The Wonders of Just-in-Time Training

“Still fishin’!” Last week, we talked about the benefits and hazards of offering web-based training (WBT) on your site. In theory, it’s good to teach people to fish. But sometimes they’re afraid of the water, or they may want to rock the boat.

People subconsciously resist formal training because it poses the risk of failure. Education is a gift that people want when and how they want it but will only grudgingly accept when they’re required to, say, get a certification or a promotion.

Traditional education providers, both academic and corporate, need help marketing their products. But they are unwilling to fund truly high-quality interactive training. Ironically, they may spend more marketing an inferior course than they would have had to spend developing a better course.

If you want people to perceive training positively, you have to:

  • Offer it right when they really want it as “practice” to help them avoid their worst fear: failure at something more important to them than the training itself.

  • Embed it in the process they’re doing, as coaching.

Web Ed 103: Challenges Equal Opportunities

Yes, good WBT “courseware” is expensive to develop. Without a guaranteed user community, no knowledge purveyor is going to invest in creating highly interactive, job-simulating, engaging courses. Even in corporate training, only the most potentially hazardous tasks merit the expense of detailed skills training that tracks user performance and coaches employees to full mastery.

To illustrate the full disaster scenario, the very educational organizations that have captive user communities (students and employees) often won’t spend the money on top-notch WBT because their audiences are, well, captive. They have to take the courses even if the “courseware” is nothing more than a page-turner rendition of the textbook or other instructor-led training materials like PowerPoint slide presentations.

The Chief Financial Officer decides pretty quickly that delivering courses to employees from New York to San Diego via the web is far cheaper than employing instructors and paying their (or the students’) travel expenses to classes. And if taking the course is required to retain your job or get a promotion, you’ll take the course no matter how awful it is. Kiss quality WBT goodbye!

Oh, no! Is web-based training a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom? Is there no cost-effective way to produce it? Will we devise an return on investment (ROI) model that cost-justifies it for my commercial client sites?

Oy vey, this is awful!

  • Lesson: Bad or good, it happens to be reality. In fact, it presents two huge opportunities for marketing mavens.
    1. The education industry Educational services desperately need your help to attract clients and compete with each other. And you’ll do that by instilling in them the value of offering higher-quality WBT than their competitors. The web provides “communities” where consumers can compare notes on everything, including their learning experiences. These users are looking for quality and value. The prime segment of this market has the money to spend on the fastest, easiest learning. So the ROI for providing engaging and effective WBT experience will increase as word spreads.

    2. Every other industry Whether you’re selling computer software or home-renovation hardware, you can offer just-in-time training, which is what the users really want. Think of a two-year-old. “I want to play, I want to play right now, and I want to win. I want just enough training, and it better be fun!”

    In the adult world, just-in-time training means getting exactly the bit of information or skill practice you need, precisely when you need it usually just before you have to use it for real.

    You can get addicted to a site that invites you to click the TeachMe button to “Practice using X-trade software to buy and sell stock” before you have to set up an account and deposit real money, or “Fill in the cabinet door measurements to figure out what size handles and hinges you need” before you order anything.

    No, WBT can’t give you hands-on experience in laying tile still gotta go to the Home Depot Saturday class for that. No degree of sophistication in virtual reality will prepare you for major plumbing jobs (well, maybe a program that teaches you how to write large checks to the plumber). But any job that can be simulated online is fair game. There was for-real flight simulation training software before the for-fun “Flight Simulator” game, ya know.

    With a little imagination, you can identify something tricky about using your client’s product, service, or the web site itself, that users will be grateful to practice “with a safety net” before using for real. That’s just-in-time training.

    We’ve gone step by step like the itsy-bitsy spider up the learning curve to discover the marketing benefits of just-in-time WBT. Now that all us spiders have reached the top of the water spout, all we know for sure is that some rain may come along and wash us spiders out. Meanwhile, we have a nice broad view of the entire town and where our opportunities lie. What are you going to do with them?

    Homework: How can you place valuable tidbits in the places you want readers to stay awhile and do what you want them to do? That’s next week’s topic. Get creative about the aspects of your product or service that you can “make real” for prospective customers so they’ve just gotta have it. Remember Will Smith in Independence Day, flying the alien craft: “Man, I gotta GET me one-a these!” Experience is a wonderful thing. Meanwhile, if you need coaching, you know where to find me.

    Recess: If it’s later than 10 a.m., you need to take a break. Deskercise of the day: Your back. No, Monica, not as an alternative to “your knees.”

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