Capsule Training – How to Learn in Small Doses

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Capsule Training – How to Learn in Small Doses

Do you remember back in ancient times when you went to a training course or bought a new piece of software you received a big fat manual to put on your shelf that you could refer to whenever you had a question or a problem? You pulled it down, flipped to the index and searched for your topic and often it had what you needed. But where are those manuals now? They don’t exist. The world moves too fast, products and topics change too quickly, and (to be quite frank) those things cost too much to produce and use too much paper. So what are we left with? Those same manuals in electronic versions.

So, in theory, you can use them much the same way. But is that how it works in practice? If you are anything like me I usually forget all about them. And when I do remember then, even though they have all the same stuff in them, the format just isn’t conducive to finding what I need. You don’t flip through the same way, you don’t read the same.
Given that, consider this: how does a technical organization such as Avanceon successfully prepare, maintain, and deliver training to its people? Conventional wisdom is to pick a topic, prepare a massive slide deck on that topic, delivery an all-encompassing training session, then turn it into a user manual. Here are the challenges to that approach:

  • The preparation is a massive effort that is often pretty intimidating
  • The training session is usually pretty dry
  • The trainees don’t retain the information
  • There is always at least one intended trainee absent
  • The user manual is, well…, see above
    So instead of doing that, Avanceon has flipped the traditional model on its head and we are going smaller, using what I’ve dubbed Capsule Training or others have called One Point Lessons. A Capsule Training is intended to be a short, tightly focused, topical training document. Here are some guidelines:
  • It should be a single topic or question (e.g. How to go online with a Contrologix PLC, How to configure a Data Acquisition Server)
  • It should be short (1-2 traditional pages)
  • It should be heavy on steps/lists and light on paragraphs
  • It should stand on its own
    So what are the advantages of this approach? I’ve got a few:
  • They are pretty easy to prepare. Instead of being intimidated by the massive manual, you can prepare one of these in a few minutes
  • Anyone can write one
  • Anyone can read and absorb a topic quickly
  • You can gain momentum in developing your training library because you can start with the simple low-hanging fruit topics and add complex ones later
  • Maintenance is easier, if a topic is out-dated, you can replace just that one
  • The content evolves as the company’s needs evolve as gaps are identified and filled in
  • If you want to train on a topic, you can do so in minutes in other contexts
    Have I convinced you? If so, one other consideration before you dive in: just as important as the topics you pick and the words you write is the platform you use to organize everything. Here you are looking to replicate the indices from those manuals. Everything needs to be in one place, presented in a list, searchable and filterable. Because, let’s face it, you can write the best Capsule Training pages in the word but if your intended trainees don’t know it’s there or can’t find their topic quickly, your training library might as well be an MS/DOS manual sitting on your bookshelf for all the good it is going to do.

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