Sunday, July 11, 2010

Focus on the Important, not Completeness

I would rather people remember five important things from a week long class than present them with everything and have them try to sort it out.

Too many training classes are designed  from the developer's point of view.  They create a task list that is basically a checklist of the product features.  The final steps are to design a class around that task list.

So what's wrong with this picture?

It's focused on the wrong thing.  Not once did someone step back and ask a couple of key questions.

What do we really want them to know?
Unless that product is Windows Calculator, no one is going to remember all of the features of a product in one class.  I cannot stand it when I see something in a class that is just silly.  I ask the course designer why this is in there, and is usually get answers like, "It's a feature" or "Someone might use that."  That is, to me, insanity.  You are wasting someone's valuable time (and money) discussing some obscure feature that might be interesting trivia but nothing beyond that.  That kind of thing belongs in a sidebar note or a recorded webinar.

How will they use the software?
One of the hardest things for a software developer to grasp is that users may not use their software the way they want them to.  You can hear this in conversations that include the phrase, "Well they're not supposed to do that."

Rubbish.  Good course designers will adjust their task lists based on feedback and observations on how the software is used in the field.

You need to ask, What is really important?  Then you design a  task list and teach to that, including plenty of time for practice and self discovery.

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