Approaches to User Training for Test Management Systems

February 10, 2012
A large part of any new test management system implementation is training. Delivery of effective training is key to the uptake and correct usage of any system you put in place. There are several options or approaches to training that should be considered. Each approach having it’s own advantages and disadvantages. Training Mentors Typically delivered internally this type of training is usually based in the real world. It involves having your trainer work side by side with the students in a live environment. The aim is to have the mentor(s) help staff by walking them through the system as they work normally. The big advantage here is that the students learning is reinforced by working in a familiar environment. The down side is that the effective mentor to student ratio needs to be quite low (e.g. one mentor to 1 or 2 students) for this to be effective. This of course can add to the cost or time scales if you have the recommended low ratio. Alternativley if you have many students to one mentor the teaching tends to get diluted. Training Delivered Internally Here the company implementing the test management system uses their own internal trainers to teach the students. The big advantage of this is that the internal trainer usually knows the companies internal processes and systems very well. In this way he or she can help cover scenarios that are important to company with depth and authority. Usually to implement this approach an external trainer will train the internal trainer. The down side to this tends to be that many companies don’t have a dedicated internal training team. So they pass the job onto someone in the organisation that has little experience training. It also relies on the internal trainer understanding the test management tools well. Training Delivered Externally In this scenario the vendor supplying the test management tool offers a training package along side the purchase of the software. Here you can expect the vendor to have experienced trainers that understand the product inside out. Conversely they are unlikely to understand all of the companies internal processes and systems. As such they are restricted in the extent to which they can relate the training to the companies real business practices. Remote Training Many enterprise level solutions these days will come with some sort of computer based training package. This may be standalone video tutorials or training guides. Clearly the down side to this is that it relies on the student putting aside time to study and learn. Difficult when you have a day job demanding your time. A good compromise on the remote training front can be delivery of training remotely by an external trainer. This type of training is usually carried out with tools like Go To Meeting or WebEx. Here the external trainer can share their desk top and talk directly with the students over a conference call. This approach means students have to dedicate time to the training. Of course they also get a specialist training who’s very familiar with the product. Without face to face interaction it’s unwise to allow each session to go over 2 hours. Students’ attention soon starts to drift without that direct interaction with the trainer. Summary There are many training options available beyond the usual “get an external instructor” solution. All of them have their benefits and disadvantages. So the option you choose will usually be dictated by a number of factors. Firstly do you have the resources in-house to undertake the training to a decent standard. Secondly how crucial is it for the students to learn about the test management system in “your” business context. If you have little resources and the context isn’t important then remote web based training may be the best solution. If you have the resources and context is important then your own internal trainer may be the way to go. Whichever option you go for it’s extremely important that you never underestimate the importance training has on the uptake of you test management system.