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Software training: Learn by doing

A new system embeds training and certification modules into normal software applications. Users can easily switch from training to using, meaning more natural and effective learning.

Software training has been around since software began. However, effective training comes from a learn-by-doing approach, typically absent in training to date. Now software can be efficiently taught as an everyday tool.

This is what the EU funded the ELEVATE project to develop. The project ran for 24 months and is now concluded. The project concept was to embed training modules into various off-the-shelf software applications. The modules would demonstrate the software as used in real contexts, and the modules would be created according to innovative teaching techniques. This combination is expected to result in more effective training.

ELEVATE's concept treats software as an everyday tool, and allows the trainee to switch between training and actual use modes at any time. The system also includes various levels of certification of the training outcome. The system consists of three components: the interactive interoperability layer, an intelligent personalised trainer, and training, evaluation and certification.

Additional project goals included validating its results by developing prototypes specific to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as promoting the uptake of such prototypes. The project met these aims.

Via numerous complex technical steps, the project developed an innovative training/certification environment integrated into the application being taught. This effectively accomplished the training objectives. ELEVATE developed such modules for three pre-selected software applications, which have been successfully validated. The work constitutes five exploitable assets.

The project's dissemination activities centre on promotion of its system concept. That is the capability of SMEs to develop, alone or with limited assistance, their own training materials based on ELEVATE's tools. This concept provides options for systems analysis of the software to be taught and for various training methodologies. Further dissemination activities included face-to-face meetings and academic workshops, as well as academic publications. The project promoted itself using general news media, via web presence and email delivery, and through non-academic meetings targeted at SMEs and other potential customers.

The consortium's work is expected to yield better training outcomes, including improved SME productivity and independence.

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