Tools to Support Training
This article started life as a blog entry at TrainedOn.com It has been added to in order to provide more up to date information and include additional ideas and suggestions.
There are plenty of online tools that can make your everyday life easier if you work as a trainer. The problem is finding the right tools for those specific tasks that are included in your training workflow. And we know that not all trainers work the same way.
We have collected the most useful tools we encountered in training preparation. We have grouped them according to the type of training-related tasks they are used for, so you can find precisely what you need whether it's a tool for a very specific task or you are just starting to support your training-related work with digital tools.
Your favourite tool is not on the list? Let us know in the comments.
1) Creating forms for needs assessment or evaluation
If you ask for feedback from participants, and you want togo beyond using only the 'happy sheets' filled out right after the training on the spot, then you may decide to use an online survey after the training. Or maybe you are doing a pre-training survey for the needs assessment. You can select from a wide range of online survey tools that can do the job for you. Our favourites are:
Google Forms allow you to create unlimited surveys with 6 types of questions and skip logic that can guide your participants through your survey depending on their answers. The best part: it is absolutely free, unlike most of the competition that have usage limits in their free versions.
As a relatively new kid on the block, Typeform has made filling out forms engaging and interactive. The forms look fresh and modern, promising that users are more likely to enjoy the survey experience and complete it all the way through. Typeform offers unlimited surveys and responses in the free version, while the paid version adds extra features, such as follow-up emails.
Having been around since 1999, SurveyMonkey is one of the longest running online survey services in the world. SurveyMonkey does the basics and does them well, providing a reliable alternative. In the free version, however, you will be limited to 10 questions, 100 respondents per survey, and no possibility to export your data.
The downside of the free versions is that they will include their own branding in the survey which may be an issue for some of us.
2) Cloud storage and sharing with your co-workers
These popular file sharing solutions let you access all your files on your phone or tablet device, and are also working well to share documents with your colleagues. If you want to store your files in the cloud and sync it over your devices, you have plenty of services to choose, most notably:
Dropbox was a pioneer on this market with their reliable and easy-to-use sharing system when you use tons of different kinds of devices. They offer a free option with 2GB of storage.
Google Drive, offering 15GB free storage, has the additional benefit of a built-in office suite, where you can edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, even if you created the document in another program. If you work with remote teams and customers all around the world, Google Drive works great for a number of things, especially collaborative spreadsheets, and it's great to be able to share links with people to collaborate on documents straight from your browser.
Similarly to survey tools, some of your clients might be sensitive about having data about their business stored in such services. There are more enterprise solutions out there (e.g. Box) that can be worth checking out in such cases.
3) Video conferencing - Communicate with your colleagues or clients while working remote
The difficulty of working with someone who is sitting somewhere else can be reduced when you see each other and/or you are watching the same screen. Skype and Google Hangouts are competing head-to-head on this market:
Skype puts a big accent on reducing the barriers to entry for users, therefore it is a great choice for connecting to participants with questionable computers, connections, or technical knowledge. On the downside, there is a long history of Skype calls suffering from quality issues, especially if some of the participants are using a cellular connection. However, this issue is becoming less and less prominent in the past years.
Hangouts requires all members to have a Google Plus account and it provides a cross-platform functionality similar to Skype. It became well-known for its high video quality, and for offering better quality calls when bandwidth is low. Additionally, Hangouts offers many business-savvy features: for example, if you want to create webinars for your trainees, Hangout comes with an 'on Air' feature that can be shared with the world and can be recorded and stored on YouTube.
Initially, Hangouts strongly focused on multi-person video chats. This, in turn, pressured Skype a year ago to also offer group video conferencing and screen sharing for free, making it now a hard call between the two.
4) Manage tasks collaboratively
There is a vast amount of task management software available on the market. Some are part of big project management tools, while others are dedicated only to keeping your tasks in order. Below are our top choices:
Trello offers a flexible and visual way to organize anything with anyone. Trello is organized in boards inspired by Kanban methodology. You can add lists to the board and cards to the lists. Each card can have individual checklists, uploaded documents or pictures, and discussion in form of comments. You can easily invite your co-workers to sign up for their own free Trello account. Instead of using emails and instant messages, you can use Trello to communicate.
Wunderlist is more specialized for personal organization in their free plan: you can create different lists and to-dos, make a task repeating, prioritize your lists, set reminders and due dates. It also offers a sharing function, so you can send the training preparation list to your co-trainer.
Both tools have easy-to-use mobile versions and allow syncing over devices. With either of them you can drop the lengthy email threads and out-of-date spreadsheets if you want to get your training-related tasks organised and collaborate effectively with your co-trainers. You can also export your tasks to your calendar.
For those who love MindMaps the DropTask service offers a means of creating tasks as a MindMap (using the iMindMap product) and export this to DropTask where it can managed via a graphical interface. The graphical interface allows tasks to be moved around, grouped together and shared with colleagues (in the paid for version). There are mobile apps available. As with most business focused applications there are charges to move beyond the basic free services.
5) Taking notes - organising and sharing information
Noting down various bits of information pouring in during the training process is crucial: when talking with clients, jotting down some personal follow-up steps, and so on. For this, having a pen and a piece of paper on you is essential, but organizing, finding, and sharing your notes is easier when using digital tools.
And doing it online has never been easier. There are plenty of apps allowing you to jot down thoughts, sync them across devices and share with your colleagues. We will present the two leading players in the segment, with somewhat different strengths:
Evernote lets you easily capture, organize, and find content from the Web. You can highlight text on the web, take screenshots, write your own notes, etc. The notes can be tagged, shared, formatted (to some extent), and you can even assign tasks to them. And these are just some of its many features.
Microsoft OneNote has similar set of features to Evernote, but the approach in organizing your notes is different. OneNote supports a more defined structure, as you can have several levels of notebooks, pages, and subpages. It also provides richer formatting options, which are especially useful when doing creative work as it allows you to start typing anywhere on the page.
Although they differ in the way they work, what they have in common is the most important advice for using any software for taking notes: you actually need to remember to use it. These tools really become useful when all your notes are in the same place and you can use powerful search and sharing features.
6) Training planning and training knowledge management
Training outline, exercises, theory blocks, materials needed, etc... How best to organize all these training specific elements? You might use some of the previously mentioned tools (e.g. cloud storage to share Excel or Google Spreadsheet training plans) but it is typically hard to capture all the important details and have an overview at the same time. However, there is one free solution that is specifically designed for that:
TrainedOn is an online training planner tool for trainers doing bespoke training, providing a platform that is designed for the flexible and fuzzy process of building up a training schedule - making the training design process a real flow experience. As you build up your training outline, all the theory blocks and exercises you enter into the system become searchable and re-usable, together with the additional comments and attached documents you might add for a specific training block. You can also share the training plans with clients or co-trainers.
Currently TrainedOn focuses on designing a training outline but new features are planned to develop a comprehensive tool that supports each stage of training preparation, delivery, and follow-up.
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