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Large-scale Applications Training September 20, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m about to face an enormous challenge at work: Our company is getting ready to do a major upgrade to our core business operating system (PeopleSoft). This upgrade has been in the works for quite a while now, and it’s time for our department to start discussing a plan to train hundreds of employees on the new system. I don’t know much about the new system, but I understand that it is quite an overhaul; one estimate said we would need 80+ hours of face-to-face training. However, due to logistics, time, and money, it appears we will be training about 80% of these employees using a combination of self-study eLearning courses and webinars (using Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional). Everything will be tracked in our LMS.

Sure, this is a big task, but here’s why I’m concerned: If you’ve ever used a system like PeopleSoft or SAP, you know that it’s not very engaging. In fact, applications training like this can be excruciatingly boring, especially when taken as a self-study eLearning course. These courses generally consist of step-by-step instructions where the learner watches a task as it is performed, and then they try the task on their own in a simulated environment. This type of training can be effective, but with this upgrade, we will have a HUGE amount of training for the end-user. I’m worried that we’ll bore people to tears and that they’ll mindlessly follow along with the step-by-step directions…and then not retain anything. Luckily, I’ve got a few more weeks to get my thoughts together.

How would you tackle this? What ideas do you have?



1. Aaron Castaneda - September 21, 2007

Hi B.J.
First of all I’d like to thank you for your very interesting discussions topics at eLearning Weekly.
In my previous job as a training consultant I was involved on several SAP roll outs with clients. I’m completely agree that application training can be excruciatingly borimg. Following some experiences and advises from my aplication training engagements:

– Create a training package for each jobrole (at least as many you can if there are too many jobroles)
– Each training should contain small 5-7 minutes chunks/modules covering a chapter.
– Since some jobroles might need to be trained in the same functionality reuse as many modules you can in different training packages for jobroles.
– A training package for a specific jobrole could look like this:

1.- Create a “Study Guide” PDF document, which contains all the information related to this training package like course targets, modules, durations, how to get support, etc.
2.- “Video” (5 min.) explaining why the company is implementing this software and the benefits, etc. Intervjus with managers, employess, etc. (this is for the change management) It is here you create the expectations.
3.- Develop a self study “Module” covering the workflow or business processes, giving the users some general insights and overview.
4.- Develop an application “simulation” no. 1, eLearning and PDF userguide
5.- Develop an application “simulation” no. 2, eLearning and PDF userguide
6.- Develop an application “simulation” no. 3, eLearning and PDF userguide
7.- Develop an application “simulation” no. 4, eLearning and PDF userguide
8.- Develop some kind of “Test” or “Evaluation”

– During the training period you can create a support service using a chat or virtual classroom tool. I.e. every week monday and fridays at 1.00 am to 3.00 am an instructor will be available to chat and response questions related to SAP. Try to find a tool where you can share the application.

Well, it was some ideas. Please let me know if you have any questions .
Aaron Castaneda from the royal country of Sweden 🙂

2. Philippe Pernelle - September 21, 2007


we have been using Assima Training Suite (http:\\www.assima.net) for years (with IE, 3270, DotNet, Visual Basic applications; and next year SAP); I must say it it very convenient.

You should have a look on it …


Philippe Pernelle

3. Ajay Agrawal - September 21, 2007


We are a New Delhi, India based consultancy organization providing software solutions and system integration services in the domain of
FMCG, Pharmaceutical, Industrial Consumable, Consumer Durable,
Engineering, Restaurant & Hotel, Hospital spanning niche solutions for ERP, SCM, Logistics, CRM, Demand Chain Management, Value Chain Management, Business Intelligence, Data Harvesting, Data Warehousing, Data Mining

Currently, we are in the process of designing and implementing an integrated ERP for Sales Management in a chain of 37 stores, 21 buying offices and 18 warehouses all over India. Each buying office is responsible for procuring specialized items for the entire chain. They receive the requirement from each outlet, consolidate the requirements by vendor, place order, receive merchandise and dispatch to the respective outlets etc. etc.

This organization faced several challenges for imparting training:

– Due to the geographical spread of the organization and pace of their operations, their personnel cannot come together for training.
– The expenses involved in conducting training sessions at either a central location or on site were proving to be prohibitive
– The time required for conventional mode of training was too long

To mitigate these problems, we are in the process of designing a web based e-learning course for them that their employees can take at their own pace, but, within a specified number of calendar days. Otherwise a report is sent to their senior management. At the end of each module, the employees are administered a small quiz based on which they can process to the next module. To generate and participation, this organization has also announced several prizes for the employees getting the highest marks in the quiz before a certain date.

This has enabled them to have the training completed at all the locations simultaneously and within a very reasonable cost.

In case this model of training is of interest to you, we can certainly help you design the training course and execute it for your personnel.

Ajay Agrawal
N K Technologies

4. Guy Boulet - September 21, 2007


We are facing a similar situation here where the university is implementing a new student management system and I’ve been tasked with overseeing the development of training for over 500 employees, and 2500 faculty and 38 000 students, each with different needs. As you can imagine, training all these people face to face would be a nightmare, just imagine the human and physical ressources required to do so.

At the begining, the plan was to train individual based on their job role but folowing a thourough analysis we discovered that even within job roles people had very different needs so training according to role wasn’t an option anymore.

We now have to train them baseed on the functions of the system. And since face to face is not quite feasible, we need to develop elearning packlages. So we identified 11 core functions (scheduling, registration, course management, etc.) people can perform with the system each function being composed of a certain number of tasks. Our plan is to develop elearning modules for each task and arrange these modules to meet the requirements of the core functions.

Our modules will include some basic theory, demonstration, exercises and evaluation. They should be short and oriented toward actual work situation. We just started developing our learning objectives and will produce our prototype in the next few weeks. So far, our SMEs seem happy with this approach.

Hope this helps.

5. Cammy Bean - September 21, 2007

Check out the recent discussion on Karl Kapp’s blog about creating effective software training: Tips for Teaching Software

6. wonder kids - September 24, 2007

What I understood from your post is that you are worried you will bore your users. The applications themselves are boring and creating training which simply has the learner follow along is going to amplify that. From my perspective you need to put yourself in your learners position. Assume that they needed to learn the application on their own without any online training or webinars. How would they go about teaching themselves? If the training is developed to facilitate self-motivated learning it’s more likely to be engaging and interesting.

I look at myself. When I’m faced with learning yet-another-application, I have a process which I have developed to keep me engaged, curious and interested. For me working in a new application I need to feel free to mess up. I need the ability to explore and not be punished for mistakes or changes I make. The more control I have over how I get to explore the application the more likely I am to be engaged and to retain what I learn. More than anything I need time, and a safe, or dummy-proof version of the application which allows me to try to figure things out on my own. If I were a learner in your program I’d rather have a dummy account in which I could play, save my progress and explore the application. It would be nice to have contextual learning and help available if I became disoriented, confused or frustrated. I would want the ability to start over, or to return to any saved state which I previously achieved. I would like less “training” and more “exploring”. I would welcome curriculum pointers which would indicate what kinds of things I “could” learn about, giving me an overview of the range of possibilities, but not forcing me to learn about tasks which are outside my job function.

This is a real opportunity to create learning that you would enjoy taking, to break out of the box and develop application training which works! Good luck on your project.

7. Karyn Romeis - September 25, 2007

I have been called in to design a solution for a similar situation, albeit for a smaller staff complement. My suggestion is to focus on the business process, rather than the systems and to go the performance support route – opting for JIT rather than just-in-case.

It’s very difficult to try to describe here, but I’ll give it a go:

The front end of my online performance support material takes the form of an interactive end-to-end flow diagram of the businesssprocess. The user then drills down into the phase the process has reached, to the task they’re trying to do (they can also drill down by job role or use a search function). This gives them a run down on what they’re supposed to do at this stage and can link them to chm or captivate files for a how-to if they need it.

Obviously you can’t dump this kind of thing on line and expect people to know about it, so there is a solid communications process backing it up, and the existing performance management structure is being used to follow through. More important than the training is the knowledge that they are being supported, that there is somewhere to go when they need help.

The face to face training is being restricted to team leaders (who are learning how to manage their teams through a change process) and a network of experts/champions/superusers (who are learning to know the system inside out). To give them the best possible knowledge of the system, the superusers have participated in user acceptance testing.

Built in to the online support solution is also the means to contact (by phone or email) an expert in any given area of the system, to provide one-to-one coaching where needed. The bulk of workplace learning probably still comes from “the bloke at the next desk”, so I decided to incorporate that into the solution rather than pretending it didn’t happen or trying to compete with it.

There are also discussion boards for the user community and FAQs maintained by the superuser community. A jargon busters’ wiki belongs to the user community, but the superusers are expected to moderate it.

I have no idea if this helps….

8. Wendy - September 25, 2007

I too went through the same situation you are facing. One question, constantly asked, seemed to help:

“What is the minimum needed to keep us from paralyzing the organization?”

Add the other stuff later as small how-tos.

We did 1.5 – 3 hours worth of training for each of our employees on a new major electronic medical record. Though the training was successful (the organization wasn’t paralyzed), we still got questions on really basic actions because so much was thrown at them.

Another thing to consider is context. If you create realistic scenarios (and stories based on real encounters), your students may be more likely to remember what you are showing them and the application will have more meaning. If you get some of your “trainees” involved in helping to create these stories – so much the better.

Hope this helps and good luck.

9. Michael Fitzpatrick - September 25, 2007

This is a daunting task, but I agree with some of the recommendations above:

Break the courses/modules down into small chunks (maximum of five minutes). I would recommend you consider using products such as Adobe Presenter or Adobe Captivate to produce these. The benefit is you now have the ability to both publish them to the web for self-paced learning, as well as incorporate them into live virtual classroom environments using Adobe’s Acrobat Connect Professional. This reuse will save you time and energy, and ensure your end-users have the most engaging experience (at least, engaging for the content at hand… 😉

If you need help with your Acrobat Connect deployment, please contact me at the email provided, or visit http://www.connectsolutions.com

10. Clark Quinn - September 25, 2007

BJ, I’ve often argued that you should focus on the underlying conceptual model that guides the structure of the software (how things are done, why things are in particular places), present them with a few examples of ‘how to do x’ that show how the model predicts what to do, and have them exercise the model by having them do a couple of ‘ok, how would you do y?’ until they can use the model to predict how to do something. The benefit should be (assuming a good underlying model, if not it’s an interface design issue, not a training issue 😉 that it takes less to get them up to speed, and they’re more robust in the face of failure. I agree with other comments that it should be very much focused about tasks, not the software (except the model prediction bit).

You can support the model with quick reference sheets, diagrams of the model, what have you, but by focusing on the bit that gives you inferential power, you get more leverage.

11. Gary Hegenbart - September 25, 2007

Excellent topic, with a lot of great responses. To echo Karyn Romeis, if there are already processes in place, base the objectives on the outcomes. Since this is an upgrade, people already know what they need to produce and why, you just need to show them how. Pick a few very common outcomes and train those. Include a short overview of the interface, but don’t go into every menu and function. Just the basics, people will explore on their own as needed.

If the business processes are changing in concert with the upgrade, you’ve got more work to do but the game plan should be the same – focus on common process outcomes, not application features.

Training features is very boring. Training me on outcomes is much more relevant to my job.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

12. B.J. Schone - September 25, 2007

First, a big “thank you” to everyone who has contributed! I appreciate all of the tips and suggestions. Here’s a quick summary based on all of the thoughts that have been shared:

* Chunk content into reusable modules.

* Organize these modules based on job roles (we should be able to do this without too much trouble).

* Utilize superusers to more easily distribute information and training.

* Training should be delivered in short bursts, rather than marathon sessions.

* Focus on the process, not the application features.

* Allow learners to understand the basic underlying structure of the software.

* Encourage “free play” – allow learners time to experiment in a sandbox environment.

* “Get off the happy path.” Some training can’t be as exciting as a NASCAR simulation.

* Use a performance support system for on-the-job help.

* Provide a way for experts to be contacted in the event of questions or problems.

* Use discussion boards or a wiki to promote user interaction and information sharing.

* Use story-based scenarios that are relevant to the learners.

* People will explore as needed; don’t teach each menu item.

* Use incentives to encourage participants to succeed.

Great stuff – thanks again for the input!

13. Hands-on with Assima Training Suite « eLearning Weekly - October 27, 2007

[…] Wizard Training Suite) at work. We’re planning on using it to create training for our upcoming PeopleSoft upgrade. We evaluated several tools, and it came down to Captivate and Assima Training Suite (I’ll call […]

14. A Practical Example of an Instructional Alternate Reality Game (iARG) « eLearning Weekly - January 12, 2008

[…] written before about our upcoming PeopleSoft upgrade at work. It’s coming in the next few months, and it’s going to be a BIG project; […]

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