Escaping the Pitfalls of Technology Training

We all need training at different points in our lives, whether it’s to learn to ride a bike or drive a car, or to stay current in a chosen career; it has to happen. For some, thinking about a training opportunity is uplifting and viewed as a time to engage in a new topic. For others, even thinking about training makes them want to run away screaming and crying. Understanding that this is a technology blog, on a website, and from a technology organization, we all have to admit that at times training about technology, or using technology to train, can veer us toward the crying side of things. So how do we escape the pitfalls of troublesome training? While I don’t have all the answers, training individuals on how to use telehealth technologies has given some insights.

First, don’t rely on technology to train technology. While this meta-use of technology may seem cool and cutting edge, it may not work. Seriously, it may not actually work. An online demo given by an avatar may work great for 80 percent of your audience, but what about the 20 percent with limited Internet resources. Will 20 minutes of “buffering…” provide a useful training experience for them? Similarly, think about how to tailor topics to your audience and keep old school methods in mind. For example, when training seasoned health care providers how to use and troubleshoot telehealth technology, in-person demonstrations and printed checklists may be more effective, and less frustrating, than advising them to check a website or download an app if they run into problems.

Second, few things can ruin a training like using examples and scenarios that are not based in reality. Use real examples from real people to make points. And focus on likely and predominant case examples. We’ve all been there when someone starts asking the “what happens when” questions that become progressively more and more obscure and unlikely. While we cannot stop those questions from happening, don’t use them to create your scenarios.

Third, why wait until training to train? Assign pre-work (overtly or not) that begins to incorporate lessons and teaching points into daily activities. For example, if you have a system that requires a user create an account, make the steps to create that account similar to how they will navigate once within the technology itself. If you make every interaction with the new technology inherently (but not obviously) a lesson in how to use the technology, the training becomes an organic part of simply using the new technology.

Finally, think about the needs of your audience. Feedback we received recommended that everyone have the same basic understanding of core topics before advancing to more advanced and tailored opportunities. This seems like a basic concept, and it is. But if you forget to think about your audience, they will quickly want to forget about you.

Matt Mishkind, Ph. D. is a research psychologist and program lead with the Telehealth Program at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. Matt Mishkind