Recently, I've sat through a discussion with one of our subject matter experts as he attempted to teach me how to perform credit card batch maintenance on one of our systems.
The system itself is quite simple - look at the credit card transactions and make sure they are correct. If they are, click the Submit button. If not, click the Edit button next to the incorrect transaction. Correct the transaction and click OK. When everything is correct in the batch, click Submit. A yes/no decision tree within an intuitive user interface.
I happen to like this subject matter expert. He is knowledgeable about the systems he works with and possesses almost saintly patience. Sadly, by the time the subject matter expert finished explaining how the batch maintenace system worked - I was thoroughly confused.
The "training" went something like this:
- The system is on Internet explorer at X address
- Log into the system
- "If you don't know your user name or password, people generally call me, but they really need to talk to their practice administrator. You know, I really need to enforce this....."
- This is the main screen. (He then provides a detailed explanation of what each button does - whether we use the button or not.)
- 30 minutes later......
- Click Batch Maintenance
- "You really should only have 1 batch, but lots of people have multiple batches so you really need to make sure you have the right batch. I try to tell them to only open one batch, but they don't listen to me. If you have the wrong batch...."
How many "trainings" given by a subject matter expert have you sat through like this?
The majority of the subject matter experts I know approach training as an evil akin to getting a root canal with no anesthesia. As a result, many provide training in the following manner:
1) The expert assumes you come in with a certain level of prior knowledge, either about the system or the process. That assumed level of prior knowledge varies based on the subject matter expert's mood and personality.
2) If the subject matter expert likes you, has time to talk, and/or thinks you are a moron and is taking pity on you (again, depending upon the subject matter expert's mood), they assume that you need to know EVERYTHING about the system, including the location of interesting lines of code or strange factoids about the evolution of the system across versions.
3) The subject matter expert is not concerned with the context in which you are going to be using the system. That is YOUR problem.
From my perspective, an educator's JOB is to make a topic understandable, thereby encouraging behavior change. When we approach training, we:
- Determine the student's actual prior knowledge of the topic
- Figure out what the student needs to know. This includes eliminating the unnecessary from our courses.
- Place that knowledge in a context that makes sense to the STUDENT. Not the developer or the administrator or the expert.
These important steps differentiate an educator's training vs. a subject matter expert's training. These steps are the ones that are lost when someone without an educator's mentality designs and delivers training.