My latest training fail!

People who love new technologies need to be careful when teaching others how to use them. We need to remember that technologies should solve problems, not create them.

I get excited and lose sight of this basic idea sometimes. I get my reminders several times a day. The reminder is always painful.

My most recent reminder came when doing the first staff training session for downloading eBooks to eReaders.

The problem we face is pretty complex: getting library books distributed easily and immediately to our students, staff and faculty at 8 teaching locations plus online. eBooks are the technological answer.

The problem is eBook downloads are, by design, not easy. Here’s the nutshell: two product platforms; a proliferation of eReaders which use different file types, three different passwords (library authentication for off-campus use, product login for download, Adobe ID for DRM authentication) and a separate download of Adobe Content Manager to drag the book through to receive its DRM christening. For tablet users, don’t forget the need to download the app and the app store password you will need to get the app if not already loaded. BTW, if you have Kindle Fire and are wanting a non-Kindle compliant title, you will need an entirely different set of instructions to go outside the normal Kindle app process, modify your device settings and then download the reading app while ignoring your devices warnings that the app you are downloading may not be safe.

Sounds bad, yes? It is. At least, the set up is. Once past the initial set up, downloading eBooks works great and solves a pretty significant problem: how to get library books where I want them, when I want them.

Here’s how to train staff on this process: give them step by step written instructions, give them laptops that have not yet been associated with ACM software and have them walk through the proccess step by step for themselves and then discuss what and why.

Here’s what I did: explain the difference between “dumb” eReaders (non-cloud based) vs. “smart” tablet eReaders; touch on why authentication is required and, if possible, a bit about how that works; describe what DRM does and why publishers want to ruin their own products with it; gush about all the technical things going on behind the scenes that make eBooks possible. Then, do a demo and then have them do one on the device of their own choice.

FAIL! We all came away a bit dispirited and thinking that maybe eBooks cause more problems than they solve. That isn’t true, of course. eBooks are a useful, practical solution to a real and significant problem: getting library books to patrons where they need them, when they want them. The process isn’t as elegant as it needs to be, yet, but is still a real improvement over the need for patrons to search the catalog, request a book and then wait one or two days for the book to be sent to a campus they will physically visit to receive the item.

eBooks are great. They work and will help our students, staff and faculty. That isn’t what I taught my team on Friday.

It wasn’t a total loss. Any time I can get reminded to make training simple, direct and practical, the better I become at training. I should be a training superhero pretty soon!

The takeaway:

When teaching others how to use new technologies, the focus has to be directly centered on what the particular tool at hand can do for them. Presumably, the use of appropriate tools makes part of our work easier so we can focus on more complex matters at hand and achieve bigger things. Forget this and you’ve got a recipe for failure.