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"Leave your attitude at the door," and more advice from TechRepublic members on teaching beginners

You don't always have the luxury of teaching only the classes you like to teach. Here are some tips from TechRepublic members for working with new computer users.


In "Training beginners requires emotional stamina," I admitted that I don’t have enough patience to train beginners on a regular basis. They wear me out. Give me some intermediate or advanced users any day.

However, I heard from a number of TechRepublic members who reminded me that beginners far outnumber advanced users. If you’re looking for tips on training new computer users, here are some suggestions from your fellow trainers.

Laugh, relax, and learn
Laurel wrote: "My entire business is built around teaching beginners. What helps me is to keep the humor in the lesson and in the encounter with the client. If the clients laugh, they relax. If they relax, they learn. To quote my father when I announced that I was opening up my business, ‘Whatever you do, leave your attitude at the door.’

“That’s good, sage advice, and I enter every client contract by trying to be the trainer I wished I had when I bought my first computer. I'm not saying it's easy, just that I try. And the referrals are building!”
TechRepublic member Rabaca had this simple tip: “I have found that it eases the minds of beginners to know that what we are using during training is just test environment software. Knowing that what we are doing during training is never seen by anyone else seems to help make them feel more comfortable.”
Make introductions in a computer-free zone
Thomas F., an IT trainer in Dublin, Ireland, wrote: “I have been teaching adult beginners for the past couple of years, and I must say it gives me a great sense of job satisfaction. At the first class we spend about half an hour or so in a room that does not have a computer in it and let everybody introduce themselves. People are often very nervous about technology and about entering a classroom for the first time in years. If you can discover the expectations of your class, you’re halfway providing a great term.

“Also, at the beginning and end of each lesson, give a recap on what has been learned to date. I find that doing so gives the students a sense of security and personal achievement.”

Know your students
Here’s what Monica G. offered: “Sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of deciding how long you will teach the same old, same old. While working on a two-and-a-half-year-long contract, my students ranged from individuals who had never touched a computer to system administrators. I found myself switching between teaching networking concepts to teaching that it’s okay to pick up the mouse and move it.

“The way I found to make the old new when I was training end users was to have something extra to offer. I had simplistic how-to reminders and shortcut key pinup sheets or timesaving tip sheets for ‘Power Users’ as handouts. I’d use the whiteboards to write down other ways of accomplishing a basic task for those that wanted to have ‘options’ at some later point when they became more proficient users. This way, those students who had some knowledge of computers came away feeling as though they had gotten their ‘money’s worth,’ and beginners had something to aspire to if they chose to keep developing their skills. No one was overwhelmed with information overload this way—everyone came away with something useful for his or her level. As always, know your students.”
If you’d like to share your favorite technique for training new or experienced computer users, please post a comment below or follow this link to send us a note.
In "Training beginners requires emotional stamina," I admitted that I don’t have enough patience to train beginners on a regular basis. They wear me out. Give me some intermediate or advanced users any day.

However, I heard from a number of TechRepublic members who reminded me that beginners far outnumber advanced users. If you’re looking for tips on training new computer users, here are some suggestions from your fellow trainers.

Laugh, relax, and learn
Laurel wrote: "My entire business is built around teaching beginners. What helps me is to keep the humor in the lesson and in the encounter with the client. If the clients laugh, they relax. If they relax, they learn. To quote my father when I announced that I was opening up my business, ‘Whatever you do, leave your attitude at the door.’

“That’s good, sage advice, and I enter every client contract by trying to be the trainer I wished I had when I bought my first computer. I'm not saying it's easy, just that I try. And the referrals are building!”
TechRepublic member Rabaca had this simple tip: “I have found that it eases the minds of beginners to know that what we are using during training is just test environment software. Knowing that what we are doing during training is never seen by anyone else seems to help make them feel more comfortable.”
Make introductions in a computer-free zone
Thomas F., an IT trainer in Dublin, Ireland, wrote: “I have been teaching adult beginners for the past couple of years, and I must say it gives me a great sense of job satisfaction. At the first class we spend about half an hour or so in a room that does not have a computer in it and let everybody introduce themselves. People are often very nervous about technology and about entering a classroom for the first time in years. If you can discover the expectations of your class, you’re halfway providing a great term.

“Also, at the beginning and end of each lesson, give a recap on what has been learned to date. I find that doing so gives the students a sense of security and personal achievement.”

Know your students
Here’s what Monica G. offered: “Sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of deciding how long you will teach the same old, same old. While working on a two-and-a-half-year-long contract, my students ranged from individuals who had never touched a computer to system administrators. I found myself switching between teaching networking concepts to teaching that it’s okay to pick up the mouse and move it.

“The way I found to make the old new when I was training end users was to have something extra to offer. I had simplistic how-to reminders and shortcut key pinup sheets or timesaving tip sheets for ‘Power Users’ as handouts. I’d use the whiteboards to write down other ways of accomplishing a basic task for those that wanted to have ‘options’ at some later point when they became more proficient users. This way, those students who had some knowledge of computers came away feeling as though they had gotten their ‘money’s worth,’ and beginners had something to aspire to if they chose to keep developing their skills. No one was overwhelmed with information overload this way—everyone came away with something useful for his or her level. As always, know your students.”
If you’d like to share your favorite technique for training new or experienced computer users, please post a comment below or follow this link to send us a note.

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