Not long ago, there was a Learning Solutions Magazine email in my inbox, promoting an article on Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS’) which I found to provide a pretty good explanation of what they heck an EPSS is, and why someone may wish to use one.
In an already, at times, confusing e-learning industry, the increased prevalence of acronyms only serves to further confuse folks, so in sum, Gottfredson’s (2013) article explains the difference between an EPSS and a traditional job-aid and an EPSS and traditional help systems. Basically, an EPSS is a dynamic tool which combines the functions of a job aid with the functions of traditional help system, and provides users with the ability to cross-reference materials through branching functionality while providing a more interactive, real-time environment through which the user may learn.
An EPSS may be defined as “An orchestrated set of technology-enabled services that provide on-demand access to integrated information, guidance, advice, assistance, training, and tools to enable high-level job performance with a minimum of support from other people.” (Gery, 1991)
Within my role, EPSS’ have become increasingly popular as there seems to be a greater shift toward practical and at-the-moment training. In the context of procedural training, EPSS’ may provide employees with an untethered support tool for which they may reference when attempting to complete an unfamiliar task. For example, one may need to replace their hard drive from a laptop computer; here, an EPSS would allow the user to go through the procedure, step-by-step, on a mobile device or laptop, while completing the procedure. Furthermore, additional technologies may be leveraged in an effort to enhance procedural training (e.g. adding flash animations or 3D simulations to the step-by-step walkthroughs).
From a development perspective, EPSS’ can make even the most complicated tasks possible for the most novice of learners; often times by the end of my storyboarding process, I feel as though I could complete the mechanical procedure for which I have just described – having absolutely no practical training in the field and/or industry for which the support tool is being developed. Therefore, it only makes sense that EPSS’ would be considered powerful tools when it comes to learning. While the curriculum shift from theoretical to practical knowledge is always up for debate (at least at the secondary level), the support for EPSS-style training may also be hit or miss, but as an individual who has developed this type of training, I must agree with Gottfredson (2013) that EPSS’ are certainly the way to go when it comes to enhancing practical learning opportunities; however, I also agree that if you ask a handful of developers to develop an EPSS, you’ll get a handful of responses – all likely similar, but certainly not standardized. Therefore, effective communication with regard to the potential impact, to the workforce, of EPSS-style training seems integral to enhancing profitability and popularity of this type of learning solution.
Gery, G. J. (1991). Electronic Performance Support Systems: How and Why to Remake the Workplace Through the Strategic Application of technology. Tolland, MA: Gery Associates.
Gottfredson, C. (2013). “What We Got Here is….an EPSS”. Learning Solutions Magazine, August 19 2013. Retrieved from (click here)