I visited my grandmother a few weekends ago. While I was in Scottsdale, I helped her with a variety of technology things that needed fixing. Perhaps you are the defacto tech support person for a friend or relative, and can relate.

One of the toughest things about working with her has been that she does not retain the things that you show her.  I liken it to my experience going to Hebrew school growing up. Sure I learned how to say a lot of things in Hebrew, but I didn't know what any of them meant.

It's like the technology is a foreign language, and she still doesn't understand the alphabet. You can teach her words but they have no meaning.

Part of the work I did was creating job aids for her to use while she does things. Here's an example.

Not everyone knows this, but my college degree is in Instructional Design and adult learning theory.

Giving someone a job aid or template is a much more effective way of teaching. It allows my grandmother to learn by doing. This is consistent with adult learning theory:

We learn best through experience, not through demonstration.

This got me to thinking about the state of most online education I see today.

The vast majority of products, ebooks, and courses are just an information dump from the author to the student. While the expert may be, well, an expert- the student is not. And not providing any way for the student to practice does not help.

I see a lot of courses that combine material with a study/implementation group of some kind. This works for certain topics (and only if the student follows through), but I am still left wondering:

Wouldn't it be better if the experience and the information could happen at the same time?

When you find a technology learning resource online, be it something highly polished like a training from Lynda.com, or a rough youtube, the onus is on you to apply your knowledge. When I'm looking at some instructional resource, I will often split my window with divvy and pause the training to do each step in turn.

But not everyone does this.

I return to my original question- what if the training had practice built in?

Would it annoy you to have to ‘try' things? Or would you rather be forced to apply what you're learning in the moment?

I think there have been great strides in this area- especially in iPhone apps that automatically launch a self-guided tour on first launch (The app Loopy has a particularly excellent self-guided tour). They are especially effective when they have you actually pushing buttons and doing, not  just seeing.

I don't necessarily have the answer to the question, but I know this much is true:

The training we all spend our hard earned money on could be better in the experience department.

What I'm really curious about, is your experience

Can you tell me about the best piece of training you've seen recently? It doesn't necessarily have to be a course that you paid for- maybe it was the quick guide that came with your printer or an app self-tour.

What was so great about it? How did it help you practice to get your new skill?

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