Another Boring Job Aid… Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??

I think I’m a colourful guy.  I have two twitter feeds.  One which is the “professional me” and is topics elements I think are of interest to me in my job.  The other is “personal me” and are all the things I find entertaining be it a hobby, my children, a new toy or whatever.  Quite often of course, these worlds collide and I post to both. Maybe not everyone separates their digital psyche and hosts them in juxtaposition like this, but the concept that I often am driven, professionally, to use methods that I prefer in my personal research or learning is certainly not unique.  It’s basic human nature.For my job, I am responsible to support other people’s growth.  I seek out gaps in what they know and what they need to know.  It’s not exactly dawning knowledge that as a learning practitioner, the better I know my audience and their roles/profile,the better results I will have.Now enter “The Job Aid”.A “what grinds my gears” moment always occurs when I am involved in a learning project that has an impactful design, clear and useful objectives and a well thought out execution.  Great!  Then, often tagged on are “job aids”.

In many organizations I’ve worked with, the “job aid” is defined as a printable pdf that holds information not deemed appropriate for the formal element of the learning solution.  It’s either criterion reference for concepts in the session or learning collateral, short walk-throughs of a tool or process, at-a-glance information, etc.  All perfectly acceptable content to support learners.

I find that often to suggest the delivery medium of flat, printable PDFs might create a solution that is not well connected to the rest of the learning program.

In several organizations I’ve worked in, client groups will over the course of a few years receive hundreds of these.  They become a change management nightmare, often ignored or at worst a sad, sad looking wallpapered cubicle.  It’s not how I personally learn. It’s not how I research things of interest or try to remember important things in my life.  Why would it work for my learner?There are some VERY handy guides out there to support what should be in a job aid.  Here’s oneadapted from “Effective Job Aids” by Susan Russell on the ASTD site. I don’t want to spend time talking about what goes IN a job aid, but I do want to provide some thoughts about other options than the very basic flat PDF.In a design for any learning solution, a medium should be considered based on the output of an assessment of your audience’s learning environment and capabilities.  Elements like location (remote, workstations, cubicles, etc), available tools and software (laptops, tablets, smartphones, reader software, web connections, etc) and required interactions for the content (software walkthrough, demonstrated behaviour, etc) are ideally brought to the table to determine the appropriate solution.  Job aids should be a part of that flow and decision making process.Why not deploy post learning resources in a way that fits in how a learner works and lives?  Why not leverage the approaches they use to be entertained, research items of interest or in how they use the learning on the job.Here’s a few ideas to get you kickstarted…

PDFs

Starting with the target of my ire, the PDF is actually one monster of a great format.  Although many times we cut off it’s arms and legs, push it through a heated ringer and stab it to death to mount on the wall, it has some really great possibilities if you dig abit deeper.One I really like is the fillable form. Although still relatively flat, what it DOES is strongly encourage learners to “do something”.  Ask them to submit answers, thoughts, or completion criteria (assuming you aren’t using an LMS for this of course) easily.  It also allows you to gather feedback from them on impact and use.  Try asking “where are you using this?” and they click submit at the bottom every time they use it.  It’s very cool.A PDF can be created to be fully interactive, linked, bookmarked and supports lots of rich media. (There’s even a YouTube widget to include videos within a PDF!)

Desktop Background

One I haven’t used but I think would be REALLY great for smaller organizations or for the newly hired is to create  job aids as Windows 7 desktop backgrounds.  You can even create more than one and have them rotate.  (Shift-F10, N will allow any user to switch to the next background if not the one needed).  For a new team, or for a new corporate initiative, having this pushed out by the IT Desktop team could be an interesting new approach!

RSS Feeds/Blogs

 One thing I think is critical to consider is how to provide the most impact for a learner with the least shift in their daily paradigm.  Having job aids posted in Blog format internally has some significant benefits. One it’s super easy to update without worrying about version control.  Secondly, it’s searchable and has all the bells and whistles you may want to apply to it (integrated twitter feed, multi-author, multi-media. searchable, printable, global distribution) and when provided as an RSS feed, suddenly your learners can view them on any device, tablet, smartphone, with their favourite news reader, and get notified as soon as a new one is available. It’s a pretty perfect solution.

The Job Aid Room

I have used this one recently.  Using a virtual classroom (I used adobe connect), you create a room that has whatever material you want to show (pdf, ppt, video, process document, software walkthrough etc) and post it with a publicly accessible URL.  Many devices (tablets, smartphones, etc) have access to these rooms via apps (webex and adobe connect do for sure) and you can provide very structured job aid support. It even allows (initially upon deployment for example) a live trainer to be on hand in the room to answer questions (Love the every Friday at noon QnA in the “Job Aid Room”!!) and content is easily changed, printed or downloaded.Have you found other innovative ways to provide post-training resources?  Feel free to share with me!
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