Test driving a new course

or: Decoding MS-Speak

It seems that the fairly recent change in targeted audience for Dynamics 365 has prompted Microsoft to develop a free online course.

Managing Customer Engagement with Microsoft Dynamics 365 from Microsoft Learning is weighted towards sales, which admittedly isn’t really my bag, but the course content seems to be well thought out and the delivery framework well structured — and a module on analytics and BI is included. Having completed the first module, I’m keen to get going on the rest of the course and do a bit of directed hands-on playing with Dynamics.

However, there are some aspects of the course that are less than perfect…

The Good

The programme begins at the beginning and does not assume any prior knowledge on the part of the student, with a sensible look at what a CRM is and does (top tip: it is not software) and even the definition of ‘customer’ is explored. The most useful section I’ve completed so far covers digital transformation — which includes a simple reminder that it is not a simple transmutation of paper files into digital records.

Online courses are never quite as effective as spending classroom time with an expert, but this offering comprises reading material, videos featuring the course author, Derik Bormann — together with complete transcripts, plenty of colourful infographics, case studies plus the all important labs and assessments.

The Bad

As with all things Microsoft, the vocabulary is relentlessly US English and at times MS-specific: the wider definition of ‘engagement’ has been lost and can only be understood in the context of CRM (ie communication); ‘leverage’ is at times divorced from its root and has now come to be used too often as a synonym for the verb to use, or perhaps even to be.

Tough LeverageTogether with the irritating and unnecessary jargon-esque style of writing are the number of simple typos throughout the course material; a combination that makes what should be reasonably light reading uncomfortable and distracting from the content.

The Ugly

TyposThe writing is often sloppy, the formatting confusing and the colourful infographics have clearly been repurposed from other presentations without undergoing a final check. The case study — showcasing MS products — contains a simple but glaring error in the all important summary, this is particularly surprising given that these pages form part of the shop window for Microsoft products.

Formatting and Case Study

The writing is often sloppy, the formatting confusing and the colourful infographics have clearly been repurposed from other presentations without undergoing a final check.

Immediately one senses the lab is in its final draft, with the scenario narrative not clearly set out, and the formatting particularly inconsistent. This makes decoding the requirements tricky — and possibly arduous for foreign language students.

Just before publishing, while enjoying a video from the next module, I spotted an absolute boo-boo…

Bormann

Conclusion

Poor Writing and FormattingI had hoped to eulogise on the fabulousness of this course after completing a couple of modules, and largely it does a good job. However, by neglecting to perform a final polish Microsoft have published a learning tool where constant distraction from the content devalues the course itself.

The irony is that this course repeatedly emphasises the importance of customer engagement.
Each customer engagement. At every touch point.

These errors would be disastrous in a work of fiction — poor reviews result in poor sales — hence quality publishers employ distinct copy-editing and proofreading stages in the business process. Perhaps attention to detail (outside the development environment at least) is considered less important to a business concerned with software — be it SaaS, SaaP or more traditional local installation — and indeed Microsoft have demonstrated many times that they do not have a grasp of the publishing process (read Will you proof my document, and consider Publisher vs InDesign or QuarkXPress). Nevertheless, the quality of graduates is directly related to the quality of course material.

Good writing should be fully immersive, even when the subject matter is challenging, and one would expect content at the level of this course to be absorbed almost subliminally. One could argue, individually at least, the typos, inconsistent formatting, unchecked infographics, and poorly-written labs are at best comical and at worst a little confusing. However, the effort in decoding the content and navigating the typos presents an additional burden to the student, and the content becomes secondary to the sensation of stumbling along the surface of the page or screen.

The irony is that this course repeatedly emphasises the importance of customer engagement. Each customer engagement. At every touch point.

Nevertheless, I look forward to continuing the course — after all the content is not at fault, and having to decode the US/MS jargon will keep me on my toes. Perhaps the textual material for the more technical hands-on modules will be less inconsistent and error-prone.

One thought on “Test driving a new course

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