Death by Quick Reference Card (and all his friends)

19 Oct

At the moment I’m dying under the weight of quick reference cards. Next week I’m running a series of MS Office 2010 “What’s New” training sessions and have a number of quick reference cards that will be handed out. By “a number” I mean this amount:

I don’t have a problem with quick reference cards per se, however, every time I print out a batch of them I wonder if there is a better way.

Even at a rudimentary level, the creation of quick reference cards takes up a significant amount of time. From the design process to printing and distribution, the process of getting a quick reference card in the hands of a learner seems exorbitant.

So why do we put so much effort into creating quick reference cards? The answer I commonly get is because “learners want something physical that they can take away with them after training has finished.” A quick reference card meets this need, but is this need necessarily true?

My answer to this question is may be not. Perhaps what learners need is an assurance that relevant resources will be available to them after training has finished. As instructional designers we are all aware of the problem of learner retention or recall, but perhaps we should also be aware that learners are worried about this problem as well.

Handing learners a quick reference card helps ease their concerns. A card acts as something that will either jog their memory or help fill in a gap about a section of the training they snoozed through.

So what about the “physical” part of needing a quick reference card? Well, in an increasingly “virtual world,” the need for something physical is diminishing. Even so, I think it is important to show learners where they can get help in the virtual world. That means incorporating a post-training element into training. For too long we have treated training as a one-time, one-stop-shop experience. It shouldn’t be, and we shouldn’t just hand out quick reference cards, wave the learners good-bye and wish them good-luck.

I’m dying under the weight of quick reference cards, perhaps there is a different/better way.

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