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Electronic Performance Support Systems


Abstract and Figures

The frequency with which one is unable to find the right information in a timely fashion can cause such occurrences to become viewed as common place, expected, and even accepted in most organizations. Electronic performance support systems (EPSS) serve as a performance improvement intervention to address this inefficiency. This chapter discusses examples from the literature illustrating how performance support has been implemented in a variety of organizations, a recommended process to implement EPSS, evidence-based guidelines, and critical success factors. It illustrates a process that performance technologists can use to design, develop, and implement EPSS. Phases 1 and 2 of the process focus on the steps involved in performance analysis and needs assessment once EPSS has been identified and selected as an intervention. The chapter focuses on phases 3 through 5 of the EPSS process. Electronic performance support systems; Human performance technology
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E1C13_1 10/14/2009 325
Electronic Performance
Support Systems
Frank Nguyen
The frequency with which we are unable to find the right information in a timely
fashion can cause such occurrences to become viewed as commonplace,
expected, and even accepted in most organizations. Electronic performance
support systems (EPSS) serve as a performance improvement intervention to
address this inefficiency. EPSS have been used to provide on-the-job support to
automotive mechanics through the use of easily accessible technical bulletins.
They have guided insurance agents in dealing with customer claims. They have
been used by taxpayers to simplify the process of filing a tax return. By
providing performers with tools and information when and where they are
required, EPSS have been documented to enhance user performance. This chapter
discusses examples from the literature illustrating how performance support has
been implemented in a variety of organizations, a recommended process to
implement EPSS, evidence-based guidelines, and critical success factors.
A doctor informs a concerned parent that there is hope for his son, but he will
require extensive surgery and care to fight the rare condition he has contracted.
Faced with mounting medical bills, the parent pores through reams of docu-
mentation provided by his insurance carrier, searches through the company’s
Handbook of Improving Performance in the Workplace, Volume Two: Selecting and Implementing Performance Interventions
Edited by Ryan Watkins and Doug Leigh
Copyright © 2010 by International Society for Performance Improvement. All rights reserved. ISBN: 978-0-470-19069-2
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 326
website, and navigates through a maze of phone prompts on the carrier’s 1-800
help line. He caves in frustration and contacts a customer service representative
to help him understand how much financial support he can expect from his
family’s health insurance policy.
The insurance representative retrieves the customer’s information in the
account database. He then launches a separate application to locate detailed
policy information. Unable to find any specifics to address the customer’s
question, the representative searches through a help desk knowledge base,
the company intranet, and eventually asks a more senior representative for his
help in locating the relevant information.
Gloria Gery, an HPT consultant, felt that this inefficiency was unnecessary;
senior staff should not have to be involved in finding information that should be
at the fingertips of all call center representatives. As a training manager at Aetna
in the late 1980s, Gery observed that training interventions were often used to
teach workarounds that could have been avoided with carefully designed work
interfaces and the introduction of support to assist employees when and where
they needed it. As Gery argued in her 1991 eponymous book, rather than
training employees beforehand to cope with inadequate tools and processes, it
would be better for performance technologists to provide the workers with
‘‘individualized online access to the full range of . . . systems to permit job
performance.’’ Gery called these performance interventions electronic perform-
ance support systems (EPSS).
Based on her initial work, Gery proposed three categories of performance
support systems in a 1995 article (see Table 13.1). These three types differ
in the level of integration between the support system and the users’ work
interface. For instance, external systems have minimal integration and therefore
require the learners to stop what they are doing, find information in the EPSS,
learn it, and then return to the task at hand. Meanwhile, intrinsic systems are so
integrated into the work interface itself that users do not have to interrupt their
workflow to learn. Gery described this as ‘‘They simply feel that they are just
doing the work.’’
While Gery originally targeted EPSS as an intervention to address the
alignment of software and associated procedures, a number of authors have
since expanded the scope and potential application of performance support.
Barry Raybould, for example, contended in a 2000 article for Performance
Improvement that performance support is a continuum that includes constructs
ranging from those embedded in the work itself, such as menus, dialogs, and on-
screen instructions, to those that are separate from the work, including tutorials,
computer-based training, peer support, and help desks.
In 2006’s Handbook of Human Performance Technology, Steve Villachica and
his colleagues proposed a broader definition of performance support to include
‘‘an optimized body of integrated online and off-line methods and resources
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 327
providing what performers need, when they need it, in the form they need it in’’
(p. 540). This expanded the scope of performance support to include electronic
resources such as those identified in Raybould’s article, but also printed resources
such as manuals, handbooks, and job aids (see Chapter Fourteen). They
acknowledged the range of definitions and terminology (electronic performance
support systems, performance support, EPSS, PSS, PST), but Villachica and his
colleagues argued that the goal of performance support is universal: ‘‘expert-like
performance from day one with little or no training’ (p. 540).
Also in 2006, Allison Rossett and Lisa Schafer offered an even more expan-
sive view of performance support to not only include tools that support
performers at the moment of need, but also ones before or after the moment
of performance. Conventional notions of EPSS focus on support during the
work, also known as sidekicks. Other systems, called planners, support when
performers are preparing to act or reflecting on a completed action.
Since its introduction more than twenty years ago, research studies have
validated the notion that implementing performance support can significantly
improve user performance and attitudes. In 1985 Charles Duncan published his
meta-analysis of research on the application of job aids—a paper-based form of
performance support—to train military personnel. Results indicated that user
Table 13.1 Types of Electronic Performance Support Systems
Type Definition Examples
External Performance support that is not integrated into the
users’ workspace that ‘‘requires a worker to break the
work context entirely.’’
Help Desk
Job Aids
Search Engines
Extrinsic ‘‘Performance support that is integrated with the
system, but is not in the primary workspace.’’
tive Help
Online Help
Intrinsic ‘‘Performance support that is inherent to the system
itself. It’s so well integrated that, to workers, it’s part
of system.’’
Human Factors
User Centered
Source: Adapted from Gery, 1995, p. 51
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 328
performance improved in twenty of the twenty-two military job aid studies
conducted from 1958 through 1972. He concluded that ‘‘job aids produce more
accurate performance, usually in a faster period’’ (p. 4).
Similarly, Dereck L. Hunt and his colleagues at McMaster University in
Ontario conducted a meta-analysis in 1999 regarding performance support
systems within the medical field, also known as clinical decision support
systems (CDSS). They reviewed a total of sixty-eight studies in their analysis.
The systems ranged in application from drug dosing and patient diagnoses to
preventive care. The results indicated that user performance improved in forty-
two of the studies reviewed, was not significantly changed in nineteen cases,
and decreased in only seven instances. While studies on performance support
systems for diagnoses and certain types of dosing were inconsistent, the
researchers noted that systems for other areas such as preventive care demon-
strate positive results for these systems in ambulances, clinics, and hospitals.
Moving into the assessment of electronic performance support tools, in 2004
Abbas Darabi implemented a performance support system that guided students
through human performance analysis tasks. Although his study involved a very
small sample size, results indicated that the participants’ attitudes toward
performing a successful analysis improved significantly after using the EPSS.
Darabi reported a 10 percent increase in students’ confidence that they could
conduct a human performance analysis and 21 percent increase in confidence
that they could conduct organizational and environmental analyses. By con-
tinuing to illustrate similar results as their paper-based predecessors—job
aids—the research on the effectiveness of EPSS is promising.
I partnered with Jim Klein and Howard Sullivan in 2005 to examine the most
effective types of performance support systems by testing three different types
that aligned with Gloria Gery’s intrinsic, extrinsic, and external EPSS categories.
We provided performers different types of performance support systems (or
none at all) and asked them to complete a software procedure. Our results,
Expanding Your Options
Social networking—the grouping of individuals into specific clusters
(for example, a specific line of employment). Although social
networking is possible in person, especially in schools or in the
workplace, it is most popular online.
Based on definition (January 2009)
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 329
published in Performance Improvement Quarterly, indicated that performers
provided with more integrated performance support such as extrinsic and
intrinsic systems performed significantly better on a task compared to a control
group with no EPSS. In addition, all of the performers provided with an EPSS
had significantly more positive attitudes than the control group.
Research from the human factors engineering field also validates some of
these results. Bailey, for instance, conducted a meta-analysis, which found that
linking to support content, as one would do in an intrinsic or extrinsic
performance support system, tends to be more effective than searching, as
one would in an external system. To confound the difficulties with search-type
external EPSS, Jakob Spool disseminated the results of his usability studies in
2001, reporting that ‘‘the more times performers searched, the less likely they
were to find what they wanted’’ (p. 1). In fact, he observed that performers were
successful in finding the correct support information 55 percent of the time on
the first try. On the second search attempt, only 38 percent were successful, and
none were successful on the third attempt. The same year that Spool’s findings
were released, Jakob Nielsen reported similar results in another study in which
51 percent were successful on the first search attempt, 32 percent on the second,
and 18 percent on the third attempt.
A 1983 study by John Morrison and Bob Witmer suggests that there is no
significant difference between the types of media used for external performance
support systems. They examined the effectiveness of print-based and computer-
based job aids for Army tank procedures. They provided one treatment group
with instructions for tank gunner procedures in a printed manual, while the
other received the same content in a computer program. Results indicated that
there was no significant difference between the two groups in the number of
errors committed by the performers or in the time it took to complete the task.
This finding aligns with results from research comparing various media used for
instruction. After reviewing almost seventy years’ of research, the University of
Southern California’s Richard Clark concluded in 1983, much as Morrison and
Witmer did, that there are no significant advantages between different media or
technologies used for learning.
Case studies have demonstrated that performance technologists can apply
EPSS to a wide range of settings and performance problems. Performance support
systems have been used in educational settings. In 1993, Indiana University’s
Thomas Brush and his colleagues developed a performance support system to
improve collaboration among teachers in rural communities. Cindy McCabe and
Chet Leighton created an EPSS to help master’s students with analysis and
instructional design. As mentioned earlier, Abbas Darabi explained how a similar
system was used to help graduate students with performance analysis.
Performance support systems have also been widely used, documented,
and studied in a variety of industries. Both Dorsey, Goodrum, and Schwen’s
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 330
1993 article for Educational Technology and Cole, Fischer, and Saltzman’s
1997 article for Communications of the ACM applied performance support
systems to support sales employees. In 1999, Huber, Lippincott, McMahon,
and Witt provided three examples of how intrinsic, extrinsic, and external
EPSS were applied to automobile manufacturing, insurance, and civil engi-
neering. The following year, Kasvi and Vartiainen demonstrated four different
ways EPSS were employed for use in factories. Then, in 2003, Gloria Gery
cited examples of how performance support systems have been used in
investment and financial planning, real estate, travel, and government appli-
cations. More recently, a survey conducted by Paul McManus and Allison
Rossett in 2006 showed that performance technologists have applied EPSS to
problems ranging from vessel tracking in the United States Coast Guard to
coaching restaurant managers.
In addition to the performance support systems that have been developed in
the past, in 2005 I published a study which examined the types of EPSS that
performers may want in the future. In it, I conducted a needs assessment among
employees and performance technologists in Fortune 100 companies. Results of
the assessment indicated that the types of performance support systems corpo-
rate employees find useful tend to be extrinsic or external in nature. In
particular, the most highly rated performance support systems were those
that are aware of a user’s job role or location in a software system and are
then able to deliver appropriate information. External performance support
systems that rely on visuals to navigate to support content, such as equipment
diagrams or business processes, were also rated highly.
In summary, performance technologists can rely on the fact that performance
support systems have been empirically tested to improve user performance and
attitudes. Research has also demonstrated that EPSS can be applied to many
different settings, and the performance support systems that are integrated and
linked to work interfaces tend to be better than those that require the user to
search for information.
The literature illustrates how performance technologists have applied EPSS as
an intervention to address many different types of performance problems in
many different settings. When considering Gery’s original software specific
view, performance support would be an ideal intervention for:
Performance problems that include poorly designed work interfaces or
business processes;
Performance problems that include tasks that are performed infrequently;
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 331
When task performance makes it necessary to have access to a vast
amount of information; or
When the support information is volatile and changes frequently.
In thinking of the broader definitions of EPSS that have been proposed more
recently, the potential applications for performance support expand. EPSS can
be a viable intervention to help performers make decisions. For example,
decision support systems (DSS) such as SelectSmart analyze users’ preferences
and select the right type of character, computer, dog, food, or hobby that suits
their needs. Performance support can also automate complex or labor-intensive
tasks. For instance, tools like Intuit’s popular TurboTax software simplifies the
complex task of preparing personal income taxes.
How to Apply
When choosing to use EPSS as an intervention, there are several guidelines
performance technologists should follow to ensure maximum success from both
a performance and cost perspective.
Combine EPSS and training as complementary information interventions.
Practitioners and researchers have both reported that the implementation of
performance support alongside training interventions has led to equal or
improved user performance and attitudes. Consequently, performance technol-
ogists should not eliminate training entirely in favor of EPSS solutions. Per-
formance problems that include tasks that are performed frequently, or where
there are serious consequences for incorrect task performance, are best deliv-
ered through up-front training. In addition, to support adoption of EPSS once
performers return to the job, performance technologists should consider ways to
incorporate the use of the EPSS into training programs. For example, learners
could complete practice activities using the tools that may be available to them
in the workplace including performance support. Curious readers are encour-
aged to review published works by Bastiaens and his colleagues (1997), Chase
(1998), Mao & Brown (2005), and Nguyen & Klein (2008).
Vary the volume of performance support and associated training interventions
as performers gain expertise. As performers master their jobs through training or
experience, they develop mental models of the tasks and information used in
their work. As their mastery grows, their requirements and motivation to take
time away from their jobs and attend formal training events diminish. At the
same time, their ability to search for and locate the information they need to
address issues in their content domain increases. Figure 13.1, which I adapted in
2006 based on a Performance Improvement Quarterly article by Gloria Gery,
illustrates the notion that up-front training should comprise a more significant
portion of the information interventions provided to novice performers. Mean-
while, the quantity of performance support systems can be increased to provide
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 332
more advanced performers access to larger databases as they increase the scope
and complexity of their work.
Integrate performance support into the work. That performance support
content should be embedded as deeply into the work as possible has been
argued by many authors, for instance, Bailey (2003), Carroll and Rosson (1987),
Gery (1995), Nguyen, Klein, and Sullivan (2005), and Raybould (2000). By
doing so, the amount of work required for the performer to find the right
information to perform a task is reduced. At the same time, the likelihood that
the performer will locate the correct information increases, and the disruption to
the performer’s workflow is reduced or eliminated. Higher use of more inte-
grated forms of EPSS—as compared to those that required the performer to
search for information—was also reported within my 2005 article with Jim Klein
and Howard Sullivan.
Vary the type of electronic performance support systems offered to performers
based on their level of expertise. This notion has been consistently supported
across the 2001 studies by Nielsen and Spool, as well as Bailey’s 2003 study.
When novice learners are presented with a non-integrated performance support
system, such as a search engine, they often do not know where to start and
struggle to find the correct support information. As performers gain expertise
and their mental models for their job domains grow, their ability to find
information and cope with the demands of such non-integrated systems also
increases. While such advanced performers may still benefit from more inte-
grated EPSS, the extra cost involved with such systems may not be justified. As a
result, performance technologists should vary the type of EPSS offered to
homogenous groups of novice or advanced performers. For mixed audiences,
it is wise to provide EPSS that is integrated into the workflow.
Stress electronic performance support systems as first-level support during on-
the-job training. As performers are introduced to the workplace or to a new task
Novice Intermediate Expert
Figure 13.1 Expertise Reversal Applied to EPSS and Training Interventions.
Source: Nguyen, 2006, p. 10
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 333
in an existing work setting, provide them with immediate access to an intuitive
and integrated EPSS to help them learn how to perform while on the job. While
other common OJT support interventions should continue to exist, such as
coaches and mentors (see Chapters Eleven and Twenty-Six), encourage per-
formers to use the EPSS as their first resource for support. By doing so,
performers will learn to rely on the EPSS longer term after the additional
support has been removed.
Provide performers with access to a broad range of content and resources
through EPSS. Performers do not care about where support information comes
from; they are simply concerned with quickly finding the most relevant content
to address their immediate needs. So look to leverage content from knowledge
management systems, publish job aids online for immediate access, and locate
any relevant information in eLearning courses. Doing so will bring the support
that the performer needs closer to the work and eliminate content redundancies
that may occur between the different interventions.
There are a number of documented benefits for implementing EPSS including:
Increased performance;
Improved user attitudes; and
Reduction in monetary costs.
Less tangible advantages include the ability to:
Provide performers with memory support particularly for infrequent tasks;
Rapidly provide a broad group of performers with the updated informa-
tion; and
Expose performers to a broader spectrum of support content that is not
possible or practical to provide during training.
However, performance support is not without its share of disadvantages:
Since very few vendors specialized in performance support until recently,
early adopters were often forced to develop custom systems, which led to
expensive implementation and sustaining costs.
Electronic performance support systems are often one of a number of
training and support-related systems within a larger organization’s in-
frastructure. Content developed in an EPSS is typically isolated from the
other enterprise systems, often forcing the development of redundant
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 334
Some have also criticized the fact that performers are not forced to learn or
master the content delivered by an EPSS. In a sense, rather than growing
their knowledge and expertise, performers can become dependent on real-
time support tools.
Figure 13.2 illustrates a process that performance technologists can use to
design, develop, and implement EPSS. Phases 1 and 2 of the process focus on the
steps involved in performance analysis and needs assessment once EPSS has
been identified and selected as an intervention. Because these steps are
documented elsewhere within this book, the remainder of this chapter will
focus on Phases 3 through 5 of the EPSS process.
Phase 3: EPSS Design
Step 3.1: Select EPSS Type. After collecting the requisite analysis information, the
next phase in the performance support design process is to use this data to
inform the design of the EPSS. Arguably the most important yet most often
neglected step in the EPSS design process is the careful and deliberate selection
of the appropriate type of performance support system. As mentioned earlier, a
Conduct HPT
Performance Analysis
Measure Perf
Review Needs
Select EPSS
Develop High-
Develop Low-
Level Design
Implement, Evaluate
Measure Perf
Develop /
Purchase EPSS
Integrate to
Figure 13.2 A Practitioner’s Model for Designing EPSS.
Source: Nguyen and Woll, 2006, p. 38
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 335
performance technologist should generally strive to integrate performance
support into the workflow depending on the performers’ level of expertise.
It is also important to note that, under certain circumstances, performance
technologists may choose to implement more than one type of system. Inte-
grated performance support solutions may not be possible in all circumstances
or may prove too costly to build. For example, the root cause of your customer’s
performance problem may be related to an off-the-shelf software application.
Because the software was purchased from a vendor, the interface may be
compiled in a way that prevents modifications required by integrated EPSS.
In addition, certain workers, such as those in factories, warehouses, or repair
centers, perform tasks that are not primarily computer-based. In fact, they may
not have immediate access to computers, making it inconvenient or impossible
to use electronic forms of performance support. As Raybould noted in 2000,
‘‘When a particular [EPSS] proves infeasible, practitioners may need to look at
less-embedded support systems’’ (p. 35).
Step 3.2: Develop High-Level Architecture. Once the type (or types) of
performance support systems have been selected, the next step in the process
is to develop a high-level architecture. In an article I wrote with Craig Woll in
2006 for Performance Improvement journal, we identified the basic components
that should to be considered when designing an EPSS: the performance
problem, the end-user, the type of electronic device (if any) that can be used
to access the performance support system while on the job, the EPSS or work
interface that will be used to access the support content, and the databases or
content repositories that can be accessed from the EPSS. Figure 13.3 illustrates
encounters a
repair error
engine for
error codes
displayed by
Equipment Repair
Delivery Device EPSS Interface Databases
Context Help Wrapper
tablet PC
Figure 13.3 EPSS Architecture Example.
Source: Nguyen and Woll, 2006, p. 43
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 336
an example of the architecture of an EPSS. Findings from the analysis phase will
affect this high-level architecture. For example, you may uncover during the
environmental analysis that performers all have access to notebook computers
or iPods, which can be candidates for the EPSS delivery device. Alternatively,
they may not have access to any electronic device at all. You may also find that
performers commonly use a company intranet site. You can take advantage of
this existing adoption and integrate a performance support system.
Upon completing an initial version of the architecture, it is not unusual to
change the selected performance support systems. For example, the needs
assessment data may suggest that users require access to more content reposi-
tories than the work interface can realistically support. To accommodate this, a
practitioner may choose to integrate certain content into the work interface. The
remaining content may be accessed externally through an FAQ or search engine.
Step 3.3: Develop Low-Level Design. The next step in the process is to define in
more detail the design of the performance support system. The goal of this
activity is to develop a design of sufficient detail so that an EPSS that will address
the identified performance problem can be built or purchased.
Phase 4: EPSS Development
Step 4.1: Develop/Purchase EPSS. Once the design for the EPSS has been
completed, the next phase in the performance support process is to use the
design to build a system, purchase an off-the-shelf EPSS tool that meets
the design requirements, or adapt an existing system to the current performance
Where possible, it may be more cost-effective to purchase vendor-developed
software packages to support your performance support system design. A
comprehensive list of EPSS tools is available from the EPSS Central website
(whose URL is located at the end of this chapter).
It is quite common for an EPSS design to require a system that does not
currently exist or that cannot be met by off-the-shelf software. Such circum-
stances are particularly likely for highly integrated performance support such as
intrinsic systems. In these instances, organizations are forced to pursue a
custom-developed performance support system.
Step 4.2: Develop Content. It may also be necessary to develop new content to
support users on the job and store in a database or repository. For example, if
your EPSS is designed to assist performers in using a new software application,
you will likely need to develop procedures to support the performers’ use of the
system. To optimize project timing and resources, this step could be done in
parallel with the preceding EPSS development step. In addition, materials
developed for the purposes of performance support could be leveraged for
training interventions or vice versa. Content delivered during training can also
be repurposed in an EPSS and redelivered to performers on the job.
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 337
Step 4.3: Integrate to Work Interface. For integrated EPSS designs, it is
necessary to integrate support directly into the work interface. It is sometimes
helpful to consult with a usability expert, human factors engineer, or industrial
engineer. By doing so, the human performance technologist can determine
potential problem areas, opportunities for interface redesign, and other strategic
locations in the work interface to integrate performance support content. Even
in external performance support designs, it may be helpful to provide a link in
the users’ work interface to the EPSS. This is often seen in software applications
that provide a ‘‘Help’’ button that launches an external search engine, ‘‘fre-
quently asked questions’’ page, or help index.
Phase 5: EPSS Implementation and Evaluation
The implementation and evaluation of the EPSS occurs following the develop-
ment. In reality, the foundation for both implementation and evaluation are laid
long before the end of the project. During the analysis phase, the metrics that
will be referenced in the evaluation should be created and validated by stake-
holders. The population that would use the EPSS as an intervention should be
identified, and an assessment of their needs should be performed. A sample
from that audience should be carefully selected to represent the population. This
same sample or a small audience of choice was likely used during functional
testing of the EPSS. During implementation, emphasis must be placed on
communication, training, change management, support, and marketing of
the system. Each component plays an important role in the adoption of the
performance support system by employees.
During evaluation, baseline data collected during the analysis phase should
be compared with data collected during implementation and at predefined
intervals for some time after implementation. Success and/or failure of the
system to meet the predetermined success criteria should be reported out to
the key stakeholders. This will not only help guide continuous improvement of
the system, but it will also act as a reference point for future performance
analyses to determine if EPSS is the right intervention.
In following the recommended EPSS process, there are several factors a
performance technologist must consider to ensure maximum success and
adoption of performance support as an intervention.
Social. In addition to implementing the system, a performance technologist
should consider the people who will use it. Performance support is only effective
when it provides timely, relevant, and current content. Even if performers are
able to quickly locate the information they require for task performance, if that
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information is not correct, they will likely be unable to perform the task
correctly. Performance technologists should provide tools and processes
whereby performers can identify information that is not correct, report it for
prompt revision, or even edit the content on their own as one would with Web
2.0 tools such as blogs, podcasts, and wikis. If such mechanisms are not
provided, the performer will be less likely to use the EPSS for future support
needs and may tell co-workers about unpleasant experiences in the use of the
EPSS. No single factor will drive down adoption of the intervention sooner than
poor perception of the EPSS among performers.
Political. With a robust EPSS and process in place to sustain the support
content, a performance technologist’s task of driving adoption among perform-
ers should be relatively easy. It is still generally a good idea to develop and
execute a transition change management (TCM) plan to make performers aware
of the system, benefits to them, and how to use it.
However, the change management strategy should not only target performers
but others as well: performance technologists, trainers, information technology
(IT) managers, software developers, and any others who are involved in
providing tools or information to aid performers. For example, both perform-
ance technologists and trainers are critical to the selection of EPSS to address
performance problems as well as integration of EPSS into training curricula and
TCM plans. Information technology managers and the developers that create the
organization’s software must be also be educated on the potential benefits of
integrating performance support into work interfaces, including improved
worker performance, decreased training time, and decreased IT support costs.
Economic. The most obvious costs to selecting EPSS as an intervention are the
hardware and software expenses involved with the system itself. Performance
support systems require servers to host software that can either be purchased or
developed as a custom effort. Such costs should be calculated and funded to
provide baseline success. There are other longer-term costs that should also be
considered. The time or money involved with ongoing revision and mainte-
nance of support content must be allocated. In addition, if your EPSS design calls
for integration into work interfaces, funding for developers to modify new
existing software to build links to the relevant support content must be secured.
Hassan Altalib’s 2002 article provides a comprehensive approach to calculate
the cost and return on investment for EPSS.
Legal. The currency of support content is not only a social and economic factor
but in some cases a legal requirement. The advent of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
(SOx) of 2002 has placed compliance with government mandates around data
quality, intellectual property, and integration at the forefront of many organiza-
tions. Depending on the typeof content stored in the EPSS, it may be subject to SOx
or other legal controls and regulations. In addition, any performance support
systems provided by federalagencies are subject to the Rehabilitation Act of 1998.
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 339
More commonly known as Section 508, this act legally requires electronic and
information technology, including EPSS, to be made accessible to those with
Technical. Electronic performance support in its strictest interpretation implies
that performers should receive on-the-job support using some form of electronic
device. Gloria Gery’s original focus on software procedures made this require-
ment trivial: performers are already in front of computers. However, when
performance technologists extend EPSS to other settings—such as supporting
technicians repairing equipment in a factory, warehouse employees driving
forklifts, or military mechanics servicing aircraft—one cannot assume that per-
formers will have such access. In these instances, performance technologists must
select, procure, and deploy electronic devices. Such candidates include computer
workstations placed strategically throughout a factory, laptop computers issued
to sales representatives in the field, or even mobile devices such as Smartphones,
personal digital assistants, portable game devices, and MP3 players.
A doctor uses a support system to match his patient’s symptoms with a broad
database of common and rare medical conditions. In a short period of time, she
is able to identify the illness and treatment options. The tool also links the doctor
to recent research and practitioner reports on the success of various treatments.
The doctor informs a concerned parent about the situation and provides him
with access to the same information so that he can educate himself. Faced with
mounting medical bills, the parent accesses his insurance carrier’s online help
system to determine the amount of financial support he can expect. The system
identifies the diagnosed illness, common treatments, and policy coverage for
each treatment. It also recommends other related websites and support groups
for those afflicted with the same condition.
While scenarios such as this may be more often fantasy than reality,
electronic performance support systems have the ability to transform otherwise
frustrating and time-consuming experiences into timely and efficient perform-
ance. By providing support at the moment of need, performance technologists
can rely on EPSS to be a powerful intervention to address a broad range of
performance problems.
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Recommended Readings and Websites
Dickelman, G. J. (2003). EPSS revisited: A lifecycle for developing performance-centered
systems. Silver Spring, MD: ISPI.
Gery, G. (1991). Electronic performance support systems. Tolland, MA: Gery Associates.
Gery, G. (1995). Attributes and behaviors of performance-centered systems.
Performance Improvement Quarterly,8(1), 47–93.
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 342
EPSS Central @
EPSS Central Awards & Samples @
PCD Innovations @
Select Smart DSS @
Supporting desired performance by providing beneficial resources and infor-
mation at the time of individual or team performance is not a new idea.
Databases, blueprints, checklists, and job aids of many varieties have been
used to support performance for years (see Chapter Fourteen). What is new is
that electronic performance support systems (EPSS) make performance support
tools available in a variety of flexible and dynamic media that people can use at
the time and location of performance. Sometimes this might be a video on how
to perform a task; at other times it might be an electronic checklist that registers
the completion of each sub-task along the way. At yet other times, the EPSS may
include simulations that employees can use to determine the likely conse-
quences of their decisions before they make decisions. As you can see, the
optional resources and information that can be included make EPSS a very
dynamic performance intervention.
While an EPSS can support performance in the workplace through the use of
new and emerging technologies, many improvement efforts can benefit from
lower-cost solutions such as job aids that also support the achievement of
desired results. These often low-tech tools represent a very effective, yet often
overlooked, performance intervention that can accomplish significant results
with relatively few resources. From simple process flowcharts or checklists to
more complex decision algorithms, job aids can capture information in useful
formats that can be used.
Expanding Your Options
Communication models—existing frameworks for the exchange of
information within an organization.
E1C13_1 10/14/2009 343
Job aids, or ‘‘performance aids’’ as Miki Lane reconstitutes them in Chapter
Fourteen, range from signs and checklists to price matrices and drawings on the
floor. Each of these represents low-tech performance interventions that can
significantly improve results by providing people with reminders and on-the-job
learning tools. Performance aids can, and should, be considered whenever you
are improving performance due both to both their low costs and their tremen-
dous performance potential.
This mixed methods research study aimed to explain and understand user acceptance of an electronic performance support system (EPSS) designed for the Crime Scene Investigation and Identification Units of the Turkish National Police. Quantitative data were collected from 209 police officers through a questionnaire to test relationships hypothesized in the technology acceptance model. At the same time, qualitative data were collected through interviews with 15 police officers to acquire an in-depth understanding of perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use of the system. This study showed that perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and attitude toward using were significant determinants of the acceptance of the EPSS. The findings also presented several user personal, system, and organizational characteristics that were considered as influencing factors for usefulness and ease of use of the EPSS.
In: A.J. Kallenberg and M.J.J.M. van de Ven (Eds), 2002, The New Educational Benefits of ICT in Higher Education: Proceedings. Rotterdam: Erasmus Plus BV, OECR ISBN 90-9016127-9
Full-text available
How do you measure the impact of eLearning on your organization? You must have heard by now that eLearning provides just-in-time access to training material when and where it is needed. Moreover, it reduces travel costs and in some cases time required to complete the training. On the other hand, questions on the effectiveness of this delivery medium are being raised. Some claim that eLearning is boring and as a result individuals are not completing the courses, and it is more difficult to motivate people to take online courses. So how do you balance effectiveness and cost, and determine which eLearning method [computer based training (CBT), web based training (WBT), electronic performance support systems (EPSS), Internet virtual classroom, etc.] should be used? What about off-the-shelf solutions, is one available? Would a combination of delivery options be more effective and economical than a single method? How much is it going to cost? And is it worth it? This paper presents a practical model (theory behind the Media Selection and ROI Tool – ADVISOR Online) for making sound eLearning decisions. ADVISOR Online – A Media Selection and ROI Tool ADVISOR is a decision support tool designed by BNH Expert Software. ADVISOR analyzes a training course to determine the most economical blend of delivery methods including instructor-led, print, tapes, computer based training, web based training, electronic performance support tools, audio/computer/video conferencing and Internet that will meet your training needs. A demo copy of ADVISOR Online can be requested by clicking on the Try It option at Biography Dr. J. (Jay) Bahlis obtained his Bachelor in Engineering from Technical University of Nova Scotia and Ph.D. from McGill University. Since 1987, Dr. Bahlis assisted hundreds of organizations in evaluating their training programs, developing learning strategies and aligning learning with business goals. Moreover, Dr. Bahlis, evaluated a wide range of learning technologies, directed research projects on the application of adult learning theories in CBT/WBT courseware, and managed the design and development of needs assessment, media selection and return on investment (ROI) tools, learning investment management, authoring and testing systems as well as over 70 CBT/WBT courseware and electronic performance support systems (EPSS).
Mobile workers frequently require access to task-relevant instruction or knowledge in remote work environments where desktop or even laptop computers are impractical. Recently there has been a convergence of enabling technologies and an increased interest in the use of mobile devices to support worker learning (mLearning) and performance (mSupport). Most of this interest has been focused on mLearning rather than mSupport. However, what works for mLearning may not work for mSupport. Therefore, there is a need to better understand mLearning and mSupport, as well as the characteristics of mobile devices, their users, and their operational environments, to maximize the value of mobile devices. We provide a discussion of mLearning and mSupport that focuses on six user-centered issues likely to determine mobile device effectiveness and user acceptance, and recommend solutions: 1) device characteristics, 2) form factor, 3) user interaction styles, 4) task characteristics, 5) content management, and 6) context awareness.
This exploratory study examined the influence of national and organizational culture on the use of various performance improvement interventions. Data on intervention use were collected from practitioners in the United States and South Asia. Results revealed that orientation programs, organizational communication, instructor-led training, and performance appraisals were among the most used interventions in both the United States and South Asia. Findings also indicated that factors such as organization size, location of headquarters, learning and development budget, and reporting structure are related to the use of interventions. Practitioners in South Asia predominantly had expertise in disciplines such as human resources, while those in the United States had experience in instructional design and human performance technology. These differences may influence the development and implementation of instructional and noninstructional interventions.
Conference Paper
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Previous research in the area of distributed cognition within the educational process has revealed several new and emerging phenomena regarding student behavior. Students appear to be strategically discriminating in their learning strategies, taking the opportunity to offload learning when information is easily accessible and retrievable. This paper reviews several current research findings, and offers societal implications.
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Recent meta-analyses and other studies of media's influence on learning are reviewed. Consistent evidence is found for the generalization that there are no learning benefits to be gained from employing any specific medium to deliver instruction. Research showing performance or time-saving gains from one or another medium are shown to be vulnerable to compelling rival hypotheses concerning the uncontrolled effects of instructional method and novelty. Problems with current media attribute and symbol system theories are described and suggestions made for more promising research directions.
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One of the most sweeping changes ever in the ecology of human cognition may be taking place today. People are beginning to learn and use very powerful and sophisticated information processing technology as a matter of daily life. From the perspective of human history, this could be a transitional point dividing a period when machines merely helped us do things from a period when machines will seriously help us think about things. But if this is so, we are indeed still very much within the transition. For most people, computers have more possibility than they have real practical utility.
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In the last ten years the computer-based training (CBT) market has grown tremendously and the quality of the programmes has improved. Sound and vision have been added and educational technology has improved the design and structure. Nowadays keywords are just-in-time learning and learning by doing. For these CBT has had to be revised and integrated into the workplace. One way to integrate learning in the workplace is by using electronic performance support systems (EPSSs). EPSSs support workers with information, advice and training while they are doing their job. Reports the effectiveness of EPSSs. Evaluates some of the expected advantages of EPSSs, such as the increase in productivity and improved learning with insurance agents using laptop computers. Presents theoretical statements, research design and hypotheses. Relates the conclusion to the improvement in productivity and learner results.
Work is becoming increasingly com-puter-mediated. Performance development is becoming increasingly difficult and expen-sive due to complexity, change, restructuring, and redefinition of who does work. In the coasumer market place, softw are is emerging with characteristics and behaviors; that actively support performance development while permitting learning. These performance-centered systems are the next step in the evolution of performance support. Performance Technologists must and will play an active part in both their advocacy and design. Ultimately, no consumer or large-scale software system should be considered accep table until day-one performance isgenerated for novice performers while still accommodating the requirements of expert performers.
Describes a project developed by AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph) and Indiana University that focused on the needs and tasks of sales personnel by building prototypes of components of a performance support system. Combining innovative technology to support a changing work environment is discussed, and the evaluation process is reported. (LRW)
Describes a performance support system that was developed at Indiana University to assist in the delivery of a distance education inservice teacher training program through course presentations, monitoring practicum activities, and promoting collaboration among teachers. Difficulties are discussed, future enhancements are described, and an electronic mail system is explained. (Contains 11 references.) (LRW)