DVD can save on training costs when getting users ready for Windows 7

Windows 7 is here and, like it or not, a lot of offices will start moving to it, especially after Microsoft releases the first major service pack. And if you get a new PC, there is a good chance that Windows 7 will be the default operating system.

A lot of businesses and government agencies avoided moving to Microsoft Vista. That was one way to dodge what most people felt was a bullet. However, that move now puts users in a pickle. Vista and Windows 7 have similar interfaces, but moving from XP to Windows 7 is a hefty jump. To a lot of XP users, many functions of Windows 7 will seem strange and confusing.

If you’re a user who needs a crash course in Windows 7 or an administrator who wants to help users get up-to-speed before the big changeover, training is a valid option that could save a lot of time and money in the long run. But budgets being what they are, sending a lot of people to class might not be in the cards.

Learning to properly use libraries is just one of many classes you will take with the easy-to-use Class On Demand.

As an alternative, the lab took at look at Windows 7 Made Easy, a training DVD produced by Class On Demand. At $99.95 per DVD, it might be a way to calm those Windows 7 butterflies.

The best thing about the program is how easy it is to use. You simply drop the DVD into your computer — assuming you have a DVD drive — and it will run. If you don’t have a DVD drive, you can also run it in any standard DVD player. This is handy, because you can run the class on computers that use XP to get people ready for Windows 7 before it comes along. Then you can run it again as a refresher course after Windows 7 has arrived at your agency.

The DVD’s training is divided into a series of chapters. It starts with the Orientation and Review chapter, which handles the most basic functions, such as how Windows 7 starts up and how to run a program, open documents and save your work. It ends with "Chapter VI: Life in the Digital Century," which shows how to use Windows Media Player, edit digital photography and enact parental controls on your system.

Each chapter and lesson is hosted by author Dan Gookin, whose claim to fame is that, in 1991, he wrote “DOS For Dummies,” the fastest-selling computer book of all time. He’s also written a host of other “Dummies” books.

For this project, he’s pretty laid back and even injects a little humor into some of the intro pieces. Nothing over the top, just a bit of “lets get those butterflies out and work” type of thing. He also narrates the lessons, and his voice is clear and easy to understand. He doesn’t talk too quickly or draw things out too much. In short, he’s a pretty good teacher.

Each lesson starts with an intro by Gookin, in which he describes what you are going to learn. This 30-second or so clip is followed by the lesson, which can take a long time depending on the topic. During the lesson, you watch a cursor on the screen do the things that Gookin describes. For example, during the Internet security lesson, you watch the host change security levels. There is about 4.5 hours of content, if you add it all up.

Navigating through the menus is easy, so you can skip stuff that you already know. Some of the early lessons seem suited for someone who has never used a computer, but the higher-level lessons even taught me a thing or two, or at least quicker ways of doing some of the common tasks that I apparently have been doing the hard way under Windows 7. Probably the best chapter is "Tweaking and Tuning," where you learn how to use the new Control Panel to make Windows 7 do your bidding. That chapter also includes some of the ways you can work with gadgets, which I think is one of the new operating system's strengths.

The training DVD’s simplicity is one of its best features, but it’s also a weakness. You essentially get a series of movies, which are well done, but there is no way to tell if you or your users are comprehending the lessons. I was hoping for some type of a quiz or at least an exercise or two that users could do interactively. It would be easy to have a little Flash quiz in which you practice creating a new library or something like that. People tend to learn better when they’re given the ability to do things with their own hands, even if it’s simulated. You can watch a video of a guy changing a tire on a car, but you don’t really know if you can do it until you’re out on the highway at night in the middle of nowhere with a flat. Now if you changed that tire back in the garage for practice, you might be a little more confident. And that’s what this otherwise excellent training DVD is missing.

Everything you need to know to make Windows 7 work is demonstrated well in this training program. If you’re worried about trying to interact in a suddenly Windows 7 world, take a deep breath and use this class to help out. And if you don’t want to wait for the DVD to arrive, you can download the entire class from the classondemand.net Web site, though you will pay the same price as you would for the physical media.

Nevertheless, that’s a lot less than it would cost to send users to an actual class for a day or more. And for most people who use computers in the office for basic tasks, it will probably be more than enough.

Class On Demand, www.classondemand.net

Windows 7 Made Easy

Pros: Runs from DVD, works with any Windows operating system.
Cons: Some interactivity would help with the learning process, no real advanced features.
Ease of Use: A+
Features: B-
Value: B
Price: $99.95

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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