Photo by: Free-Photos via Pixabay
Recently, I bought a craft for me and my 3-year-old daughter to do together. It was recommended for her age so I thought, “This shouldn’t be too hard.” After pulling out all the pieces and looking at the instructions, I realized this WAS going to be hard! The instructions had four pictures which implied there were only four steps to this craft. By the time we got to the second picture, we were lost!
Those instructions were our job aid, but rather than “aid” us, they just frustrated us. So, as an instructional designer, what should you consider when designing job aids?
- Job aids should be written for the skill level of the lower 25% of your learner audience and should be detailed enough for a novice to use them without confusion.
- In addition to the written words, pictures are a useful reinforcement to your instructions or steps—the detail comes from the words, and the pictures reinforce those details.
- Use plenty of action verbs and few adjectives and adverbs.
- They are practical and easy to use; however, they are not suitable for highly complex tasks.
- Checklists, decision tables, flowcharts, samples, worksheets, etc. make helpful job aids.
- They can become outdated quickly but are easily updated when small changes take place in a process.
- Use job aids for content that is:
- Performed infrequently on the job.
- Difficult to learn.
- Most important.
- Use both digital and traditional paper-based job aids.
Keep in mind there are advantages and disadvantages to using both traditional and digital job aids.
- Can replace the need for more formal training if the task is not complex and/or not performed frequently.
- Provide ongoing on-the-job access to context-related support. (digital)
- Easily accessible by learners who are geographically dispersed. (digital)
- Practical and easy to use.
- Allow key content points to be summarized into brief “how-to’s.”
- Extremely flexible and can be presented in many different formats.
- Useful when policy requires certain processes to be completed in an exact sequence without shortcuts or errors.
- Not suitable for highly detailed or complex tasks, the application of tasks in situations that are unpredictable, or tasks that require interaction with others.
- Can frustrate learners, and complicate matters, if poorly written.
- May not be used if the format is not convenient to use (e.g. a mechanic trying to access an e-job aid while underneath a vehicle would probably be quite inconvenient).
- Can become out-of-date quickly, depending on the content.
- Not always accessible. Must have access to the internet, a computer, or mobile device to view digital content.
- Not suitable for learners who are not comfortable with technology. (digital)
- Development and maintenance require a certain amount of technical expertise. (digital)
Here’s the perfect example of a simple, yet effective, job aid:
Learn more about creating helpful and interactive job aids in our Instructional Design for New Designers workshop! With great job aids, your training continues to benefit your learners even after you’ve taught the course.
What are some of your best job aids? I’d love to learn more, so please add your comments below.
This article was first published March 27, 2017.