We’ve received a flood of e-mail in response to our series of Outlook Training articles. Readers are eager to share their solutions and suggestions for creating a fun and painless training experience. Here’s a sampling of what TechRepublic members had to say in response to Joys and pitfalls: Teaching beginning Outlook, Outlook training: Folders keep the Inbox clutter-free, and Outlook training: Using the Address Book.

From a distance: Help students help themselves
Admlvt, a network administrator, is required to teach new employees an Outlook basics course within three months of their start date. This member has come up with an innovative way to give on-the-spot Outlook training without interrupting an already busy schedule.

“I designed a course that involves a manual and my e-mail address. Each lesson requires that the student write to me, providing an example or answering questions, or as the result of a task. Because several of our tellers work different stations, the next-to-last lesson requires that they set up Outlook at a different workstation. The last lesson is setting up an appointment with me. Once I get the appointment, I decline the meeting but forward the information to the training administrator who gives the student credit.

“I tease with the ‘students’ as they send unimaginative attachments to me. I respond to messages and comment on the heat or beautiful sunrise. By the end, when the student sets up the meeting, I usually have a less timid student who has learned to relax a bit and who has established a bit of a relationship with at least one member of management. My last student made an appointment for me to meet with them in Mexico for some sun and fun. Some appointments you hate to decline.”

Class clown: Use humor as a means to an end
Tpickett and Pearsond sneak up on their students with humor, resulting in a fun learning experience.

Tpickett wrote:

“I have found in teaching Outlook classes, that if I offer fun subject lines to the class, it breaks the monotony of sending sooo many e-mails. For example, I often use the subject line ‘The Last Good Movie I Saw,’ ‘Why did the Chicken Cross the Road,’ and others. The students feel more inclined to participate with classmates and myself.”

Pearsond offered this tip:

“When teaching introductory Outlook, or any new e-mail system for that matter, I always create a message titled ‘Reply’ and include about five questions from books like Games Trainers Play. The questions are ‘trick’ questions that cause people to think (try saving this one for after lunch), and are really fun once they hear the answer. I make it into a contest and have a small prize for the person with the most correct answers.

“I find this to be a fun way to teach a very basic function of e-mail. When teaching attachments I always have one prepared that has either a funny cartoon or some amusing story or joke that gives people a chuckle. I believe people learn best when they are entertained and having fun.”

ToddI. shared his entertaining methods for teaching the basics:

“For teaching replying, I send them a message telling them they’ve won the lottery. They have to reply to me telling me how they want their money.

“For teaching forwarding, I send them a message blackmailing them. I have them forward the message to my boss, showing how stupid I am to blackmail them through the e-mail system.

“For teaching flagging, I send them a message indicating that I’m giving away yachts, but only between 10:30 and 10:45. We flag the message to come up at 10:30!

“These humorous techniques really help.”

Best effort awards: Trainers who go the extra mile
Jiida and Bminett get bonus points for going above and beyond the mundane. They’ve come up with some good ways to keep their Outlook classes lively.

Jiida goes all out with sound effects for a game-show quality:

“One of my ‘tricks’ is to periodically use review sessions, in ‘game show format’ complete with embedded WAV of the show’s sounds to keep everyone loose.”

Bminett has beginning Outlook students assume the identity of a sports or film personality, cartoon character, or any famous person. They musn’t reveal their chosen alter ego to other classmates.

“Their mission is then to provide clues by way of their e-mail messages as to that identity that they have chosen. The trick is not to give the game away too soon by making the first clue to the identity too easy—thereby encouraging answers back that probe for more details. This quickly results in ‘e-mail conversations’ that make learning the reply, reply to all, and forwarding functions come naturally (and of course, usually results in a lot of fun and amusement for the delegates).”

Thanks to all the trainers who took time to send us their ideas.
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