I was sceptical when asked to train a number of people on new software they need to use. The thing was, the trainees wouldn’t actually have computers during the training.
I’ve taught plenty of people before now how to use software, or the Internet in general, but it’s always been hands-on, with a least one computer between 2 people. Usually though each person has a computer to themselves.
Anyway, for this training there’s only one computer in the room, connected to a projector, and huge potential for the course to be eye-glazingly mind-numbing.
A surprising liberation
What I’ve found has surprised me — the setup is very liberating.
After a bit of preliminary discussion in each session I have each trainee take a turn at the computer while we work through what they need to know about the application. That gives the trainees some hands-on experience, while leaving me free to lead the session, and point things out on the projection screen.
It also means I can ask the group questions such as
How can we search for a client by name? They call out answers that may help the person running the computer. That gets them a bit more engaged, and lets them think about the application.
Although a bit artificial, it’s not quite as silly as expecting them to tell the teacher (Me) what I already know.
Interestingly enough, they sometimes make suggestions that experienced computer users would never expect. For example, in the screenshot you can see it’s easy to search by
Client Number. But to search for a client by name you must click on
more search options to reveal search fields such as
First Name and
Some of the participants haven’t easily spotted that option, and have suggested clicking on the word
I want to…. To be fair, for those sitting a bit further away from the projection screen, it’s not always easy to see the
more search options choice.
I always encourage the person at the computer to try any suggestions, even if I know they’re wrong. After all, making ‘mistakes’ is a fabulous way to learn.
When I’m not working the computer myself it’s a little easier to have more of an overview of the whole session.
A less intense training
The other liberating thing is that this approach is less intensive for the trainer.
In a room full of people doing hands-on work I would normally roam around, checking in with each person and guiding what they’re doing. At the same time I’d be watching out for people having problems, people getting restless, and staying attuned to the overall feeling of the group.
Just being able to focus on only a few things simultaneously is so much easier: what’s the person working the computer doing? What’s the mood of the class? What have we already covered? What do we need to cover next?
This approach may not work if you were teaching poorly constructed, complex software. I’m lucky that the application I’m teaching is really well put together and easy to use. It’s all quite fun, actually.
Standing up all day is exhausting
It’s been a while since I’ve done much group training. I’d forgotten how physically tiring it is to stand up all day. After the first couple of full days I was absolutely shattered. I notice now that I’m adapting quite quickly. Still, I think I’m glad I have a mainly sedentary job these days.