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Friday, September 14, 2012
Learning to Learn: Welcome to the Future!
This from a colleague: “Hi Corin, a few of us were ok’ed to take an excel class, we were going to do it from Fred Pryor, but Anna said she took the course and she had to help the instructor. I did a google search and found very bad reviews. Can you recommend something for us. We are interested in some help with 2010 and both basic and up.”
AAAAARGH! Using Excel as my example, you’ll see my response below.
Picture credit to: miffdesigner on Flickr
You’re not going to like this. All your canned Excel courses are going to be like Anna’s experience – it’s why she feels she needs another one instead of absorbing the information from the classes she’s taken in the past. No one can know everything about Excel, it’s too vast. You all use it enough so that you’ll come with specific questions and they are probably going to be somewhat deep and very specific based on your jobs. If the instructor doesn’t have that particular piece of knowledge, it will look like they need help. The reality is they actually just need the time, not in front of a group, to figure out how to solve the problem and get back to you. Your teachers will have good searching strategies as well as time and experience using Excel but they still won’t know it all…ever.
Welcome to training today. Software changes too much and is too large to have it and all its uses effectively taught even over a college semester.
The problem with the courses you're looking for has been that the content doesn’t really have staying power. When you need that one skill someone taught you in a class six months earlier, you still need to look it up – which is what you should be able to do now…without spending hundreds of dollars on a class. Here are some free ideas that should work better if you’re willing to do a bit of planning. Based on how research says content and skills get cemented in the brain (conversation, practice, and collaboration) the following experiences will help you remember what you learn.
Form a users’ group around business office use of Excel. Use the training we get free because we pay Microsoft’s astronomical campus fees. You can break groups up into smaller pairs or triads depending on self-assessed levels (basic, novice, intermediate, advanced, etc). Hold these groups for a couple hours once a month.
Hone your searching skills. You’ve got resources ALL OVER THE INTERNET. They are YouTube videos, user forums, recorded webinars, and websites full of resources. Microsoft has done a great job with videos at http://office.microsoft.com A class in effective searching is probably the best way to spend agency money. However, you can get training on this for FREE if you look for it on the internet. I take webinars on this constantly and there is a lot of useful documentation at your favorite search engine.
Because you can stop, start, practice and discuss the content in each module it’s going to stick with you far longer than what you’ll get in a couple of face-to-face sessions with someone standing and delivering in the front of the room. The human brain is not meant to sit and get information for long periods of time with only a lunch break but the format is so engrained in our hearts and minds it’s all we know. Time to break the pattern because the paradigm isn’t working.
Phew! It’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but your best instructors are not going to know Excel to its core and your best users of Excel won’t be great teachers. I’d be more than happy to facilitate these sessions or just get you started by directing the group and being your initial task master but I think you ladies are more than capable of effectively doing this on your own. Next month, look here for tips and tricks on running your own user group.