By Cathy Dew
SharePoint is an incredibly useful asset for enterprises, allowing for everything from central document storage and management to virtual team collaboration. What it gains in versatility, though, SharePoint somewhat loses in terms of intuitive usability. Certainly, there is a learning curve to navigating SharePoint, understanding its various features and apps, and mastering its many nuances and functions. It’s not surprising that SharePoint training is a major focus of the enterprises that lean heavily on SharePoint features.
Taking Advantage of Free SharePoint Training Across the Web
You don’t necessarily have to build your SharePoint training courses internally. If you have an IT technician who knows the software in depth, it might make sense to have a company-wide seminar or training session for SharePoint. If everyone is learning side-by-side, though, the good news is that you can go elsewhere for training resources. The widespread adoption of SharePoint at so many organizations worldwide means that the Internet provides many SharePoint training courses. Microsoft even offers free SharePoint training modules—both for administrators and end users.
With that said, there are benefits to building your own SharePoint training resources. Every SharePoint intranet is laid out a little bit differently. Yours might emphasize different features or uses than the SharePoint installation at a different company. General training on SharePoint—such as most of the stuff you can find for free online—is useful for learning the basics. However, if you want to train your employees about things that are more specific to your organization, you would do well to incorporate your own training elements directly into your intranet.
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Adding SharePoint Training to Your Knowledge Base
So where should training assets exist on your SharePoint site? Where better than your burgeoning SharePoint Knowledge Base? In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed the benefits of having a central repository of information that users can access to find answers to their questions. Last time, we talked about custom lists, and about how you can use SharePoint’s custom list format to create a wide-reaching FAQ section.
The thing is that your knowledge base doesn’t have to be exclusively made up of text-based resources. On the contrary, you can flesh out your knowledge base with other content formats, such as video and images. These types of content will be especially useful if you want to add a SharePoint training segment to your knowledge base.
To keep things simple, let’s look at two ways you can incorporate training for SharePoint in your knowledge base. The first will fall into the video category. The second is image-based. Both can be extremely helpful for teaching your users how to navigate, use, and get the most out of SharePoint.
Across the world of Internet content marketing, video is becoming dominant. Cisco predicts that video “will account for 82% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021.” Pretty much everywhere, users are turning to video for entertainment, for distraction, and yes, for education. It stands to reason that your end users have similar preferences for video—especially when it comes to understanding something as complex and multi-faceted as SharePoint.
The businesses that have yet to adopt video as a content option tend to assume that producing video content is cost prohibitive. Especially for SharePoint training, though, videos do not have to be massive productions. With a little practice, a decent quality screen video capture, and a scripted outline, you can easily create short and sweet videos that provide a lot of value to your users.
As a rule, you will want to try to keep the videos short. Make a list of the specific steps or processes that your users are struggling with as they start using SharePoint. If you need a little insight, ask the managers, department/team leaders, or IT technicians throughout your enterprise. If leaders in your organization are always getting asked for help with certain things, the chances are that those things merit video tutorial treatment.
How short is “short”? 30 second to two minutes is the sweet spot in video length. For most difficult processes—configuring and using key software, or managing other computer-based tasks for the first time—you won’t need much more than 120 seconds to provide simple step-by-step instructions. If necessary, you can go longer for more complicated processes. However, remember that SharePoint is better at handling bite-sized video clips. SharePoint can host these brief videos in media libraries, and you can link or embed them into your Wikis or targeted landing pages. You can still incorporate longer videos into your knowledge bases, but you may need to host them via Office 365 Video or Microsoft Stream.
As with your FAQs, you will want to have a small number of editors who monitor your knowledge base and manage the video content. These editors don’t necessarily have to be the ones who create the videos. With screen capture and editing applications such as Snag-It and Camtasia, it’s easy for anyone in your organization to create the raw video content for these SharePoint training videos. That way, you can assign different tutorials to the individual team members who have the most experience or knowledge in those areas. The editors, meanwhile, will add new content to the knowledge base and keep track of the videos over time, identifying the ones requiring updates or replacement as applications and tasks evolve.
Sometimes, your users won’t need a full video tutorial to understand a feature or process within SharePoint. In such cases, it might be sufficient to provide visual aids that users can consult quickly and on the fly. Therein lies the value of cheat sheets.
In SharePoint, “cheat sheets” are usually infographics, which provide users with actionable data and present it in a visually striking and easy to understand fashion. By providing an at-a-glance summation of a feature, application, or process step, cheat sheets can help speed up the learning curve and provide a reference for employees that need a quick refresher.
The challenge of adding cheat sheets to your SharePoint training knowledge base is the design. Your infographics don’t need to be fancy or particularly innovative. You aren’t trying to win any graphic design awards here. In fact, you don’t even need a graphic designer to create infographics. What you need is someone who 1) knows the subject matter top to bottom, and 2) knows how to organize data visually. If you have those two things, even bare bones or “amateurish” infographics can more than serve their purpose.
In some cases, you might not even need a full infographic to get across the information you need users to know. Screenshots illustrating a specific software or application process can often serve the purpose of cheat sheets without the design steps. Infographics can be extremely beneficial in some situations, though, like if you want to use one visual to show users how to find various commands or attributes. Infographics can also be a terrific way to present step-by-step guides simply and engagingly.
Just like your video tutorials should be highly specific to the needs of your team, each cheat sheet you add to your knowledge base should be highly specific to the application or feature it is supporting. You should also group your cheat sheets into categories so that all the visual aids for a particular tool or process are in the same place.
Don’t know the first thing about infographic design? The good news is that, just like with SharePoint training classes, there are countless resources on the web designed to help you get started. For instance, the “13 Tricks for Better Designs” blog post on venngage.com shares a few down-and-dirty strategies you can implement to map out effective infographics. Smashing Magazine’s article on the “Do’s and Don’ts of Infographic Design,” meanwhile, is a crash course in infographic triumphs and sins.
Spice up Your SharePoint Knowledge Base with Videos and Visuals
SharePoint is a complicated piece of software—to the point where it can take years to unlock all its secrets. If you are using SharePoint in your enterprise, you probably don’t have years to wait for your employees and administrators to get the hang of things. A well-curated knowledge base can help ease the learning curve by teaching your end users the SharePoint lessons they need to know. FAQs and Wikis are an excellent place to start, though, you should also throw a bone to the visual learners in your organization. Adding training videos and visual cheat sheets to your knowledge base is easier than you might think, and can add entirely new dimensions to your internal SharePoint training courses.
At 2Plus2, we would be happy to help you get started with the process of incorporating these new elements into your knowledge base. We know that SharePoint training can be a difficult thing to manage, especially when you are trying to design resources that are specific to the needs and pain points of your end users. We have a lot of experience with Microsoft SharePoint training—both in-person and online—and can help you build new resources into your site. We are your premiere San Francisco Bay Area SharePoint consultants. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.