Before we describe the case study to create software product training for employees in the legal profession, we summarize product training.
Employee Product Training Business Problem
Product training refers to educating individuals, typically employees, sales teams, or customers, about a specific product or range of products a company offers. Product training aims to ensure that those who interact with the product comprehensively understand its features, benefits, and usage. This training can take various forms, including:
- Employee Training: Companies often provide employee product training, especially for sales, customer support, marketing, and product development. This training helps employees become well-versed in the products they sell or support, enabling them to answer customer questions, address issues, and promote the product effectively.
- Sales Training: Sales teams benefit significantly from product training because it equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to articulate the value of a product to potential customers. This training typically covers product specifications, use cases, competitive advantages, and objection handling.
- Customer Training: Some companies offer product training to their customers as part of the sales process or as a separate service. Depending on the product’s complexity and customer needs, customer training can come in user manuals, online tutorials, webinars, or in-person workshops.
- Partner Training: Businesses with partnerships or reseller networks often provide product training to their partners to ensure they can effectively sell or support the company’s products. It helps maintain consistent messaging and customer experience.
- Product Development Training: Even internal teams involved in product development can benefit from ongoing product training. It keeps them updated on product updates, new features, and customer feedback, which can inform future product enhancements.
In the case of our client, the Court Services Branch, Ministry of Justice (Province of BC) needed employee product training for their court clerks. Our client had developed a new software application to modernize an old legacy system for processing court records in civil cases. Product training on the new software for employees was a critical necessity as part of the delivery and implementation of the new system.
The training on the legacy system consisted of CDs with videos taken from the original classroom session. This was now redundant, and new software product training was essential. All the worked examples were outdated, and updating the existing content was impractical.
A significant problem was the slow pace of the product training due to the delivery method. Employees could not progress promptly, and many took months to complete the training. After successfully completing several modules, learners could move to a software demonstration site. However, because of a lack of automation, this was delayed. Before learners were allowed to progress, more senior staff had to review and authorize their competence.
As the integrity of the data in the software was paramount, employees were not allowed to work in the live system without successfully demonstrating competence, which meant their managers did not have adequate staffing for the volume of work needed.
The Ministry of Justice sought elearning course development experts and contracted Spark + Co. for the project. They required an experienced project lead and instructional designer to guide them through creating an online software product training for the new platform.
Constraints In Designing The Custom Software Training
Designing custom software training within constraints is an essential part of every project. There were several constraints in this employee software training project, including:
- Speeding up the new product training process was achievable. However, it was made more challenging by clerks prevented from advancing to learning more complex tasks until supervisors reviewed and approved their competency in undertaking basic tasks. Access to the live system was controlled until the learner could demonstrate success. Errors made by clerks using real-life software significantly affected public safety and the justice system. For example, if a criminal’s status was classified incorrectly, it could result in an inadvertent early release.
- The project also required setting up an LMS (Learning Management System) for the custom software training course, with which the Ministry had no experience.
- Every LMS has different features and capabilities that help to shape or limit the learning experience. The Ministry had selected, but not yet set up, Moodle as their LMS. But they also wanted custom reporting. When they chose Moodle, they weren’t aware that this was unavailable from this LMS. So, we had to develop a process to create and deliver the custom reporting.
- All learners needed to use a training database for hands-on demonstration of their skills. Our solution had to include this while not allowing training on the actual live system. We needed to ensure that the learner could continue their training in the meantime and on their timetable. The requirement to establish competency on the hands-on demo database could not impede self-paced learning. Our solution was to create a mirrored version of the software product they could train on.
- A final constraint of this software product training project was that the primary subject matter expert was retiring, so the window for accessing their knowledge was limited.
Design Process To Create The Employee Software Product Training
We use our typical four-stage process to create custom software training such as this.
Engage + Analyze
We first determined what parts of the employee software training we would build in the LMS (Learning Management System) and what we would create in Articulate Storyline 360. The rationale for this was that the chosen LMS has limited interactivity for designing online learning. Articulate Storyline is the industry’s favorite software for creating interactive courses and is an exceptional tool for software product training. Storyline has built-in screencasting, the best choice for software product training simulations.
After mapping out the overall experience for the learner, we could also identify areas in the existing course where the experience was not up to the high standards needed.
Next, we articulated outcomes and objectives for the employee product training:
- faster completion time,
- auditable records, and
- ability to view individual progress so local experts could coach the individuals.
Instructional + Creative Design Of The Employee Product Training
As the design developed, several interesting aspects were revealed. For example, we determined early on that having internal staff record the voice-over on the software product training demonstrations was critical. This conveyed a sense of comfort for the court clerks and gave it a more personal touch than a professional voice-over artist.
As it became evident that much of the required knowledge was not scripted, we arranged for the subject matter expert to do a voice track recording, matching the screen activity to the narration.
In the design, one of the course objectives was the ability for learners to progress through the training more quickly. We decided how and when to automate to streamline the experience and where to use a “test” to check for required learning. We automated many check-in points with the learner to speed up employees’ completion time for the software product training. For critical or complex topics, opportunities for feedback were provided, enabling learners to work through the online course modules at their own pace.
Build, Test + Modify The Product Training For Employees
We created three versions/builds of software product training for employees. The advisory team, consisting of clerk managers, field trainers and operational staff, tested each version. Their feedback was incorporated in the next version.
As the versions were produced, we collaborated with the internal client staff. We trained them to create, modify, and update the modules so that the internal capability was created within the Ministry of Justice to edit or build additional modules in the future.
Launch Of The Software Product Training
The advisory team helped communicate the new software product training as part of the launch plan. We identified the importance of developing materials to accompany the launch early in the development process and crafted these in parallel with the course development.
Before the launch, we had demo versions of the employee software training and FAQs, key messages, and help details. We used a Before/During/After launch approach to map the communications, training, and support needed to execute a successful launch. Some of the supporting launch activities are shown below.
|Tell||Emails, presentations, key messages||Hold team meetings to discuss going live/training and timelines||Emails/intranet: What support is available|
|Show||Product Demos||Tutorials, training sessions, demos||Recorded screencasts, video|
|Do||Complete survey, profile, pre-work||Interactive elements, training activities (based on use case and training DB/sandbox)||Short primers bundled for certain tasks and pushed out to coincide with re-learning.|
|Support||Show where to get more info (might just be FAQ’s or email address)||Job aids, samples, show them how to find more help||User Group community|
Employee Software Training Solution
The software product training was developed in Articulate Storyline 360 using Moodle as the LMS. The overall course comprised 17 modules of screen-recorded demonstrations, with hands-on activities for each module. Automated messages enabled the learner to advance or request that an instructor review their work. It meant the learner could progress quickly, while the instructors could flag tasks a learner was struggling with and let their manager know. They could also see what tasks provided difficulties for a group of learners.
Outcome of the Software Product Training Project
“Thank you so much! I can assure you that you have not heard the last of us. We recognize what an enormous and important role you played in this initiative.”
KEVIN CONN – DIRECTOR, BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION AND TRAINING COURT SERVICES, HQ, BC MINISTRY OF JUSTICE.
“I have to echo what Kevin said – this training initiative has been receiving great reviews from the field, and you played such a significant role in bringing our vision for Cyberclass 3.0 to life. Thank you!”
JACLYN BURGOYNE – MANAGER OF TRAINING, COURT SERVICES BRANCH HQ, BC MINISTRY OF JUSTICE.
The Court Services Branch could not be more pleased with the new software product training for their employees, which met their goals of:
- Modernizing the training and delivery using Articulate Storyline 360 and Moodle,
- Streamlined the timing for users – instead of the training taking months to complete, it was reduced to a few weeks,
- Demonstrating how much someone who completed training could do,
- Increased clarity on accountability (what the manager/instructor/employee should be responsible for) and
- A reliable product that could be maintained internally for the foreseeable future.
The vast increase in clerks’ ability to complete the course created a separate challenge. So many people were completing the software product training in a much shorter time that extra resources had to be allocated as coaches and reviewers until the backlog of learners subsided!