning development:

  • The course would utilize explanatory text, application screenshots and field definitions, much like an online manual.
  • The course is an automated presentation, showing a run-through of how the application works.
  • The course presents automated simulations of the use of the application, showing actual screen captures of mouse movement and the steps needed to complete activities.
  • The course does all of the above and also allows the participant to actually practice using the application in simulation mode by being guided through the clicks and activities necessary to learn the software.

Webinar

When considering training for software applications, a virtual classroom approach is often the best way to go because it provides the best of both worlds. It allows you to exploit the full potential of the interactivity enabled by e-learning while gaining the benefits of having the learning session led by an instructor. A virtual instructor provides presence and a guide through the material and gives the participants someone with whom to interact, both during the presentation and after. We have found that phone call symposiums after a virtual classroom session provide a great way to follow up, so participants can ask questions and apply the knowledge they have gained to their particular situations.

And of course, if you really want a blended solution, nothing stops you from running a true instructor-led class with all the participants in the same room going through the same e-learning course at the same time. The combinations are endless and we are happy to work with you to find the right blend of technologies to get the job done within your allotted budget.

The Technical Writing Process

Project Management plays a part in technical writing projects as well as well as custom learning solution developments.

The first thing we do is assess the need, through conversation and review of relevant resource material. For software application work, we would download and explore the software application itself.

We would then prepare a project description and estimate, detailing the scope of the project and nature of the deliverables to be produced.

For software application help files or user manuals, price drivers include:

  • The amount of domain or business knowledge on which the participants must be trained (e.g., a debit is … a credit is …)
  • The degree of complexity inherent in the software application
  • The size of the software application
  • The stability of the software application
  • The level of user ability

Upon acceptance, we would proceed with the work. And when we create help files and user manuals, especially for new software applications, you receive the extra added free bonus of having a separate set of eyes on every screen of your application. You would be surprised how many bugs an astute technical writer can find!

The Deliverables

Help files and user manuals always contain the same content, generated from a single source, and this content typically includes the following:

  • Table of contents
  • An explanation of any necessary domain or business knowledge
  • A high-level explanation of what the software application does
  • Platform requirements
  • Launching / Login / Logoff
  • An explanation of general software navigation and menu structure
  • Helpful tricks and tips
  • A quick-start tutorial
  • The body, organized either by application function, by menu structure, or both
  • Glossary
  • Technical help contact information
  • An index if desired

All documents receive our review to make sure they are accurate, complete, concise and usable, and are reviewed by you to insure that they meet your requirements before acceptance and sign-off.

Making Webinars Successful

Webinars are a combination of pure e-learning and traditional instructor-led training. In a virtual classroom, the learning is instructor-led over the Web. Participants are not physically in one place, but they all are online at the same time as the instructor and also get the benefit of each other’s virtual presence. Virtual classrooms can provide the benefits of the traditional classroom to large numbers of people without incurring the usual costs (e.g., facilities, travel expenses, etc.) and logistical inconveniences.

However, for a virtual classroom solution to work, as much classroom interaction as possible should be replicated online. Instructors and participants should be able hear each other, via streaming of audio over the Web or via a phone hookup. Ideally, the instructor would also be seen (and even the participants if they so choose) via Webcam.

Participants should also be able to see the presentation and materials, and any live additions the instructor chooses to make. Instructors and participants should be able to communicate, either with public question and answer periods or with filtered questions via some form of chat (e.g., IM). Virtual classes are also easily recorded and can be viewed at any time and are not limited by the size of a physical class.

The opportunities are limitless, as are the alternative approaches to custom learning solutions. Of course any of these approaches can be blended in any way in a single learning solution, making the possibilities even more interesting!

As Envision works with you to assess your training needs and create a custom training solution, we will help you select the learning approach that gets you the best bang for your buck.

Making E-learning Successful

When a really good instructor gives a live class, the presentation is compelling and the participants are engaged by the teacher’s presence; they are caught up in the momentum of the class. If that same class was delivered via e-learning, all of the presence and engagement and motivation that the teacher brings is lost. So the first challenge for an e-learning course is to explicitly construct the material so that it is compelling and challenging in and of itself.

A simple restatement of the instructor-given material in an online format will inevitably be insufficient. Therefore, for the online version to be successful, the training must be consciously structured to engage.

Motivation

Learning is a very personal act. If the reason for the learning activity is clear, if the material is relevant and engaging, if interesting interactions keep the participant focused, and if the participant sees the experience as a means to gain a positive outcome, then the participant will be motivated – the gold standard for e-learning. Participants who are motivated have energy to pay attention, analyze, create meaningful associations, synthesize, remember what they learned, and apply it to their jobs. To create really successful e-learning, motivation must be consciously and explicitly built in; it is as important and sometimes more important than the presentation of the content itself.

Control

The second problem is a simple logistical one. Once participants are in a live class, most likely they are not simply going to get up and leave! Yet when classes are taken online, participants are self-directed and can do anything they want. The challenge therefore is to explicitly construct the class so that participants are consciously placed in control of their own learning experiences and inspired to complete the entire class.

Since e-learning is self-directed, it should be designed to let participants get a feel for the material up front. This is actually part of the instructional power of the course: making explicit what will be learned, what the activities will be, how much time it will take, how hard it will be, and what is expected of them. As though paging through a book, participants should be able to browse the course structure and support materials to get the picture of what’s coming and determine a personal strategy for absorbing it.

E-learning is appropriate for a wide range of training solutions, from simple operational learning to complex problem solving, and has many cost benefits. But to truly make it shine, it must be consciously structured both to engage and to put the learner in control.