The pace of change all around us is ever accelerating, in our homes, at our work and during our leisure time. Clearly, this headlong race to be the smallest, lightest, fastest and most utilitarian in terms of software and devices is driven by manufacturers.
After all, if everyone suddenly decided that their smartphone had ample memory, and did what they needed it to do, they wouldn’t need to change the device until it was either damaged, stolen or the battery would no longer charge.
But this isn’t usually the case. People trade in perfectly good phones for ones that operate faster, with more memory, or are thinner and more stylish. There is a school of thought amongst many people that this is simply bad for the environment, as older devices keep getting scrapped, and the earth is evermore plundered via mining for the various metals that are needed to manufacture these devices.
Change and progress isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself; but as with everything else, you can’t have the good without the bad. Better tech means better medical care, better education, more opportunities for people from all walks of life etc, the list is almost endless.
But this progress comes with conspicuous waste, greed on the part of tech giants and impending environmental disaster. Just look at the amount of electricity that must be generated to power the servers of giants like Facebook, Google et al. Only when all the electricity generated on the planet comes from renewable sources will that become acceptable, but even then, the visual pollution of wind farms and thousands of acres of solar panels is significant.
Like it or not, adapting to digital change is something you have to do, or simply go to live as a hermit in a cave in Nepal and live on berries for the rest of your life. In fact, one might say that you only have to spend half an hour on social media for the hermit lifestyle to feel quite appealing, but it’s a hell of a long way to get a pizza delivered…
The latest way to adapt to new software, especially in the working environment, is to use a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP), which is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) powered teaching assistant that runs alongside the primary software that it’s designed to accompany. One such example of a DAP is called WalkMe, but there are of course, both digital and analogue WalkMe alternatives.
Before we dive into how DAPs work, there are more traditional ways of learning to adapt to digital changes, especially in the workplace. Let’s quickly look at a few pros and cons:
In Person Training
It’s true that in-person training is an excellent way of covering any new processes required if your employer starts using brand new software or makes significant updates to required workflows. In person training is very efficient as one-to-one or in very small groups, but if you need to retrain, say, 30 or more people from one department in one room, especially if they are a mixed-ability group, the efficiency of that training becomes questionable.
Not least, it’s inherently expensive to take people away from their desks, when by definition they won’t be producing profit for the company. Research by HR professionals also shows that facts learned from training sessions are soon forgotten, which is why much more regular, bite-sized sessions are preferable. But again, you have to organise and administer such training, which is difficult enough if all employees are on site; if a proportion of the workforce are geographically scattered by working from home, such problems become very much more difficult to solve.
Learning Management Systems
Learning Management Systems, known as LMS platforms, again have advantages in that they contain curricula that have to be rigorously followed, together with practical exercises to ensure that trainees cover every eventuality that they may be likely to encounter in any software updates.
If a trainee is unsure of a process, they can go back of their own volition and repeat the module again and again if they wish, until they have mastered the exercise in question. But again, it means that when a person is using an LMS, they’re not doing the job they’re paid to do, so it can be almost as expensive as in-person training, although the LMS has the advantage that it can be accessed from home or wherever online.
Video Conference Training
Arguably, Zoom or Teams training may be the worst form of training there is. Almost no-one can concentrate on what a trainer is saying and demonstrating on a zoom call for more than a few minutes at a time.
Tedium quickly sets in, and there is a strong temptation for trainees to be messing with Facebook or replying to emails during such conference calls, whilst they appear to be vigilantly concentrating on their screens. They’re most likely looking at cute cat and dog pictures (which, everyone knows, is what the internet was invented for!). Again, there’s the advantage that the training can be performed remotely, but in a sense that’s almost the biggest disadvantage too, as concentration spans are shortened, and slackers can’t easily be rooted out.
Unfortunately, with the pace of change now, by the time a textbook has been collated and printed (or even put into PDF format) – the information therein can be outdated before the training even starts. Keeping textbooks updated almost weekly is a non-starter, so the days of printed material training systems are firmly consigned to history.
As a case in point, the dustier corners of the public sector in government departments are notorious for being digital laggards, and as a result of this underfunding and lack of training, many of their computing systems are seen to be increasingly insecure.
DAPs have several advantages over all the above training processes, largely because they don’t ever take the trainee away from their primary function; that of doing their job. Because a DAP uses AI to personalise training, it means that whoever is logged on to their software account is helped as if a friendly, knowledgeable colleague were sitting at their shoulder. So when a new workflow is encountered by the trainee, the DAP will ‘wait’ to see how the trainee responds. If they begin doing something wrong, perhaps entering badly formatted figures into an accounts received field, the DAP might show a tooltip urging the user to format the figures correctly. But crucially, once the trainee has performed that particular task correctly a few times, the DAP will understand that the trainee has learned, and no longer offer help at that point in the workflow.
However, because the teaching is personalised, if a different trainee logged onto the same workstation, or indeed was working from home, then the DAP would offer different assistance for that person’s specific needs, as the AI would remember the person’s progress from previous training sessions.
Not only is training from a DAP one-to-one, but it also trains people as they work, so they aren’t taken away from their primary role, but they also remember the training much more efficiently, because the results are instantaneous and practical.
All in all, whilst traditional training methods still have their place for certain non-software related teaching practices, the DAP is a sure-fire winner for teaching people how to come to terms with new workflows and processes that are web-based, especially when allied with software as a service (SaaS) platforms that are extremely common now in the modern workplace.
As the famous folk-rock icon Bob Dylan once sang: “The times they are a changin’…”