Re: Help as Training

Subject: Re: Help as Training
From: Steve Fouts <stefou -at- ESKIMO -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 14:07:38 -0700

Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET> said this:

>At our STC meeting last night the subject (once again) came up of using help
>files to train, rather than assist, users. My own personal feeling is that
>"man who chases two rabbits catches neither and must settle for a tortoise".
>But one of the attendees, a non-member, claimed that her help files are
>excellent for training. I'm frankly skeptical...

Preface, I work for a large financial services company, and the majority
of our systems are developed for use by employees, so we can keep very
careful track of how things are being used. Our biggest problem is that
none of our employees were using help systems. Not the ones we shed blood,
sweat, and tears developing and not the ones developed by third party
software vendors (Microsoft Excel, for example).

We also tend to have extensive classroom training for key software
roll outs. They are expensive for software roll outs, but prohibitive
for new employees that are added to offices in ones or twos. One of
the solutions that we've tried very successfully is to use Help as the
vehicle of the classroom training. A separate tutorial is included with
the normal help file, and, where appropriate, the topics from help
are used as the topics of the training or to provide additional

The advantages of this are many. Because the trainees are familiar with
the kind of information that is available in the help file once they
have completed training, they have a tendency to consult it more
frequently once the training is over.

The training material is always present with the software for new
employees. It's on the Help menu. The training material is always up-
to-date because new versions of the software install new versions of
the training.

We would have been employing a professional trainer to develop the
training material _and_ a technical writer to develop the Help and
user documentation anyway. Having them work together to reduce the
amount of overlap in the material is natural.

We use the help browse sequence for the tutorial information. The
user fires up the software and the help file and goes through the
tutorial either as a self-paced study aid or at the direction of
an instructor or, in at least one case, as self-paced study with
the trainer circulating to provide additional information as needed.

We've been very pleased with the results. I don't know if this
qualifies as what Tim was talking about.

_______________ _____
/ ___ __/__\ \ / / _\ Steve Fouts stefou -at- eskimo -dot- com
/___ \| | ___\ | / __\ "You must not mind me, madam;
/ / \ | \ / \ I say strange things, but I
/_______/__|_______\_/________\ mean no harm." --Samuel Johnson

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