Sunday, June 17, 2012

Teach Learners to Use Job Aids

By Shelley A. Gable

Many eLearning courses walk learners through a detailed process flow within the course, and then the eLearning courses tell learners that a job aid with the same information is also available for reference later.

Instead, consider directing learners to the job aid first. Teach them how to use it, prompt them to refer to it to help them solve a scenario, and provide any supporting clarification and tips as needed within the scenario's context.

What are the advantages of this approach?

It mirrors the job. The research that  Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson synthesized into the five moments of learning need reminds us of how useful performance support (like a job aid) is at the moment that someone needs to apply knowledge. Using these same job aids to help introduce new knowledge helps reinforce the availability of job aids and how to use them.

It's consistent with how we learn. The January/February issue of Scientific American Mind described the Google effect of how people learn. In short, research suggests that the internet has changed the way our brains store information - instead of remembering the information itself, we've become programmed to remember how to access information for future reference.

It avoids duplicating content. If all the details of a process flow (or something similar) are already written out in a job aid, why repeat all of that content in an eLearning lesson? After all, if something changes, duplicate content means more material to update.

It potentially shortens training time. Suppose an organization has a performance support site, knowledge management system, or intranet in which several job aids follow a similar structure. If training successfully teaches learners how to follow the job aids for critical tasks, they should be able to follow the same types of job aids to help them complete other tasks. As a result, you may be able to reduce the number of job tasks you need to include in an eLearning course.

If you have a client who isn't convinced of this final advantage, put it to the test. Pilot an initial version of an eLearning course that focuses on referring to job aids to complete a few critical tasks. Then, assess learners' ability to complete other tasks that weren't included in training but have corresponding job aids.

What's your approach?

Do you introduce job tasks in eLearning courses with the help of job aids? What advantages have you observed? Any drawbacks?


  1. Thanks Shelly. I've working on a compliance course right now that takes this approach. I appreciate you pointing out some research to back up this strategy. It's been a challenge bringing the SME's along who believe that all the information should be part of the course so that learners are forced to be exposed to it.

  2. Thank you, Shelly - great blog post! I follow Cathy Moore's Action Mapping process, and this fits right in with her method. Training the employees to use the job aid that they'll have in real life is so simple, and so smart. I hope you don't mind I've shared your article (giving you full credit of course!) in a few groups in Linked In.

  3. Glad to hear that there's a bunch of us on the same page with this!

    Steve - I know what you mean. Sometimes it can be challenging to get SMEs to buy into methods we know to be instructionally sound. Hopefully the research helps.

    Anna - I'm a fan of Cathy Moore's ideas too, including action mapping. I hope the sharing on LinkedIn generated some good discussion!

  4. I think it has to go back to the question - "Does this content need to be memorized?" If not, then why not take the job aid approach?


Thank you for your comments.