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Procedural Training

When it comes to content that is largely procedural, or step-by-step processes to be followed, this type of information is generally put into documentation so that only the procedures that are required can be accessed -- only as required. This is done because learners cannot be expected to remember how to perform a procedure which they are only required to perform infrequently.

However, learning a new system or process, particularly highly technical ones, can be aided greatly from a basic or introductory training course. As with any training, there should be plenty of practice and feedback included in procedural training. This does not mean that training must be delivered face-to-face, in a facilitated course. In fact, there are many simulation tools available today that can give the users both the practice and feedback in an online, self-study environment.

Simulations can be designed to demonstrate the proper procedure or they can be created to allow the learner to discover the proper procedure through a process of trial and error (with feedback for every interaction). Or both methods can be incorporated to cut the learning cycle down by first demonstrating the procedure, then allowing them to practice -- a Show Me/Let Me Try exercise.

Here are some Tips and Tricks for designing effective procedural training:

  1. Organize the training into logical chunks. Related procedures should be explored at the same time OR at least put the topics into the proper order that reflects the reality of most people’s workflow.
  2. Provide the context for each topic, not just the ‘How To’. Give users an overview of why a user may perform such a task and when (under what circumstances).
  3. Include a flowchart and map each procedure on it. At the start of each topic, refer to the flowchart so that learners can see where they are (sub-tasks) in the overall task.
  4. Provide checklists as job aids that learners can use for extra control to ensure that tasks are performed properly.
  5. Include examples for things such as a proper input format. For instance, in the case where the date may be entered with dots instead of dashes, the example would be “February 8, 2006 = 02.08.06”.
  6. Where there is a set list of options for input, include a table with the options available and their meaning.
  7. Be consistent with cues for interaction and with the feedback provided. Feedback particularly needs to be specific, with no room for interpretation.
  8. Allow learners to fail and retry, and give them feedback as to why they failed. This is crucial in the learning cycle.
  9. Provide links to, or extra information for learners. This can be achieved using a Glossary of Terms, pop-up Hints, or simply a link to a website for more detailed information.
  10. Don’t try to teach all procedures. Instead, get a representative sub-task/task from each larger task or area. The aim is not to have the learner to memorize the tasks in the course content, but to familiarize them with the system/process enough to anticipate the interaction required or at least know where to find the information required to complete the task.