Feb 15, 2011

Won't you please, please HELP me!

I'd like to think my e-learning is so intuitive that there is no need to add help.  (Pause for applause???)  The reality is that no matter how brain dead simple I think it is, there is always a chance that it won't actually be me taking the course.  That's right, it will be someone else with a different brain, a different level of experience, and a different familiarity with a web browser.

Most of the content itself is actually pretty intuitive, with the exception of learners moving or resizing the window so that previous and next buttons disappear off of it. How many people have discovered the "I can't find the buttons" issue in usability testing?  But it's all the surrounding technologies where things go haywire:
  • You know that back button there...don't use it!
  • You can't see the video...yeah, that's because you're using Quicktime 6 instead of Quicktime 7!
  • You opened up the course in a tab in Lotus Notes...no wonder the video is choppy!
 So...I need help.  I host the help outside of the course so that several courses can access the same help.  I label it with version numbers so that when I have to make changes, new courses refer to the new help and old courses refer to the old help.  I also have different kinds of help.  One help file for home grown courses and other help files for 3rd party content.  The benefit of this is that I only have one help area to edit when I have issues and I won't have to recompile SCORM packages just to make minor changes to help (e.g. a support contact number change).

How do you handle help?


Kevin said...

Hey Jonathan,

I used to build the 'Help' module inside each course as each add variations to its shell and media. The more courses we built, the harder it was (and time consuming) to keep up with.

Next, we build an all-inclusive 'Help Course' that all new users of the LMS would take as part of orientation. That seemed lame and really didn't add any retention of value.

Finally, we opted to go the marketing and performance support route - which seems to be working better...

Create a few specific Help pdf job aides. Maybe one for how video works in Lotus Notes. Or one on the differences of the QuickTime plugin. You get the idea. These 'documents' are available for online viewing in a documents library either on the LMS or offline.

Additionally, EVERY time we communicate or market a new course or curriculum, we have a standard paragraph that points to these reference materials.

And lastly, we created a FAQ visual flowchart guide for the company's internal Help Desk. When users call, agents can screen the issue, and our 'first call resolution' numbers have increased significantly. (don't have the numbers right now).

I'm beginning to take cues from website design for eLearning 'Help.' I haven't seen any websites with a "Go here first to learn how to use our website." Intuitive design that clearly indicates an area for support (help) works.

Hope this HELPS ;)

Jonathan Shoaf said...

Thanks for the feedback Kevin. It sounds like we are headed down similar routes. I definitely see a general trend towards more and more performance support (I've been calling it just-in-time learning...not sure if there's a difference). I'm not sure why we expect someone to sit through a 3 hour Word course when all they need to do is mail merge! I want my e-Learning in more bite size chunks.

I like what you've done with adding links to help in the marketing. I think that is smart. We don't have many calls to our help desk yet but as we expand our online offerings, I expect more. Putting together a nice flow chart would probably keep my 2nd level support phone from ringing too much!

Sounds like you've got your e-learning support swimming well. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

How about a wiki that collects all the permutations of things that go wrong (and their solutions).

Jonathan Shoaf said...

@Ryan I've thought about using wikis to allow people in my organization to share information between departments or locations. I think it would work well. I have some cultural and technological infrastructure challenges for that, but I think it would make for a great pilot for a certain user group. I think wikis do require a certain amount of rules and oversight to avoid getting out of hand and unmanageable, but when done right can be very helpful.