Training Local and Remote PC Users for windows 11 and windows 10
Training Local and Remote PC Users
When you are troubleshooting and repairing a Windows PC, or any other type of electronics and computing device, it’s not the computer you’re supporting, it’s the end user, a person. Now we’ll skip lightly over the fact that in some cases it will have been that person who caused or contributed to the problem in the first place. It’s not their job to be perfect, that’s yours.
Supporting end users is considerably more complicated than it used to be. When I began writing Windows troubleshooting books, when Windows 7 was new out of the gate in 2009, things were very different in the business space. Back then, remote workers tended to be sales reps or marketing and executive types jetting off around the planet for meetings.
These people all needed their laptops to be working properly on the journey and when they arrived. After all, they needed to put the final polish to that PowerPoint presentation they were so proud of. Most end users though worked in offices, factories, and buildings that if they didn’t have their own IT support engineer, they certainly had one available within a few hours travel.
Look at the situation now though, and it’s astonishing that the world of the modern workplace has changed so dramatically. We can say it’s the pandemic that’s responsible for such a seismic shift of huge volumes of people now working from home, or from their local coffee shop, but with the rise of cloud computing services like Microsoft Azure (which launched just a year after Windows 7) and Google Workspace, it was fairly inevitable that work/life balance would change things and that people just didn’t want to spend four hours, five days a week sitting in heavy traffic.
Companies have tried to get workers back to the office, but they’re not doing very well as, aided by a period of employment prosperity, workers are voting with their feet and their open letters, quitting their jobs for different firms, or coming out en masse to say “No!” in a way that would have just got them all fired a few years before.
Even Apple, which tried really hard to get people back to the office, and who can blame them after spending five billion dollars on the place, has had to admit defeat and soften its stance to home and remote working.
As I write this, I’m currently planning my first trip to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond (WA) just outside Seattle for the first time since 2019, three years ago. It’s about a week and a half away, and while many of my Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) awardee peers are quite envious that I get to visit the mothership again, I’m not sure what to expect. There’s a very good chance that when I arrive, the enormous Microsoft campus, which covers 502 acres and is normally home to more than 50,000 employees, will feel quite empty.
Couple all these fresh changes with the fact that you’re not sure what type of computer the individual is going to be using, from a Chromebook to an iPad Pro to a Windows 10 machine, and you certainly know you’re going to face a challenge. Indeed, this time my Windows 10 Troubleshooting Second Edition (Apress, 2021) and this book will be happily coexisting on sale, such is the nature of the workplace changes we’ve seen.
This all means that you’re probably experiencing some challenges in your role as a miracle worker, so let’s have a look and see if we can’t alleviate some of the stress by taking the idea of support back to its core principles.
Understanding User Diversity
Who are your users? Do you know who they are and understand them? Do you really? One of the biggest challenges I’ve found when providing IT support is the sheer diversity of the workforce. If you work for a small, local organization, then there’s a better than average chance that the workforce will all be from the local area, meaning there’s a good chance they’re of similar backgrounds, all went to the same schools, and therefore are of similar educational and competency levels.
Even that’s dumbing it down though as the human species is a very diverse bunch, despite our often seemingly limited gene pool. If you work for a larger organization, then you’ll likely have both offices in other countries around the world, but also employpeople who have migrated from their country of origin to your own (to take one personal example, I’m a Brit who moved to France for a better quality of life a few years ago).
If your business operates in the “global supply chain,” then you’ll be working with other businesses, organizations, and even academic and governmental institutions in different countries around the world.
Every single one of the people working in your or other organizations that you encounter will be different. These people may speak different first languages or have different levels of comprehension and conversational skills in your language. Hell, you might not speak English as your first language and might have difficulty translating some of the more esoteric language that I use in this book.
Then there are the different educational and experiential backgrounds for the workforce.
Not everybody will have had a college- or university-level education. I know it’s common for governments (especially the one in the UK) to try and push everybody to achieve their best and undertake an academic education, but it’s really not feasible, as an academic education isn’t for everybody and, to quote that sage of good advice Peter Griffin from Family Guy (FOX Television), “It really grinds my gears” to see governments letting children and young adults down by pushing them in a direction they’re simply not suited for.
In your own organization, you will have people of all manner of different educational backgrounds. Some will have been to university; a few of those may even have taken a master or a doctorate. Others will have a college education, and yet more will have stopped their education at high school. Of those people, some will have excelled, and others will have stumbled and been let down by the system.
Then we have differing levels of understanding and competency with technology.
Not everybody is good with technology, and this is a good thing because it’s why both you and I have a job. Some people are really great and technically minded (as I am), while others have their skills in different areas, like cooking or horticulture (I can just about get by with the former, but while I appreciate plants and flowers I have absolutely no idea how they work).
It's a misnomer too to assume that the higher the level of achievement in a person’s life, the higher their understanding of technology must be. Some of the cleverest people on the planet will have absolutely no idea how to set up a printer and will still point at their desktop monitor and call that the computer.
In all then, the best assumption to make when approaching the support of any end user is not to make any assumptions. Go into every situation completely fresh, don’t dumb things down (in case you upset them), but don’t get too technical either (in case you lose them). You’re probably thinking at this point that this seems terribly complicated and you’d never be able to manage it, so without making any assumptions about yourself, let’s look to rectify this.
When you provide IT support to another person, you’re as much of a teacher as you are an engineer and a computer expert. This is because it’s your job to help the person understand what it is that went wrong, so as to avoid getting the same call from the same person somewhere down the road.
I am, for those of you that haven’t read some of my other books where I talk about this, a fully qualified teacher with specialisms in English and Mathematics. This means I can get quite hot under the collar when people misuse apostrophes or don’t use brackets correctly in a sum. Aside from the personal foibles (I think I’m a bit too far gone for counseling), it does come in very useful when IT support is involved, so let’s cover some teaching theory and give you a bit of a primer.
There are four main styles of learning, sometimes called VARK. It’s common in some classrooms and colleges for students to be handed a short VARK questionnaire to complete, as it’s a great way for the teacher to determine how people best learn. VARK stands for four different ways a person best absorbs information:
- Visual – They learn by watching, either a demonstration or a video.
- Auditory – They learn by listening to a person, such as a TED talk.
- Read/write – They learn by reading text and books and then writing what they have learned to consolidate it in their own mind.
- Kinesthetic – They learn through practical experience, such as building models and performing actions.
In the real world, you’ll find that the vast majority of people, some 70% or more, will be predominantly kinesthetic learners, while the next largest group will be read/write learners as writing down notes about what you’ve learned can really help clarify things for a person.
How does this help when it comes to IT support? Well, actually, it doesn’t because people are either going to be watching you fix something or listen to your explanation of how it all went wrong in the first place. Where it does come in helpful is in staff training, and if you can get the training right, then you can probably mitigate against a lot of the problems that’ll occur, certainly the smaller, more common mistakes anyway.
Before we come to training and other subjects of that ilk though, let’s stick for a moment with the one-to-one end-user support experience. There are things you can do to make the process easier for you and to help educate the end user at the same time.
I’ll take you through the remote support tools available in Windows 11 and some of the utilities that an end user can use to demonstrate the problem they are facing or to fix things themselves. While there is a natural tendency for the sake of expediency and because of high workloads for the average IT support technician or IT Pro to take full remote control of a PC and implement changes themselves, there are also times when it’s worth taking a step back and guiding the end user through the process so they are fixing their own PC directly.
The primary reason for doing this is that if it’s a problem that tends to come up a lot, as many of the simpler problems do, then you’re saving time overall by hopefully reducing the number of repeat calls, both from that user and perhaps from other users in their immediate workspace they can help.
The secondary reason is that the end user will get their own sense of achievement, and the customary endorphin hit that comes with it, having learned something. This makes them happy and in return gives them a better impression of you (end users frequently just think of IT departments as the people that just say “No” all the time), which can never be a bad thing.
Given everything I’ve said in this chapter so far about not making assumptions, and about how everybody’s understanding of and use of technology is different, and how some people that use computers every day just work from muscle memory in one or two programs, you might assume that you just need to dumb things down and start with the basics. This is the approach often exemplified by the phrase “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (KISS).
I would argue the opposite; it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the end user how comfortable they are being guided through the repair process. Some will be more than happy to hand the whole thing over to you, while others might be genuinely surprised that you’ve asked and ready to take on the challenge.
You don’t need to be intimidated by the end user either. Asking this of a senior executive can often get the same response as you’d have from somebody working in logistics. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” might be an oxymoron, but a change of pace for a short while can often brighten somebody’s day.
Assessment and Evaluation
This brings me to one of the core principles of education theory, that of “checking learning.” This is the process of checking in with the learner periodically to see that they actually understand what’s been taught to them, because if it’s just gone over their head, all that’s happened is everybody’s time has been wasted.
So at the beginning of a teaching session, you will assess the level at which a person understands the basics of the subject, and at the end of the session, you will evaluate them to determine the degree to which the stated goals have been attained.
You can do this in several ways, but in a one-to-one scenario, either in person or via a phone or video call, it’s likely best through questioning and conversation. Ask the user what their experiences are of technology, what they generally use away from work, and how comfortable they feel around computers. This is useful information to help gauge their overall competency.
At the end of the session, you can ask them to recap what’s been done. For longer fixes, it’s a good idea to stop periodically, perhaps at the end of each main area of action, to evaluate the person. This way, you can determine what they’ve understood about the process so far, or overall, and it gives you a good idea of how competently they might be able to avoid a repetition of the problem in the future.
Lastly, you might find it helpful to suggest the person make some notes on what’s been done. This, as I mentioned earlier, is a great way for people to consolidate in their own minds what they’ve learned, and it also gives them something to refer back to later as a refresher should they forget it.
Don’t Get Too Technical
One of the problems people can face when receiving IT support, or even just talking to somebody about computers and technology such as purchasing a smartphone or a laptop in a store, is getting bogged down with jargon and technical terminology.
If you talk to somebody about a Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9, or about a 512Gb SSD as opposed to a 2Tb one, people will likely only hear and be able to process the numbers. They’ll think that the bigger the number, the better the “thing” must be, which, while true after a fashion, doesn’t equate in the real world as somebody buying a laptop for their child to use at school should probably not get anything more powerful than a Core i5.
With memory and storage, it’s equally confusing for people. Talk to an end user about terabytes, and they might think that was just a rubbish Gerry Anderson puppet TV show from the 1980s.
Then there’s overall terminology. I’ve already mentioned that it’s very common for nontechnical people to point to a desktop monitor and call that the computer. If it’s an all-in-one, then fine, but somebody telling you “the computer won’t come on” when there’s actually nothing wrong with the PC itself, but rather the HDMI cable has come loose, isn’t helpful in quickly solving their problem.
The best approach then is to use terminology and language the person will understand, such as referring to the screen, or the fan noise, or the big box on the floor.
This way, you are both much more likely to be on the same page, and you’ll be able to help solve the problem with much less frustration for them and much more expediency for yourself.
Ask Questions with Yes or No Answers
This brings me on to the subject of questions, specifically the questions you ask of the end user to get information about the problem. Setting aside for a moment the technical level of understanding for the end user, I want to jump back to what I said earlier in this chapter about language and about never making assumptions.
You don’t know where the person was born or what their first language was; their staff record might say they’re from Canada, but you might not know they were brought up in Quebec where French was “langue de préférence.” Or they might obviously have been born abroad and have perfectly good conversational and business language skills, but struggle with some of the less common words and phrases used in your own language.
You might have experienced this yourself when on a foreign holiday where you perfectly understand the question you’re asking the waiter, but have absolutely no idea what they’re saying in reply. The way around this is to try and focus your questions to elicit “yes” or “no” answers.
If the person can just answer simply, then (A) there’s no chance they’ll get their own terminology wrong, and (B) it’s likely they’ll have clearly understood you and certainly know how to reply.
Not every question can be asked this way, but some of the tools I’ll detail in Chapter 6 can also help by highlighting on a PC’s screen what it is a user is talking about and doing at the time. Any advantage you can get though to help cut through complexity and have both you and the person you are trying to help get onto the same page will give you a huge advantage in both understanding and time taken to get the problem solved.
Establishing Effective IT Training
Many IT professionals are required to run training sessions periodically or perhaps would like to have periodic training to help bring the workforce up to speed on software, operating systems, and IT practices in the organization. You might have done this when you were rolling out Windows 11, so as to familiarize people with the new Start Menu, desktop, and some of the productivity features including snap layouts, or you might have just bought a few copies of a book to pass around the office such as the excellent Windows 11 Made Easy (Apress, 2021) by Mike Halsey, whoever the hell he is.
Training is a chore however. Anybody that has attended a staff training day will know that, unless you consider it a great way to get out of work and have a change of pace for a day, they are often dull and ineffectual, and the “professional trainer” they get in either doesn’t properly understand the subject, can’t find a way to make it engaging, or very clearly loves themselves much more than they love you. I can’t help with the latter unfortunately, but with the other two let’s have a crack at it and see what we can come up with.
The best way to deliver IT training is to do it yourself. You may not be a natural at presenting, or you may not even know how to put together a lesson plan, but these are things that can eventually come naturally with a little bit of practice.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is “what am I trying to achieve?” With this, we need to examine what the outcome of the day’s training is to be and what goals you want. These can be set out in such a way as to help you better plan the training.
Let’s take a troubleshooting example. We want to teach people the basics of good PC management, so they’re less angry at yourselves in the IT department and more understanding of the role you play and why you have to say no to them a lot. If we look at the set of objectives, we might set it out as such:
- What is and isn’t permitted on a workplace PC
- What everything is and what it all does
- Simple ways to avoid problems
We’ll leave it as just these three items, as having too many goals in a single six-hour training session runs the risk of the learners becoming confused as they’re unable to take it all in.
So we have three different subjects and six hours of training (excluding lunch and breaks), and we can devote two hours to each one. That seems reasonable, so how do we set out our training?
The first two hours will be about “What is and isn’t permitted on a workplace PC.” For this, we could just stand and recite a long list of rules and why they’re important, but let’s be honest, nobody cares. Rules were made to be broken as the saying goes, and people are only being told rules because it makes life easier for the person dishing them out, so why bother paying attention to them?
We need an outcome where each person in the room understands why those rules are important and feels invested in them, and so we should probably make them the rule makers, rather than the rule takers. So we already have a plan for our session. We’re going to break everybody into small groups, and they can plan their own set of rules for the IT systems.
You might want to give each group a different type of rule sets to come up with, one for workers in the office, one for remote workers, one for home workers, one for senior management (that’s always fun), and so on. Next, we need to give these groups a set of parameters they have to consider.
These parameters could be that they need to keep the workforce productive, reduce downtime, reduce the volume of calls made to the IT department (so they can remain productive as there’s not a lot of people working there), and then throw in something that’s perhaps a little more interesting and specific to their group task, such as managing data security for laptops on the move that could be lost or stolen, planning how to accommodate computers at home that might also be used by children for playing games and the potential consequences thereof, and also perhaps preventing senior management and company executive from getting delusions of grandeur and believing they can do whatever the hell they want all the time as they run the company.
You will probably find, having set all this out, that the rules your workforce come up with are (A) very similar to the rules imposed by the other groups in the exercise and (B) broadly in line with the rules they have to abide by anyway. Who knows, they might even come up with an idea you’ve not thought of.
Using Mixed Peer Group Learning
This brings me neatly onto the subject of mixed peer group learning and how you can use it to your advantage. When people come into your group training session, you might want to start them with a short questionnaire so that you can gather some basic information about them.
This might best be multiple choice, for reasons I’ll come to shortly, and would start with their name (obviously not multiple choice that one unless you’re a Man in Black) and which department at the organization they work in.
You will want to ask them three to five short questions so that you can learn something about them. VARK, which I mentioned earlier in this chapter, is probably less important here as the training session will be too short and has already been written anyway. You will want to know about their understanding of IT systems however, so you could ask questions like the following:
1. How do you feel about your own level of computer literacy?
a. Computers scare me.
b. I know how to do what I need to do.
c. I’m fairly confident using computers.
d. I’m very good with computers.
2. What type of computer do you use outside of work?
a. A desktop PC or laptop running Windows.
b. An iPad and an iPhone.
c. A Chromebook.
d. I have absolutely no idea, it just works for me.
Armed with this information, we can decide who will go in each of our groups. We want to mix things up as much as possible. This is because in addition to learning from you, these people can learn from each other. We also don’t want one person taking too much of a lead so that the quieter, less confident people don’t get their voice heard and feel isolated and left out of discussions.
Achieving the first of these is simple, as all you need to do is mix together people who are technically literate with other people that aren’t. For the latter, you might suggest that every person create one rule, but this will place an artificial pressure on the quiet ones and make them uncomfortable, which is ultimately self-defeating as they won’t learn anything or get any benefit from the training.
Instead, you might want to mix people from different departments together. This brings two benefits. Firstly, the people are less likely to know each other well and therefore perhaps more likely to all interact. The biggest benefit however is that as each department has its own unique requirements and ways of working, people in one department might suggest ideas that would be completely overlooked by people in another department.
The end result of using these mixed-ability groups is that we achieve some very important aims:
- We create an environment in which everybody can be encouraged to participate.
- People can learn from the differences between working practices and what’s important across the whole organization.
- Those who are more technically literate can assist those who are less confident, taking some of your own workload away from you.
This ultimately frees you up to wander quietly around the room, listening to the discussions, offering the odd word of advice or suggesting something a group might have missed, and asking the odd question of a quieter group member as a gentle prod of encouragement.
All of this brings us back to the subject of assessment and evaluation, as what you’re actually doing as you wander is assessing how well they’re understanding the subject and evaluating when it might be good to bring the exercise to a close (I’ve never been a fan of the arbitrary ten-minute rule).
With each group feeding back on their proposed rules, and the walls of the room hopefully filling up with flip-chart paper, you can use the rest of the session to discuss each group’s ideas more broadly; remember that in order to keep people engaged, no suggestion can ever be a bad suggestion, it just might be more difficult to implement, leading to further discussion.
Eventually, you’ll narrow things down to a tight set of rules everybody can agree on. If you have additional policies for people to follow, these too can be discussed, but it’s always good to provide context. If you have tight rules about data privacy and encryption and the groups haven’t suggested these (or perhaps not suggested them strongly enough), you can ask the groups what they know about the government and international data protection law and how different governments and companies such as Google and Meta treat personal data, that sort of thing.
Data privacy is a good example as you’ll inevitably have strict rules governing it anyway. People might not consider their own data important, as what can it be used for they might ask. If you were to ask the same person how they feel about the privacy of their children, you might get a very different response. This can be expanded to ask how the privacy of children should or could be any different from that of themselves, or the company’s employees, customers, and stakeholders, and what the potential consequences of a breach might be (from customers departing to money being stolen), then you’ll possibly have a very engaged audience by the end of the session.
For the next part of the session, we’re covering “What everything is and what it all does.” How might you approach this and why is it important to do something completely different from what you did in the first part of the day’s training? Well, the reason for the latter is clear, to mix things up a bit so as to keep people engaged and interested. If things become too repetitive, then people will quickly become disinterested, at which point you’ve probably lost them.
This part of the training could be handled in different ways. You could, for example, have pictures of lots of different computer and IT components (desktop PC box, monitor, USB cable, Ethernet switch, smartphone, Wi-Fi access point, etc.), and again in groups people can put these together, again using peer support, to figure out how IT systems are structured and why things are the way they are.
Alternatively, and if you think it might work, we could return to the flip-chart paper, and people could write and draw pictures of different pieces of IT equipment, making the necessary connections between them as they go.
How this helps, apart from being a very kinesthetic exercise, is that it clarifies in people’s minds what they should be aware of when using their workplace IT equipment.
It’s common for people to trip over power cables, pull Ethernet cables and damage sockets, and desktop PCs and monitors confused.
You might follow this up by throwing in a few hazards, some very clear as threats to computers and others a little more esoteric. Images of a virus symbol, a photo of a hacker, a USB Flash Drive, and a cluttered mess of cables would be obvious, but you can use the opportunity to raise awareness of other problems such as a thick stone wall (which can affect a Wi-Fi signal) or sand and dog hair (both of which can cause havoc with any electrics they encounter).
The last part of our training session is called “Simple ways to avoid problems,” and we can use this to bring everything together as something called consolidating learning.
What this means is that everything that’s been covered throughout the day’s training is brought together into a cohesive whole, both to wrap it all up with people understanding what are good and bad practices for IT use and also to help clarify things in people’s minds to help them remember it in the longer term. This last part is tremendously important as there’s nothing worse than people forgetting what it is you’ve taught them five minutes outside of the room.
Evaluation here is very important, as this is your chance to ensure people have actually taken in what you’ve been teaching and crucially that they can make sense of it and place it inside of the context of their own home and working lives.
There are different ways of achieving this. And there’s nothing wrong with you choosing several of the following methods and using them together:
- Encouraging people to make notes can help them understand and make sense of things; it also gives them something that they can refer back to later that’s in a language they can relate to, if they need any reminders.
- Asking everybody in the room to identify one thing they consider important about the subjects covered in the session.
- Perhaps asking people if they can think of anything additionally that could also be considered (people might still think of good rule ideas after the first part of the training is over).
You could even take the session subject matter further through the use of something like a Post-It wall, where people can post sticky notes suggesting things they consider important for IT use or ideas about why privacy and security are important. Maybe a few would even want to post a short story about something that affected them or someone they know, like a virus infection, someone getting access to their credit card details, or the day they suddenly discovered why two-factor authentication is important.
With all of this done, you could find that not only have you achieved your stated aims with the training session, and not just that people will remember the subject later, but that they might want to discuss it with colleagues, friends, and family (spreading the love as it were) and that… shock horror, they might have actually enjoyed themselves! This is where you should never ruin the session with the wrong type of evaluation form. In fact, I would argue that if you can get away with it, you shouldn’t have a training evaluation form at all, though human resources departments do seem very fond of their paperwork trail.
If you must have a training evaluation form, there are a couple of things you absolutely must not do and a few things that can be a good idea. Of the things you mustn’t do, when you ask people to rate something, never give them a choice from one to five. In fact, you should always make it an even number that they can choose from, as this prevents them from arbitrarily picking the number in the middle. That type of feedback isn’t useful to anybody, and you certainly won’t be able to get any useful data from it.
The second is something I find particularly hateful, and it’s very common with thirdparty “professional” trainers that businesses and organizations bring in from outside the company. This is the “How do you rate the trainer” question. There’s one reason and one reason only to ask this question, and that’s because the trainer wants to get a good egostroking.
If you want to get some useful data from the feedback, ask people what they feel was the part of the training they got the most benefit from or something they learned that they hadn’t been aware of before. These are useful as they can help you to identify what worked and, by omission of subjects on the form, what didn’t work so well, but it also helps consolidate things in the minds of the learners.
Training Home and Remote Workers
Everything we’ve covered so far is great for people who work full time in an office, or who can come to an office periodically for a training refresher, but how do you train people remotely, either those on the move in a hotel room somewhere in the world or those people working from home?
This is where you can play into your IT strengths and use the video conferencing tools that you’ll already have set up for those workers. You’ll be using something like Zoom for basic videoconferencing or a more full-featured package like Teams where you can structure all manner of side activities and even plug-in dedicated questionnaires and training modules.
These online training events will, by their very nature, need to be different to inperson training. You can’t, for example, place people in mixed groups as that simply won’t work. So the training does become slightly harder and more problematic overall.
Having smaller groups in the session is one way to overcome this, as you can still work through all the activities of the in-person session, but with just one peer group instead of several. You can also use collaboration apps such as a Microsoft Whiteboard to allow people to perform tasks such as making lists and putting together their maps of how IT systems work.
An alternative to Teams and Zoom is that some companies will pay for third-party video courseware from companies such as Pluralsight or LinkedIn Learning. but finding IT and business courses for any subject and at every level is straightforward on these services.
Additionally, a corporate account makes it easy to track what training individuals have watched, and many include evaluation you can use to see how helpful people found them and how much they learned.
These video services became very popular during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, with my own courses seeing a huge spike in viewing hours as people were asked by their employers to make the best use they could of their time stuck at home.
Top Tips for Tip Top Training
Hopefully, in this chapter, I’ve instilled in you some of the best training techniques and the reasons for doing so, but clearly I’m also the one here doing the training, so it would be remiss of me to not follow my own rules and finish with some consolidation and perhaps a few additional notes that didn’t make their way into the main content.
We tend to think of classroom management in the context of making the naughty children sit at the front of the class where they can be properly supervised. Classroom (or training room) management is equally important in further, higher, and in-workplace education as well, and it’s primarily for the reasons I detailed earlier about encouraging mixed-ability peer groups.
Sitting people in mixed-ability groups at the start of the session helps in several ways. Firstly, you don’t have everybody upending themselves throughout the training; people don’t enjoy this as they like to pick a spot they will feel comfortable in.
Also, the problem of people sitting with their friends so they can chat to them doesn’t end when people leave high school. Adults of any age will do exactly the same thing, and, while individuals might not see any harm in doing so, it’s a distraction any day of the week, as any idle banter between friends is time not spent paying attention to the subject or task at hand.
Lastly, keeping friends away from one another helps with the mixed-ability peer groups in that you don’t end up with just a few people dominating proceedings when group activities are taking place.
Then there’s the seating arrangements to consider. You might have a preference, such as round tables or chairs that can be positioned so that groups sit around the same table. You might prefer rows of long tables (though this can make people feel intimidated if they’ve been out of education for a long period, or who didn’t have a happy educational experience in childhood).
Whatever you choose for seating and tables, try to make sure that people can be where they need for activities with the minimum of fuss and upheaval and without too many chairs and tables having to be heaved about the room.
Never Use the Word “Understand”
It’s a big no, no in education to use the word “understand” in the context of what a learner has learned and the subject matter you cover. If one of your stated aims is that “The learners will understand what basic problems can arise with computers in the workplace,” then what does this actually mean? Different people will understand things in different ways and have different levels of understanding.
What’s more, it’s impossible to have somebody show you understanding. What you need to do is choose more relevant vocabulary, both for the learners and for yourself.
Demonstrate and explain are always good examples as it helps with evaluation and consolidation. “The learners will be able to explain why a rule for IT use is important,” not all the rules, just one will do. Each different person will have their favorite, and they’ll be able to explain it to you and why they consider it to be valuable to the business. Alternatively, you could use “Learners will be able to demonstrate how to set up twofactor authentication.”
Never Make Assumptions
This ties back to what I said at the very beginning of this chapter, but it really is the most important consideration when delivering training. One group of learners will never be the same as another group, and everybody will be at different levels of comprehension and ability with the subject matter, while some will be more eloquent and confident than others.
Managing this comes with experience, but it’s something you can learn if you concentrate on it. Assessing people as they’re working and mixed peer practical and discussion activities can give you a great opportunity to observe. This helps you to see what’s working, who’s falling behind or looking confused, and if there’s anybody running away with the subject or just plain disinterested.
It's Not Them… It’s You
People are never, as an aside, disinterested because they don’t like the subject, not with education anyway. People are disinterested because the training is being pitched to them either in a way they can’t comprehend as it’s too technical, in a way that’s too dumbed down for them, or in a way that they can’t relate to their own personal or professional lives.
It's no shame to admit you’re doing it wrong. The learners aren’t the only people in the room learning, as you are too. You’re learning how to deliver training, how to relate subjects to individuals, how to engage people, and how to make often dry subjects interesting and fun.
You won’t always get it right, you will sometimes stumble, and perhaps you’ll even come away from a session angry at yourself for having completely ballsed it all up.
I’ve done that, many times even as an experienced teacher. Sometimes, it’s an off day, sometimes my planning was wrong, and sometimes I needed more information about the group that I hadn’t been given or had more likely forgot to ask for.
Being a successful trainer is not just about being a good trainer, it’s about learning how to improve as you go, and an evaluation on what worked, what didn’t work, and what you can change or improve for next time is a valuable piece of personal reflection that can help you in the long term.
Not everybody has the personality or the confidence to present or train. Some people, no matter how often they may be forced to do so, cannot get over their fear of presenting a PowerPoint slide deck to a room of people. Some, by extension, will never feel comfortable delivering training to a group, small or large.
With the guides in this chapter though, you will hopefully have a good chance of keeping people engaged and letting them all have some fun along the way. Don’t worry about appearing nervous, so are they. All you need to do is prove that you know and understand the subject matter.
In the next chapter, we’ll make a change in our subject matter and look at the tools and utilities that already exist within Windows 11 that you can use to help troubleshoot and repair problems with both networked and remote PCs and what exists to help the user help you in return.