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Get IT Done: IT pros offer tips for teaching users

Tips from TechRepublic members for teaching users about technology


Michelle Hutchinson’s recent article, “Teach users to help themselves,” highlighted the need for techs to go the extra mile when dealing with users. She urged techs to avoid solving a user’s problem without teaching the user how to prevent or solve that same problem in the future. TechRepublic members responded positively to this assertion, and in this article, I’d like to share a few of their comments and suggestions.
In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members intended to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, TechRepublic members share their comments and suggestions on teaching users to help themselves.
Teaching tips
Lunchtime learning
Member Apratt suggests using a brown bag lunch to teach users. The users “get a chance to ask questions for one hour, and you get a chance to educate them.” Over the past two months, these learning lunches have reduced the call volume at Apratt’s help desk, and they now have a session every week.

Interactive workshop
Instead of a brown bag lunch, Jsaylor offers a weekly half-hour "interactive workshop." This session is close enough to lunchtime that users can participate either during their lunch break, before their lunch break, or after their lunch break. Jsaylor reports that, “Feedback from staff who attended these sessions indicates that they found them very worthwhile.”

Monthly newsletter
Member Matt G. suggests sending out a monthly newsletter that addresses the most frequent support call/solution incidents and offers a "tech tips" feature. He says his clients “love it.”

Harness a user chain reaction
Ldcoury recommends that his users share their knowledge with each other. When someone discovers a “cool step saver” or “nifty site for helpful hints,” he encourages them to share it with their colleagues. Ldcoury calls this sharing process, “being a member of the SWAP Team = Share the Wealth And Pass it on!” This can be done through posting the tips on an intranet Web page or using a recurring newsletter.

Don’t ignore old tips
TechRepublic member Generalist reminds us not to take knowledge for granted. “Training can even help experienced users,” Generalist says, “especially if they have gotten into some habits that new versions of the software make obsolete.”

Building on Ldcoury’s earlier suggestion, Generalist believes each SWAP intranet Web page or newsletter needs an “old dogs and new tricks” section to cover things that supposedly everyone knows. “Just because something has been published once,” Generalist says, “doesn't mean that everybody will have seen it.”

Weekly tip sheets
Layne and Hawkinsgp both use tip/cheat sheets to educate their users. While Layne reports only minimal success, Hawkinsgp says his have been “very well received by the users.” Hawkinsgp writes weekly tip sheets with tips on how to expire e-mails, set up delivery receipts, clean out inboxes, and perform similar routine tasks. “The 20 or so minutes a week it takes me is well worth it,” Hawkinsgp states, “both for user education and customer relations.”

Tip of the day e-mail
Glenb1 uses a weekly "Tip O' The Day" e-mail with information on general computer usage and getting the most from Microsoft Office and other applications. Glenb1 also maintains an internal Web page so users can view the tips at any time.

“I believe that the users are more grateful to me for teaching them how to solve the everyday minor annoyances that come from working with Windows and Windows applications,” Glenb1 says, “and how to be more productive when using these products.”
If you have a great way to help users help themselves, we want to know about it. Click here to join this discussion.

About Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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