Software training – observations and struggles

I’m having a tough time adjusting my explaining/instructional style from the style that was successful for teaching Freshmen/Sophomore engineering students to a style that works for teaching junior and senior pre-med/engineering students, medical students, and surgical Fellows. 

Part of the problem is adjusting the pace without leaving out crucial information. I’m instructing a lot of people on the software that I’m using, and I want to be relatively consistent to give everyone a decent base for starting their individual projects on the software. I’ve only been using said software for a month or so, so when my instructees get impatient or start doing the random-clicking-why-won’t-this-work thing I get flustered and lose track of what I need to show them. My trainees are also all very quick studies, and very confident, which is awesome when they are clipping along and grasping the info, and a bit problematic when their confidence exceeds their actual understanding.

I’ve tried two different instructional methods so far, but neither has felt just right. My first group (one research assistant and 2 surgical Fellows) received carefully compiled tutorial notes and a more thorough run through. They actually thanked me for providing exceptionally clear instruction and making the software simple. And, unlike my nervous Freshman students, these guys were excited to try things without knowing the outcome and picked things up freakishly fast. However, my notes covered way more than they needed to know and I over-prepared with the examples for them to try. 

The next go-around I pared it down, in part because I’m actually swamped with my own work now. I didn’t do notes or a formal tutorial, but instead focused the instruction more on the research assistant’s individual project. We actually came up with a really clever method of measuring the data that he needs and he had an ok grasp on the software at the end. However, he WOULD NOT stop talking over me, which made me worry that I was moving too slow. However, even with increased brevity on my part showing him through the software took almost 2 hours, where the previous group got through the basics in 30 minutes. I’m worried he still has some fundamental misunderstandings that could impact his research project. 

I can’t decide if my less regimented approach is to blame or if it was just our instructional and learning styles that clashed. Either way I’m a bit frustrated and hope that I can figure out how to strike a better balance between on-the-fly explanation and an organized tutorial for the next training session.

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