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May 2019
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TD Magazine

Making Software Training Interactive

The situation

Do you have trouble teaching students how to operate new software? You're not alone. People learn at different paces, and you don't want to leave some people waiting and others left behind. How do you make the learning experience enjoyable and productive for everyone?

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The trick

Software training can sometimes be a hassle for learners and instructors. Here's how to make the experience run as smoothly as possible.

  1. Aim for a spacious environment. Although that's not always under your control, space allows for you to easily navigate the room and see what progress your learners are—or aren't—making. It also makes them feel less crowded together.
  2. Let it be known that this will be a social, collaborative environment. Everyone is here for the same thing: to learn a form of software. The quickest way to learn something can be by getting help, and that doesn't always have to come from the instructor, who can only be one place at a time—and may not be all-knowing.
  3. Employ the buddy method. Ask the class ahead of time who has experience with the program and who is brand new to it. Pair up a knowledgeable learner with a novice. You may opt to have them work together directly; at least have them sit near each other so they can easily collaborate.
  4. For learners who prefer to not work with a partner—or for a group that simply needs help at a given point—implement some form of visual cue. It can be a cup, a pipe cleaner, or even a handcrafted object. Have them place it on top of their computer if they need help. This eliminates the need for them to yell across the room or get up and come to you.

    Added benefit

    As great as these methods are for learners, they're equally beneficial for instructors. Bouncing all over the room can be physically and mentally taxing.

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About the Author

Nikki O’Keeffe is an internal ATD Facilitator. She is dedicated training specialist who delivers a positive, memorable, and meaningful service that repeatedly meets or exceeds the expectations of the client. She has experience creating strategies and visions to ensure training requirements and deliveries are in line with quality, probability, and client need. 

Nikki has worked in varied industries, including education, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. In her role as the global senior training and development specialist at PAREXEL International, her focus was on managing and developing courses for new and existing staff on technical systems, process changes, new products, and soft skills.  Her educational background includes a BA in psychology from Butler University and a master’s degree in exercise science, health, and wellness from Northeastern Illinois University. Her specific areas of interest include virtual training, facilitation techniques, and mentoring new trainers. 

Nikki is skilled at providing face-to-face and online learning programs for global participants of varying experience levels. In addition to delivering training, she has performed training needs analyses to identify gaps and recommend training solutions, worked with SMEs as a consultant to develop courses and curriculums, and evaluated programs for effectiveness. 

As a certified ATD Master Trainer and certified ATD Master Instructional Designer she understands the value of solid training plans and strong facilitation. Nikki looks forward to sharing her experiences and expanding her knowledge base by learning from her participants in the upcoming ATD courses that she leads.

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