Screencasts- Are they considered a job aid?

Jul 20, 2012

Hi there,

I have just started my Masters' in IDT. In one course, I am working on creating a job aid solution for a problem. The goal is to give teachers the ability to go through the steps of a software program in order to use it (a classic issue in ID, lacking of training). When I proposed creating a screen cast with steps to assist the user in learning and navigating whenever they had the time, he said that it falls under instruction and not a "job aid." Yet, if I created a handout with screen shots, that would be deemed acceptable. I am failing to see the difference except the issue of toggling a screen and pausing a video. In my mind, I thought a more interactive approach would be more beneficial. Am I assuming too much about my audience? I did realize this would have been a good survey question when doing my first analysis. Any thoughts or insights would be welcome!

17 Replies
Kristen Hull

Let’s say there are 7 steps to use this software program, and I am stuck on Step #5.  With the handout, I can skip to the screenshot on step 5 and read that section for understanding.  With the screencast, I have to watch from the beginning to get to step 5, even though I understand steps 1-4.  That’s how I would interpret the difference between job aid and instruction, but I’m just taking a guess.

Steve Flowers

Performance support, by definition, is anything that helps you get the job done by providing a memory prosthesis (not requiring the performer to hold a fact, procedure, concept, or principle in memory). A job aid is performance support and in the real world, a job aid isn't constrained to a particular form of media.

I can assure you, when folks design job aids they are only thinking "paper-based is the only kind of job aid" if they are constrained by dogma, inexperience, or failed insight. We build lots of performance support (job aids) every year. When the job aid, or a component of the job aid, is most effectively delivered in video, we use video.

Is the tool designed to train to memory? If yes, it's not a job aid. If it's designed to prevent someone from needing to remember something, it's a job aid.  As for the type of media used, it depends a lot on the audience and the task at hand. For me, personally, I like to see nuanced tasks demonstrated along with a static representation of the task (something readable with illustrations).

Bottom line, in some situations, video, audio, even a simulation (sometimes built-in to equipment) can be valid performance support (job aids). The definition is in the expectation of retention. Storing the information for on demand external retrieval or for internal retrieval.

Bruce Graham

The ever-erudite Steve Flowers said:

I can assure you, when folks design job aids they are only thinking "paper-based is the only kind of job aid" if they are constrained by dogma, inexperience, or failed insight. We build lots of performance support (job aids) every year. When the job aid, or a component of the job aid, is most effectively delivered in video, we use video.


The F1 / "Help" button on a piece of software is a job -aid.

I've yet to see a version of a Microsoft product that directs you to run to the printer to get a piece of paper with the instructions on it when you press F1! 

"He", (whoever "he" is...), has failed to evolve. You are certainly not assuming to much about your audience, perhaps though you overestimate the knowledge and credibility of your dogma-bound instructor in the 21st century.


Christy Novack

Thank you for the replies! They are helpful. I think Kristin's point of being able to easily go to a certain step via paper is a valid one and Steve's definition is solid to keep in mind, which echoed my professor's response as a definition. He did say it is not that a job aid cannot be video, but can  the user use the video in tandem with the step by step process would be the question. I know when I am trying to perform a step by step however, I prefer a video that I can start, pause, perform the step in the other window, and then continue, which was my vision and  my sticking point....A good example I thought that he mentioned is Turbo Tax as a job aid.

My analysis is about how to get teachers at my school site to use the Smart Response system in their classrooms  in conjunction with their Smartboards with their students when there is no person on site to help/show/input for them. The reasons they are not being used are due to lack of training, time constraints during the work day to figure out and create a Smart Response session, and incentive (we don 't have to use them). It was to be broken up into three videos, focusing on the process of navigation of the software program, how to input class names, and how to create questions in the program. Another video would be about what the various buttons on the remote were. I originally thought a screencast would be great, as they can access whenever they wanted, go back as many times as needed, etc.  In my mind, it wasn't to necessarily have them "learn and then retain,"  but it seems to fall under that category, training aid vs job aid.... Out of curiosity, besides making some system within the program that pops up as the person goes (great  solution, not my skill set!), what would you have chosen to do as a  job aid solution?  Just wondering if I am not thinking/seeing other creative ideas.....

Steve Flowers

I think it's also important not to consider solutions in isolation. A job aid can contain elements to train components of a skill or build confidence (capacity & motivation). Treating training and job aids as an either / or proposition creates a serious problem. The purism of "one or the other" is counter productive. 

The process we use illuminates probable root causes in two major categories with several subcategories:

  • Individual - Skills, Knowledge, Motivation, Capacity
  • Organization - Resources, Information, Incentives, Selection & Assignment

It sounds like you've done a comprehensive analysis of causal factors. One other thing to consider with Smart Response systems, are the systems assigned to the classroom or are they rotating / checked out? This is one of the factors I've seen where problems of technology use arise (it's a resource problem that impacts motivation). People avoid hassles, even if it's a hassle that will eventually have a larger payoff than the effort expended.

A model that shows the system in use and demonstrates how easy a system can be to operate can help to overcome confidence problems. A video testimonial that recognizes a leading teacher that uses the system can help to create gravitas. Even better if you can illustrate how well it works.

Having used these systems. I think a simple paper based job aid and some examples that folks can play with will hit most of your staff's skill & knowledge gaps. The harder nut to crack is motivation to use. The value piece. This is where I think some great demonstrations of the system in use could add tremendously to the rest of the campaign.

Thanks for bringing this up. I love to have job aid conversations! In my opinion, courses are overprescribed while job aids are under-prescribed by a large margin

Holly MacDonald

Hi Christy,

I have 2 initial reactions to your quandry:

1. why did he nix video? What was the reason behind that?

2. (possibly related) - job aids are meant to be used on the job, and my assumption is that teachers don't have time to watch a video when in a classroom of kids using the smart board/smart response system, so while I love screencasts, if it isn't conducive to the job environment, then it isn't the right solution. I'm a parent, I've been in the classrooms, there is noise, classroom management issues (i.e. the disruptive kid), time pressures, etc. It's a tough environment to operate in. I don't think you've misjudged your audience's use of technology, my gut says it's more of an environmental issue.

Think about why they will be using this performance support? What errors are they likely to make? Which steps aren't easy to remember or are critical? What do they do infrequently?

Each of the pieces is like lego - a job aid on it's own is helpful, put a few of them together and it's a quick reference guide, put them all together and it's a course, regardless of how it is delivered.

If it was me, I'd not throw out the screencast idea, but do both - a "quick reference screencast video" for just prior to the first time they use it in the classroom and good old paper with screenshots for the in-class, during the task stuff. Also I think putting the video in scenarios somehow that illustrate a common way that the smart board/smart response system is used in a classroom might help them get context around why to use and what's in it for them. 

Hope that help,


Christy Novack

Yes, I feel that a training aid vs job aid can blend into each other and that is ok. I like the breakdown of the two main categories and then the subcategories for each one that you/ your company uses for future analysis. Mine was broken down as Skills/Knowledge, Environment, Motivation, Incentive. It was also indicated in my class that job aids are often overlooked or not considered, which seems kind of illogical/silly, especially if it is a simple and cost effective solution to a problem. Looking forward to shooting other questions/conversations to this board!

Christy Novack


The assumption was that the teacher during their after school work time/prep time would set up the Smart class and content, just like any other lesson. There is no way they would set it up/input content while the kids are actually in class, so that is good to point out re: use "on the job," though I consider working after school and planning would still fall under that category. I think his rationale was that I am instructing on how to use vs acting as a way to make the task easier. I definitely viewed the video idea as a reference. I do like your idea of creating a video showing it in action, which can also act as a motivation/incentive to use.

Holly MacDonald

Christy - thanks for the clarification on use.

To me, the most important aspect is how the output is to be used. If it's on the job, then what goes into it is as important as how accessible it is.

Envision them setting it up. Are they standing in front of the smart board in their class? Do they have to go back and forth between the computer and the smart board? (confession, I don't know the answer to this or any of my questions). How much time do they have? Do they get interrupted? What happens if it sets up well and then when they go to use it there is a glitch/crash/problem. What then? Job aids are usually considered "after training", but they actually fall into 3 categories: Planners, sidekicks and quick checks, which loosely align to before/during/after. Perhaps clarifying when they will be used might give your more insight? I usually map out the package in terms of before/during/after. It helps me see the bigger picture and how all the training and support would fit together.

I am a big fan of both Allison Rossett and Bob Mosher's work around performance support.

Apologies if I'm just adding to confusion. Job aids seem so simple on the surface, but actually can be quite complex when you start to dissect them.


Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro


Just now seeing this from the Word of Mouth link. Great discussion. My 2 cents:

Regarding an inability to jump to a particular instructional step in a Screencast: it actually is quite possible if the Screencast is set up with a Table of on the "Connect the Smart Board to the Computer" step and you're good to go.

And as you said, Christy, in some situations, and/or for some Learners, it's easier to watch a video that we can "pause, perform the action, and continue."

Here's an example that may make you laugh at me, but oh well!

I'm trying to learn how to swaddle my newborn grandson. There are gazillions of resources online for how to do this, but the static images aren't cutting it for me. The videos are what's helping me to learn. I actually am pausing and continuing, and wishing the ones that I've found had a TOC of some sort so I could begin at a certain place in the process.

I TOTALLY agree with Bruce regarding questioning the assumptions of others. This is the deeper thinking that makes the learning stick and is what we educators LOVE: an engaged and motivated Learner.

Bob S

Hi Christy,

Sorry, I disagree with some of the others here....

To address your original question, I think you may want to look at how you presented the description of your job aid:

"When I proposed creating a screen cast with steps to assist the user in learning and navigating whenever they had the time."

Honestly, if I read that description I wouldn't think job aid either.... and unlike some of the others here have stated that would have nothing to do with the format (screencast vs paper).

IMHO, job aids are a quick reference that the user has so they don't have to learn/memorize something, at least right away. Your description sounds more like an optional training tool, rather than a quick reference tool.

Can a screencast be a job aid? Of course. But it's the goal of said screencast that I think your prof may have had issues with.

Hope this helps,


Steve Flowers

I don't think we're in disagreement at all, Bob. Though, even if the goal of a job aid isn't to assist in training a task to memory, the side effect of the experience of DOING will often result in those ends 

I think there are pure definitions of what a job aid is and what training is. Unfortunately, the interventions that meet these pure definitions are less effective in isolation. That's where I think most of the comments in this thread were leaning. In the end I think it matters less about what we call something and more about 1) whether it works in the context it's designed for and 2) it's available in the moment it's required.

While fun to discuss, when it comes down to it academic arguments are largely pedantic. What works in the real world? Most of the time it's the gray area in the middle.

Christy Novack

Hi  there,

I will give you an update on my changes. I stepped away from the video approach and will be doing a paper based approach. As Bob said, it was leaning more towards training vs a quick reference. Once I wrapped my head around the difference between what a training step by step is vs a quick reference step by step, that helped. My professor encouraged me to think of a job aid that included an operation angle, but also addressed "best practice" in terms of teachers using the system, which would aid in motivation.

I decided to revamp and take an  RTI (Response to Intervention) theme w/ the Smart Response system, as our entire school is starting a new system/schedule of teaching using the RTI model this year. Some ideas to include are a brief definition of Smart Response with 6 great ways it can be used (bulleted), a table of equipment/info needed before starting (brief, assuming the software is downloaded and the system is physically set up as that isn't the goal of this JA), followed by a *brief* step by step on the key points of what needs to be inputted to get started (vs the every click of the mouse) with screenshots to accompany the text.  This would be followed by chart/table on the types of questions that can be generated. Included would be a table/chart of things to consider when creating a question (what is the goal for the teacher). Types of result charts that can be found in the system will be pointed out via graphics. Lastly, a straight out diagram of the remote as one would find in a manual that would have arrows pointing to the various buttons and screens. The tie in is how this can help assist student learning with using consistent, quick assessments throughout the lesson and unit vs waiting until the end. This can help them target at risk students, as well as hone in on any student more quickly on specific concepts they are not grasping fully, which is the heart of the RTI model. This falls under "guiding" the user with how to get started w/out specifically telling them what to do and giving them room to synthesize for themselves how they might use the system.  I was approved to go this route for the class.  I don't think this will be the most amazing job aid, but I can get behind it and see the value. It's also my first formal one, so I won't be too critical on myself. The more job aids I encounter, the more ideas I will have in mind down the road. I will also will be writing up a JA report.

I still think video is engaging and meaningful and might go forward on my own and do a video for practice that incorporates some of the above to a degree vs a straight out tutorial.  In the future, it is something I would definitely use, but since this is a "class" and the teacher also seemed prefer the concept of paper based,  I went that route. I do think the idea of combining a handout w/ video is also great. I did a quick survey of some teacher friends and the preference of video vs handout was about even, which I found interesting. 

Sorry if this is all a bit convoluted, I haven't had my coffee yet! 


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