An electronic performance support system (EPSS) is a computer-based tool that seeks to improve user performance. With intuitive and easy to use software like WalkMe, this method of performance support has become easily accessible. Most often, an EPSS is integrated with other software to provide users guidance as they interact with specific tools. EPSSs can also be stand-alone and act as a query system, where the user can pull information as needed. The purpose of an EPSS is to provide just-in-time training and integrate the learning experience with the operational experience. An EPSS acts as a coach, guiding the user throughout a process. EPSSs can be provided in addition to training, or they can take the place of formal training. They can also be implemented as a non-training solution when issues or gaps arise.
Trends & Issues
A current trend among EPSSs is the use of on-the-job training. Many corporations are moving away from formal training due to cost and time factors. With advances in technology, EPSS functionality and capabilities have grown immensely. A trend in the workplace is just-in-time training. Another way to describe just-in-time training is on-demand. It is available to the learner immediately when they need it, and at their convenience. EPSSs are great tools to aid this type of learning because they are designed to deliver training at the exact moment it is needed. Another trend in performance support is mobile apps. Mobile apps are a great way to implement electronic performance support because learners can immediately access information right from their own devices.
While popular in the corporate world, another trend in EPSSs is the consumer realm. Software application companies like Adobe and Microsoft use EPSSs as a way to teach/train their users. Adobe has begun implementing integrated tutorials into their apps, such as Photoshop, that walk the user through tasks in a procedural manner. Microsoft has used EPSS technology since the ‘90s. Clippy, a built-in, intuitive wizard, is a prevalent example of this. Microsoft continues to do this today with things like built-in design suggestions.
While EPSSs offer many areas of opportunity, there can be some initial challenges. Some critical issues include computer infrastructure, knowledge management, and usability. When implementing a new EPSS, there should be a focus on the computer infrastructure. EPSSs require a well-established computer infrastructure to support content organization and delivery. If a computer infrastructure is not already established, then the use of EPSS may not be a viable option. Additionally, an issue with EPSSs is knowledge management. The use of an EPSS requires knowledge to be organized and chunked according to specific performance tasks, rather than learning goals. This can pose a challenge for teachers or trainers who are not familiar with the operational side of performance tasks. Last, EPSSs can pose a problem for implementing proven instructional strategies. This is especially important when EPSSs are used in place of traditional learning. One, in particular, is scaffolding. While an EPSS serves as a performance support, it can be hard to establish an appropriate level of learning support at varying stages. This is due to the changing nature of the complexity of components. Some things may be well-designed, while others are loosely designed. This is an area for further research, for those intending to use EPSS in place of traditional training.
EPSS Design & Development
Although Instructional Systems Design and EPSS design are similar, they do vary. In Instructional Design, the immediate goal is learning; how can the learner best acquire the necessary knowledge and be able to apply it later? When designing an EPSS the goal is to facilitate the performance of a task. Although learning may occur, it is not the primary focus of an EPSS. EPSSs are adaptive and complex, making them multidisciplinary. For example, when developing an EPSS in a corporate setting, many teams would be involved in the design, development, and implementation. These teams might include Training, Information Systems, Software Development, and Ops Management. Because of this, EPSS design involves an iterative and adaptive design and development cycle that varies based on the nature of the project. This often means that waterfall approaches, like ADDIE are not flexible enough to support proper design. Newer instructional design models that pull from software engineering methods, like the Successive Approximation Model (SAM), are iterative and involve frequent communication amongst stakeholders, making them a good fit for the identified criteria of multidisciplinary and iterative.
EPSSs offer a range of abilities and have remained a prevalent performance support tool since the early ‘90s. They are excellent for supporting just-in-time training and can be used to supplement learning or in place of traditional learning environments. When replacing formal learning/training, EPSSs should include both performance support and learning support elements. With advances in technology, the use of EPSSs has broadened, making them a valuable tool that can be leveraged to enhance performance.
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