Delivering Technical Training Content Demands Creativity Too

Delivering Technical Training Content Demands Creativity Too
Summary: Think that working with highly complex or technical training content doesn't afford you the opportunity to be creative and fun in your eLearning development? Think again!

Tips For eLearning Developers Working With Technical Training Content

Most of my experience in eLearning has been developing content that is technical in nature. For example, resources or courses tied to a business tool like an app, BI dashboard, or new software. eLearning that focuses on developing skills or delivering compliance training provides a multitude of opportunities for introducing characters, telling stories, and creating interactivity. Custom technical eLearning may not immediately offer up a multitude creative options for training development; this doesn’t mean that technical training resources can’t be creative, fun, and engaging. It does mean we, as eLearning developers, may have to work harder on the front end of development so that our creativity can be constructive.

I mean this quite literally - when it comes to technical training, the last thing the learners want or need is the how. That may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on the how of technical eLearning can quickly devolve into a mind numbing step-by-step or click-by-click training. Focusing on the how provides no context and no compelling reason for the learner to be engaged with the content.

So, where do I start? “Trainer, train thyself.” That’s where I start. With technically oriented eLearning, that means gaining a solid understanding of the technical elements, as well as a good grasp of the business (or human) elements. On the technical side, I need to learn from the developers as much as possible about what they’ve coded and created to understand what they created and why. I need to know where and how the data flows in and out. And on the business or human side, I need to know who will use the tool, why, what’s the benefit to them when they're successful, and what’s the risk if they're not successful in turning the training into action on the job.

The ‘what’ and the ‘why’ are the backbone upon which technical eLearning must be built as well as the wellspring from which creativity can emerge. For example, if I am tasked with creating a course or training resource for a sales dashboard for a retailer, there is a number of things I’d want to have a solid understanding of before beginning my development. On the technical side, I’d want to know what data is being used, what is the source of the data, how often, and when is the data refreshed. On the human side, I’d want to know who will be using this tool and why.

Only when I have a good understanding of both perspectives can I begin to put context around the point-click-type sequencing that comprises the ‘how’ of technical eLearning. When I’m ready to start developing the eLearning, I have 2 cardinal rules:

  1. Keep It Short And Simple.
    I try to follow this modified KISS principle in all eLearning development. It’s hard enough to take complex content and make it simple. Create training that is scalable in small, manageable chunks.
  2. Content May Be King, But Context Is Queen.
    Never lose sight of the fact that the goal of eLearning is to empower or accomplish something – to create a desired result. Unnecessarily showy, flashy, or gimmicky eLearning is just as deadly to a learner as the zombifying course where all you do is listen and click next; an ad nauseam type of course we’ve all suffered through.

What And Why Before How

Take a look at the screenshots below for a very simple example of what I mean by starting with the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ before getting to the ‘how’.

Even technical training can have branching options:

1. Users hover over a character, each has a specific role in the organization that would use the app differently, and are presented with several high level scenarios.

Engage the audience with the WHAT of the eLearning.

2. Once the users select which scenario they want to pursue, the detailed scenario is presented.

Provide the context of the WHY.

3. After selecting Investigate, the technical steps of the app are explained and demonstrated in context.

Now, deliver the step-by-step to to information.Note that these screenshots are from Articulate Storyline and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, but the concept and logic behind them can be created in any eLearning tool for most any app or software.

As an eLearning developer working primarily with technical content like business intelligence, apps, or software, I used to think I was missing out on the fun and creative side of eLearning that comes with interactivity and storytelling that is engrained in non-technical training. But, I’ve learned that when I educate myself on the technology and the humanity building and using the app or software, I’m able to create engaging and enjoyable eLearning that enables the learner to see the potential of the tool beyond the simple sequential step-by-step demonstration that used to pass for training.