A report from the in-home training front

What kind of training will your in-home customers require? Based on this example, you can expect almost anything.

In the article “How much should you charge for in-home training?,” I told you how I had obtained a new training client simply by answering an ad for a “computer tutor” in a local tabloid. I completed the first training session with that new client, and I thought you’d be interested in hearing how it went.

We followed the wish list
As I told you before, one of my “tricks” is to ask my in-home training clients to prepare a wish list prior to our first meeting. Before I even left my house on that Saturday, I called the client and confirmed that he had in fact spent some time writing down specific questions to ask or tasks to complete. Here are some of the items from the list, in the client’s words:
  • Find a missing Works file
  • Create a blank poster
  • Add the “oak” border to a poem
  • Find out what’s on a floppy disk

That list may not sound too challenging to IT training professionals. To my client, it represented weeks of waiting, wondering, and worrying.

We started the “notes” document
The first thing I did was open a Works word processing document, named it “Notes,” and typed the line “Notes from Jeff’s visit.” I kept that document open for the entire two hours I was there. Each time we completed a task or a lesson, I switched to that document and typed a brief summary of the steps we followed. I asked the client to read the notes I’d typed and confirm that they made sense.

Before I left, I spell-checked that document and printed a hard copy on the client’s computer. I said, “Now this file will stay on your system if you want refer to it, and we can update it the next time I come over. In the meantime, feel free to write notes or new questions on this hard copy.”

Find the missing file
After creating the notes document, we started tackling his wish list. My client had lost track of an important Works spreadsheet. He knew for certain that the missing file contained the customer number 996. I suspected he had saved the file in some directory other than Works’ working directory.

So I showed the client how to launch the Windows Find utility. We clicked Start, selected Find, and then Files or Folders. We entered 996 in the Containing text field and specified drive C: and all its subdirectories, as shown in Figure A. Then we clicked the Find Now button.

Figure A
Windows’ Find feature helps you locate a missing file based on the file’s content.

This kind of search takes forever, since the utility finds 996 in all kinds of files. However, when the search was over, we clicked the Type column heading to sort the found files by type, and there were several Works files in the mix. We opened them one by one and there, inadvertently saved in the C:\ directory, was the missing file. The in-home training session had started well.

Ad hoc desktop-publishing lessons
The next two items on the wish list, ”create a blank poster” and ”add the oak border to a poem,” had to do with the customer’s desktop-publishing application. It was a “personal publisher” program I’d never seen before.

The client had a color laser printer, and he’d selected a nice “oak” border from a thick book of clip art images, fonts, and borders. “How do I add that border to a poster?” he wanted to know. But what he needed to know first was how to create a plain “poster.”

We launched the personal publisher, and its interface was fairly cumbersome compared to most applications I’ve used. It wouldn’t create a blank document—you had to select an existing file or one of the pre-defined templates. The client showed me where he’d adapted one of the “poster” templates to create posters for his church.

But he wanted to type a poem and use the “oak” border. He couldn’t figure out how to get rid of all the formatting that came standard with the predefined templates.

We created a document called “plain”
The first thing we did was open one of the predefined templates as a new file. Then I showed the client how to click on the various elements of the template and delete them. We whittled it down to a plain white page, and then we saved that document as “plain.”

I told the client, “In the future, when you want to start a new file from scratch, just open “plain.” Then save the document you create under a new name.

We typed the poem and changed the font
Next, we keyed the text of the poem into the document. This application didn’t display documents in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) format. Instead, you had to apply your formatting via a menu system, and then use the print preview feature to see the effects of the formatting. I showed the client how to edit text, select text, and apply different font styles and sizes.

Finally, when we were ready to add the “oak” border, I showed the client how to “walk the menus.” We clicked on each menu option in turn, looking for clues as to which option would let us add a border. It turns out that the Object menu had an “Add object” option that eventually led to a drop-down list of border options.

What’s on the disk?
One of the last lessons was “how to determine what’s on a floppy disk.” I showed the client how to open My Computer, and we created a desktop shortcut to the 3.5-inch drive. I demonstrated how changing the View options affected the way the files were displayed (I prefer Details), and my client went from feeling really stupid to feeling completely empowered. I left him with a fistful of disks to check on his own.
If you’d like to comment on this article or share your own story of in-home training, please post a comment below or send me a note.

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