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Top Tech Training Tips for Nonprofits How to teach your staff to use new technology painlessly

Top Tech Training Tips for Nonprofits

How to teach your staff to use new technology painlessly

Group of workshop participants discussing and looking at laptops together
Ariel Gilbert-Knight and Susan Hope Bard – June 30, 2016

“More than 35,000 nonprofit and library staff members and volunteers have attended TechSoup’s webinars in the last three years. Based on our experience, these are the training tips that we recommend for nonprofits.

1. Just Do It

Whether you want to upgrade your technology, implement a new tool, or put new technology policies into place, you should always include training in your plans. Always, always, always include training in your technology plans. Did we say that enough times?

What seems intuitive, useful, or exciting to you can seem complicated, overwhelming, or unnecessary to new users. Training helps ensure that your staff will both adopt the tool and use it correctly.

2. Know What You Want People to Learn

Clearly describe the skills or knowledge that people will acquire during the training. These are your learning objectives. Learning objectives help attendees know what to expect from the training. They also help you evaluate whether your training was successful.

Learning objectives don’t have to be super in-depth. Just a few bullet points will do. For example, for an Adobe InDesign training video that TechSoup recently created, the objective we chose was that viewers would understand the functions and uses of the five most commonly used tools on the InDesign toolbar.

Ideally, you will also have a short prescreening or pre-assessment to see what your staff members already know about a technology program or process. Answers to these questions will help you focus on the most important concepts, behaviors, and attitudes to address during training.

Check out Bloom’s taxonomy for teaching, learning, and assessment to learn more about how to develop learning objectives.

3. Incorporate Training Best Practices

Adult learners need to be motivated to learn, have an association from what they already know about the subject to your content, and be engaged through multiple delivery methods. Those delivery methods include auditory, visual, reading and writing, and kinesthetic (hands-on practice).

Check out these 10 tips on facilitating adult learning.

4. Keep It Friendly

I like this quote from Stephanie Gerding, library trainer extraordinaire: “Successful technology training has less to do with technical knowledge than with other abilities, such as patience, listening skills, enthusiasm and empathy toward learners struggling with new technologies.”

Technology can be intimidating. A friendly, welcoming environment encourages people to ask questions and to feel comfortable not knowing the answers. Setting the climate for learning starts with you! Be open to questions and challenges to learning content or activities.

5. Have Fun with It

There are a lot of technology topics that, while very important, can be super boring (I’m looking at you, security best practices). Think about how you can make tech topics more fun: funny images on your slides, including an entertaining video in your presentation, or wearing a goofy hat.

On the far end of the goofiness spectrum, when we launched the Adobe Creative Cloud discount offer at TechSoup, our training manager donned a cloud-printed bodysuit for his staff training presentation.

I’m not saying you have to put on a ridiculous outfit, but a playful approach can help make boring or intimidating technology topics hugely more engaging.

Remember that you are also a learner! Communicate this to your learners so they know you had to learn just as they did. Research indicates that adult learners are more open to horizontal learning — or learning from peers and friends.

6. Use Real-World Examples

Don’t just talk about features and functionality and step-by-step tasks in your training. Relate the features and functionality to the everyday work of your staff. Real-world relevant examples will help them see why the new technology can help them in their daily work.

Every new technology has specific vocabulary, so it’s important to define new terms, acronyms, and jargon.  You should also connect these new ideas and terminology to concepts learners are familiar with from their day-to-day work experiences. When they make connections from previous learning or knowledge to new concepts, your staff members will feel more comfortable with new material.

For example, most of TechSoup’s webinar attendees are from nonprofits, so we used donor data examples duringTechSoup’s Excel Basics webinar.

7. Give People a Chance to Practice

Alternate presenting to learners with giving them hands-on practice. Avoid long sessions of sitting and passive learning. Practice and repetition helps build the brain connections that will help your staff apply learning to real world problems.

eLearning Industry has a great website with some ideas on how to reach your adult learner audience.

8. Provide Handouts and Documentation

Let’s face it, many of us walk out of trainings excited to implement new ideas, but then our everyday work gets in the way. Research indicates that most of us forget information that is not used in as little as three months. This means it is even more important for you to record key ideas, actions, or practices in handouts for use by your learners following a training.

9. Break It Down into Manageable Chunks

We’ve all been to the mind-numbing, six-hour training sessions where our attention wandered off in the first half hour, never to return. Humans have short attention spans. This is no surprise given our digital environment. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Develop short micro-learning sessions or modules that mix passive and active activity. For example: show a three- to five-minute video segment, facilitate a discussion on highlights for two minutes, and have learners engage in a small group activity for three to five minutes about the topic.

10. Gather Feedback and Evaluate

Remember the objectives you set before you created your training? Those objectives help you measure what learners accomplish — either in terms of basic knowledge or changes in attitudes and behaviors. After the training, ask attendees to complete a survey or demonstrate that they have obtained the skills you outlined in your learning objectives.

11. You Don’t Have to Do It All Yourself

Take advantage of all types of delivery models: in person and online. If you do a lot of training, online learning is a great way to reach a large audience, track learner progress, and build a curriculum that is accessible to all of your staff.

There are also many great online training providers. Browse TechSoup’s Training and Education catalog for donated and discounted training offerings from Skillsoft, QuickBooks Made Easy, Atomic Training, and more.

Image: Point conference

Posted on: July 27, 2016, 6:55 am Category: Uncategorized

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