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About That Software Training

04-21 Orange Rosebud

A rose is not about reviewing one petal at a time.

A few principles to follow…

  1. Do not go over the features of the software one at a time. Feature 1, Feature 2, etc. Eyes glaze over. Nobody remembers much after this.
  2. Do not organize software training based on the menus. See #1.
  3. If the users mostly know how to do the tasks this software does, say in another software program, consider whether a whole new training program is necessary. Would a demo do the trick? Maybe a job aid? A quick-start guide? (Not always possible, but consider the possibilities.)
  4. Do organize training, when it’s necessary, around how your audience will use the software.
    1. For example, if it’s word processing, show your learners how to open a document, type on the screen, edit their work, and save it. (I know, but there are programs that make mysteries out of what you’d think would be basic things.) Have them practice. Start with the basics, then add more complicated features, sticking to the ones they will use the most.
    2. For another example, if it’s technology for customer service reps, organize it based on the order flow or the structure of their calls. Start with a “normal” order or call, and later on provide unusual cases.
  5. If possible, organize the training around the order people will generally do things. If that won’t work, try general to specific or building from easier to more difficult skills.
  6. Do not spend a long time introducing the software by talking about it. Instead, show a brief overview, then demonstrate the software while the learners follow along. (Think aerobics training.)
  7. Divide what you’re teaching into reasonable chunks. After the demo & follow-along session, give the learners a scenario that they can practice on their own or in small groups.
  8. Have the learners spend most of their time in class working with the software. Less talking about it and more doing.
  9. You hardly need slides. Maybe for the intro or a few key concepts. Also, if you can put the info on a slide, you can probably put it in a handout or participant’s guide. Many times you can eliminate the slides.
  10. For software that enables new functionality, do not assume that your learners will figure out the benefits without hints. Find ways to highlight the positive ways the software will improve their days.

Consider transfer, follow up, reinforcement, enhancements, references (manuals, guides, online help), and how users will get assistance (help desk, area experts, supervisors).

Remember that there is usually not enough time to train about everything that the software will do, and that it’s better to make sure the learners can do the main things well (sufficient practice and feedback) than to overwhelm them with all the details at once.


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