Taking the content home

As stated in the previous chapter, our study involved the creation of a custom training manual that included step-by-step instruction on how to accomplish all tasks done in the class. We bring up the importance of the training manual again here because for many of our participants, the training manual was the only source of technical support they had beyond the class (other than calling us or waiting to ask questions at the next class or office hours session). A poorly designed manual that is missing lessons or lacks detailed instructions (or lacks easy-to-follow diagrams) can prevent participants from being able to review what they learn and to practice the material on their own. Creating a custom manual can be time-intensive and tiresome, and this can be exacerbated if the manual has to constantly be updated as the technology being taught is updated. However, it will ensure that your participants get the most out of their classes and can apply the lessons once formal instruction is complete.

It is possible to opt for a prepublished technology training manual, but it may not cover all the lessons being covered, may not be written specifically for older adults with little to no technology experience, or may cover topics the residents may deem uninteresting. We typically received rave reviews from participants in our study, mostly because the manual mirrored the in-class instructions almost verbatim; they found that when they were sitting at a computer by themselves outside of class, looking at the manual was almost comparable to having the instructor there with them. Therefore, we caution that if you are opting to use a prepublished training manual to cut down on time and labor, try to find a manual that mirrors your lessons or adjust your lessons so that how the material is presented in class is comparable to how it is presented in the manual. This will make out-of-class practice easier and less confusing for participants.

Tips for designing an effective training manual suggested by most educational gerontologists include the following:

  • • Use easy-to-identify headings to group the content into well- organized sections
  • • Use boldface type or underlining for headings or to identify important concepts (italic type tends to be more difficult to read for those with visual impairment)
  • • Create gaps in the text between sections so that participants may more easily see the beginning of a new section (this also helps participants organize the content in their minds)
  • • Repeat important concepts frequently and summarize your main points at the end of each section
  • • Include screen shots to illustrate how to complete tasks, identify parts of devices, and so on
  • • Use easy-to-see pictures, tables, and diagrams
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