Instructional Design — Performance Aids
Performance Aids include technical manuals, decals, flowcharts, or other means of aiding or listing the steps for performing a task. Performance aids remove the cognitive load requirement from the performer and places it in an artifact. For example, rather than training a person to remember all the details for performing a complex task, we can provide them with various tools that enable them to complete the task.
Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) are normally computer-based and include wizards and Help Systems. Unlike a technical manual that must be printed, copied, and shipped to all the locations where it is used, an EPSS can be instantly updated. An EPSS may be defined as a computer-based system that improves worker productivity by providing on-the-job access to integrated information, advice, and learning experiences (Raybould, 1991),
Performance Aids are sometimes called Job Aids, which is defined as a repository for information, processes, or perspectives that is external to the individual and that supports work and activity by directing, guiding, and enlightening performance (Rossett, Gautier-Downes, 1991).
Performance Aids should not be used if the task requires high psychomotor skills or if the worker lacks the prerequisite skills.
The content in a typically learning program and a Performance Aid are two different, but highly related concepts. For example, if I start to board a plane and see the pilot reading “Introduction to Take-Offs,” I would have serious doubts about getting on that plane. To me, such texts should not be needed at this phase in the pilot's career. On the other hand, if I was boarding a plane and noticed that the pilots were not using a preflight checklist, then I would also have serious doubts about boarding the plane as such Performance Aids help in task performance.
When developing material, color can often be used for instructional impact. The following chart lists some colors with their associations and emotional responses.
|Color||Mental Associations||Direct Associations||Objective Expression|
|Red||hot, fire, heat||danger, Christmas, blood||passion, exciting, active, urgency, speed|
|Orange||warm, metallic, autumnal||Halloween, Thanksgiving||jovial, lively, energetic, forceful, playfulness, vibrant|
|Yellow||sunlight, brightness||caution, warmth, cowardice||cheerful, inspiring, vital, celestial|
|Green||cool, nature, health||Clear, St. Patrick's Day, environment, vegetation||quiet, refreshing, peaceful, money, abundance|
|Blue||cold, sky, water||service, flag, dignity||subduing, melancholy, contemplative, sober, truth, trust|
|Purple||cool, mist, darkness, shadow, royalty||mourning, Easter||dignified, mournful, mystic, intelligence, spirituality|
|White||cool, snow||cleanliness, Mother's Day||pure, clean, frank|
|Black||sophistication, elegant||strength, death||mystery, seductive|
Often, color is used more for enhancing the looks of instructional courseware rather than enhancing the instructional material itself. For example, one author of a computer aided instructional reading program (Pournelle 1993) that will teach just about anyone from the age four and up to read English is updating the program from monochrome to color. Why? Not that it will aid in the instruction, as it as already been proven to be highly effective, but because they think it needs a face lift to help sales. The point is, if you have the resources, provide some color to make it look better. But don't think that a colorful piece of courseware is more effective than a black and white one unless the color is effectively used to highlight a teaching point.
Although color is nice and can aid in the visual impact, the most import part of a job performance aid is readability. The text has to be clear, concise, and geared towards the educational level of the worker it is designed for. After you have completed the design, don't rush it off to the printers and get a hundred copies made. First, have subject matter experts proofread it for accuracy and then test it to ensure the proposed learners can understand it. It should also be reviewed by editors for the correct usage of grammar.
For example, if it is a decal, make a facsimile of it. Then paste it on the location where it will be used to ensure it fits. Now observe some workers trying to use it. Is it in the best location to be readily used? Can they read it and understand it? Have a SME also observe the workers to ensure the directions they are following are correct, complete, and in the correct sequence. If it is going to be posted in more than one location, especially if it is going on equipment, then ensure it will also fit in the other locations. Often new equipment is purchased at different times due to expansions or replacements. Just because the job performance aid fits on a certain location on one piece of equipment, doesn't mean it will also fit on the others.
Pournelle, J. (1993). BASIC Instinct. Byte, Aug, pp.209-218.
Raybould, B. (1991). An EPSS Case Study: Prime Computer. Ariel PSS Corporation.
Rossett, A. & Gautier-Downes, J. H. (1991). A Handbook of Job Aids. San Diego: Pfeiffer & Company.