Without a Software Training Course Diagram, Your Customers Are Lost

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on June 8, 2016

As Robert Castaneda, founder and CEO of ServiceRocket, likes to remind me, "Show me the diagram. Every course needs a diagram." What does he mean? The diagram is the conceptual image that explains the higher purpose of your software product, a workflow process in your software, or the overall concept of what is possible with your product. It is used at the beginning of a course and frames what a course will cover.

For example, if you developed a class on a CRM, your diagram might show to overall workflow of a CRM:

Lead > Contact > Opportunity > Account > Proposal > Contract > Won/Lost

If you are developing a course on how to use JIRA, the following items might be in your diagram:

Project Type > Project > Issue > Sub-task > Component > Label

A diagram frames the entire concept of your software and what people will learn in your course. What is also great about a diagram is that it is unlikely to change, no matter how often your software changes, which is a big deal in a world of short sprints and rapid release cycles. Here is the punchline, using a diagram in your software training will improve how you develop courses and will improve how customers learn your software. If you need more convincing, here are three reasons why every software course needs a diagram.

Sets Context and Why

One important reason to create a conceptual diagram for a software training course is that a diagram visually sets the broader context for what will be learned in the course and why. In the case of conducting training on JIRA, it is useful to show a diagram at the beginning of a course showing the hierarchy of a project in JIRA which may look something like this:

Project Type > Project > Issue > Sub-task > Component > Label

Without understanding JIRA functionality, one can see from this hierarchy that it is possible to create and manage many different types of projects. When one sees what is possible, it is easier to learn how to do it in JIRA. Too often, software training courses start right into teaching features with very little time spent setting up what is possible at a conceptual level. 

Diagram Becomes the Course Outline

Another advantage of using a diagram is that it makes it easier to create the course content. In effect, the diagram becomes the outline for the course. In the case of the JIRA training course diagram, the learner assumes that each part of the diagram will be covered in the course, and it will likely be delivered in that order. Not only does this help the course designer plan the work of creating the course, but it also sets expectations to the learner about what will be covered in the course.

Informs Future More Detailed Training

Depending on how high level your diagram is, it could be used as a basis for future courses. Not only could there be a course that covers each element of the diagram, but one could create an individual course on each element of the diagram as a stand alone course. The most likely reason to do this is to go into more detail about the subject. This strategy can also be used to create micro-learning content by creating small courses on each element of the diagram. 

Go Create Your Diagram

Whether it is to set the context for learners about what is possible with your product, creating a useful outline, or planning ahead for future training, a conceptual course diagram is a must. Every one who creates customer training courses, should begin with the diagram.

If you would like to learn more about how to develop effective customer training courses, you came to the right place. We wrote an ebook called, Ad Hoc Hell: A ServiceRocket Guide to Developing Your First Software Training Course." It describes a simple process for how to develop a course. If you are not a professional instructional designer, but are responsible for customer education, this book will help you get started and make your work a lot easier.

Download Ad Hoc Hell

Originally published Jun 8, 2016 7:53:51 PM, updated Jun 8, 2016