What is the best approach for an application-based course?

You need to train sales people in an electronic goods showroom to use their new billing and invoicing tool. What would be your approach for this tool- based training. 

 I have some Instructional Designer friends saying providing a procedure (For example, a list of steps on how to create an invoice) in the course would make an eLearning course look like a user manual. Though I do not agree with the above thought, I really would like to know how others think about it.

My plan is to include procedures, Demos and try Its.

13 Replies
Steve Flowers

Why not provide both in different modes. A concise procedural guide / quick start guide with visuals in a PDF format for a quick overview that is *bonus* printable. Along with a demonstration and some simulated "try it" with context for practice. This would provide a bridge between the virtual and the real, providing a resource that folks could use in the real system.

debra corda

Short demonstrations and or You Try It with an accompanying quick reference. It has been my experience that learners love something to take back with them. Let's face it. When you are on the job and can't remember how to do something, you don't want to pull out an e-Learning no matter how great it is. I have received the best feedback on courses when I gave the learner something to take away.

Sana S

Steve Flowers said:

Why not provide both in different modes. A concise procedural guide / quick start guide with visuals in a PDF format for a quick overview that is *bonus* printable. Along with a demonstration and some simulated "try it" with context for practice. This would provide a bridge between the virtual and the real, providing a resource that folks could use in the real system.


That's a really good approach. Thanks Steve. 

Sana S

debra corda said:

Short demonstrations and or You Try It with an accompanying quick reference. It has been my experience that learners love something to take back with them. Let's face it. When you are on the job and can't remember how to do something, you don't want to pull out an e-Learning no matter how great it is. I have received the best feedback on courses when I gave the learner something to take away.


Thank you debra.

You are right, learner love something to take back with them.

Angie Shertzer

I generally provide an overview of the steps at the beginning minus all the details. Then offer job aid/quick reference for printing before demo since some learners really want all the details in beginning (you can spot them handwriting all the detailed steps if you don't give them the printout in the beginning). Demo. Try-its. And finish with a review of the steps and another offer to print the job aid. 

If its a short, easy task, you may be able to skip the Try-it. And if you have a multi-tiered & complicated series of tasks, it can be helpful to cycle through the sequence for each major step in the series.

Aarti Talwar

Hi Sana,

As a rule of thumb, before I begin any application-based course, I always develop one slide explaining the "why" behind that application, why are we using it, it's importance, and how it will help the learners. That way one is setting the context right upfront. I have even used simple animations to do that - maybe something you want to explore for your course. 

Before developing the simulation for the application, I generally ask my Subject Matter expert for tasks or real-world scenarios, something that the learners actually accomplish/perform using the application, rather than a simple step list. Over time, I have observed that people learn best when they have a real-world task. So, you can look at making your application course task-based rather than step list based.

You can even provide the steps to perform the task as a printable job aid, something that your learners can put up on their desks for later reference.

Hope that helps! Good luck with the course!

Tom Kuhlmann

A couple of thoughts:

  • Keep it simple. Sometimes all a person needs is to see the steps and then apply them in the real world. But the course designer puts in three modules where they have to view, try, and then be tested. That's not always needed.
  • Focus on what people will need to do with the software rather than the features. Give them a typical use case and then walk through the process. 
Marti  Stemm

I like the demo and attachment to take away too.

One caution, make sure the attachment steps match the DEMO exactly and that you test them carefully as though you do NOT know how to do it.  Nothing is more frustrating to a student than haveing a step by step guide that misses a step, or has one that doesn't match what they see on their screen.    I always like to have someone that doesn't know anything about the procedure sit with me and walk through the process step by step (no coaching from me) so that I can be sure it works.    Learned this trick/lesson writing user manuals for propriatary software creation.

Sij X

Aarti Talwar said:

Hi Sana,

As a rule of thumb, before I begin any application-based course, I always develop one slide explaining the "why" behind that application, why are we using it, it's importance, and how it will help the learners. That way one is setting the context right upfront. I have even used simple animations to do that - maybe something you want to explore for your course. 

Before developing the simulation for the application, I generally ask my Subject Matter expert for tasks or real-world scenarios, something that the learners actually accomplish/perform using the application, rather than a simple step list. Over time, I have observed that people learn best when they have a real-world task. So, you can look at making your application course task-based rather than step list based.

You can even provide the steps to perform the task as a printable job aid, something that your learners can put up on their desks for later reference.

Hope that helps! Good luck with the course!


Excellent thought, Aarti. Without a real-world scenario, there is no way a learner would be able to put the application to its best potential use.

One quick question, I understand I can use Storyline screen capture to create an application demonstration module but how do I create a "You try it" module?