Learning New Software Skills: Building on What You Already Know

“Let the wise listen and increase their learning; let the person of understanding receive guidance.”  —Proverbs 1:5 (ISV)

Do you want to learn new software skills? Have you developed multiple skills as a result of using specific software applications, or do you have little to no skills using software applications? It is common to find that software users have skills ranging from being minimally experienced to maximally experienced. Meeting the learning needs of software users can be accomplished by building on what they already know and grasping for what they want to know.

Minimally Skilled in Software ←—————————————————→ Maximally Skilled in Software

Add to your already existing repertoire of software skills. Building upon current knowledge applies to both the experienced and inexperienced software user. Experience using one type of software application can be a building block for learning another software application. If you know Microsoft Word skills, that knowledge can be a springboard for learning Microsoft PowerPoint. Even if you have not opened a particular software application, you can build upon your existing knowledge of operating system functionality such as Save, Print, Cut, Copy, and Paste. Inexperienced software users can build upon their manual skills by relating the manual task steps to corresponding software usage steps. For example, knowing how to create a newsletter with printed paper, hardcopy pictures, an X-ACTO knife, glue, and a drafting table is knowledge that can translate to learning Microsoft Publisher skills to create a newsletter. If you already know what needs to be done to perform a task, you can use that knowledge to learn software options to complete the task more efficiently.

Explore new functionalities. Gaining new (and serviceable) knowledge can be accomplished by exploring unused software functionalities, and by using multiple software applications with functionalities that are already known. Taking a software class prompts even experienced software users to explore new software capabilities. This adventure can be accomplished in a classroom setting or by interaction with online resources and simulations. Remembering exact steps to perform a newly discovered software functionality is not necessarily the goal; your knowing that a software application has specific functionality is the goal. Ways to recall the steps to perform tasks include referring to step-by-step instructions and watching demonstrations. Software skills can also be more valuable when integrated across multiple software applications, such as using Excel and Word to create a mail merge.

Choose the right software. In addition to learning software functionality, efficiencies can be gained and frustrations lessened by using the right software for the task. Reports can be created in all the Office suite applications, but the choice of an application should be based on the specific circumstances. A report requiring mostly text may be best suited for Word, a report requiring calculations, summaries, and/or charts may be best suited for Excel, a report using many graphics may be best suited for PowerPoint, and multiple reports based on similar data may be best suited for Access. However, the most logical software tool for creating a report may not be the appropriate choice if you are not familiar with the application. Therefore, the learning of new software skills can be achieved by a combination of building upon what you already know and grasping for what you want to know.

Build on your skill set immediately and often. Ready to begin expanding your software skills? Check out the following resources that can help you to increase your computer savvy right away:

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