Help me help somebody else learn Office 2013.
March 3, 2014 7:05 AM   Subscribe

My church is upgrading its computers and the old copies of Office are long since vanished, evidently. (If they ever existed; I kind of suspect the last person who did IT stuff may have pirated it.) So, we're buying new versions. But our office manager is... well, she's not at all computer literate. She's kind of continuing to be employed more on a charity basis than because she's actually very capable. But I need to get her able to actually use the basic features of Word, Excel, and Publisher on the new versions, in the simplest way possible that does not involve my personally sitting with her for days at a time. Help?

The level of competency we're talking about here is that she understands what a mouse does and how to click on things and stuff, and she knows how to do some very specific tasks in these three programs on the old version, but at least once a month I end up having to actually go in to meet with her because she's having a very basic problem with, say, her webmail because the icon is in a slightly different place on the Yahoo home page, or something. (Actual example.)

The current version she's been using is 2003. She needs to be able to open files, perform basic editing/formatting, do mail merges in Word, and--honestly, I'm not sure how exactly she uses Publisher, except that there's a newsletter and it was put on the list of things that we needed to replace. This is part of my challenge, at the moment.

She's in her late 60s or early 70s, does not own a computer at home, and will not necessarily contact me of her own volition when she's having problems. I really would like a way to handle this that is as hands-off as possible because I think she's embarrassed that she doesn't know things, and that makes her avoid telling me. I'd rather have some way that she could find help herself, in as simple and straightforward a way as possible, but I have no idea what that is.

Overall budget probably maxes out at a couple hundred dollars, but cheaper is preferable, I'm not entirely sure I'm going to get reimbursed for it.
posted by Sequence to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I am an extremely computer literate 28 year old person who has been using computers my entire life and who has been using Microsoft office-type software since I was 8 and we had a computer with MS Works on it, and now I use it every single day of my life.

I still at least once a week end up googling "how to [particular thing] microsoft office 2013." If it weren't for the internet helping me along, I wouldn't be anywhere near as good as excel as it seems like I am.

What you need to try to impart to your coworker is that all of the answers are out there because lots and lots of people have the same problems. Lots of people. Even people like me who use this stuff constantly have questions and problems.

If I were you I'd teach her how to use a search engine to find the answers to her questions. It's one of those teach a man to fish things. (Once I taught my mom how to use google, the number of tech support questions I had to field from her dropped to almost zero.)

This isn't always easy. Good luck.
posted by phunniemee at 7:37 AM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd rather have some way that she could find help herself, in as simple and straightforward a way as possible, but I have no idea what that is.

You could try pointing her to specific forums for Office questions and teach her how to search those forums. The stackexchange forums for SQL are good, so I assume the Office ones are at least useful. However, knowing what words to search for, being able to evaluate answers and putting them into practice are all skills themselves and take time to learn.
posted by soelo at 7:45 AM on March 3, 2014

I agree with phunniemee - teach her how to Google these things on her own. The hardest part is using the correct words and phrases to let Google push the right solutions to the top.

But since you also have a budget - I would strongly consider buying her a subscription to a high-quality tutorial website. I've never used, but have heard great things about, and I'm sure there are others that you can get some good recommendations about.

If she's at least able to follow along with the tutorials, she will gradually learn how to navigate Office, and can always turn back to them as needed.

Added bonus - with the subscription she can also learn more about basic functions of Windows and the internet as well.
posted by trivia genius at 7:45 AM on March 3, 2014

Send her to some training.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:51 AM on March 3, 2014

Best answer: Microsoft has some free videos online that are probably worth having her watch and follow along if possible.

Following along is pretty useful if you can have her watch on one device while using her own computer to do the task.
posted by advicepig at 7:52 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd sit down with her to discuss a training schedule. Explain that you need her to be up-to-speed on the new software by X date. Also explain, "I am overwhelmed with my own duties and I won't have time to sit with you while you train. There are a number of tutorials on-line, and some You Tube videos, and some books you can use. Why don't you look things over and let me know what's going to work best for you."

Perhaps sit with her and watch this overview and get her opinion.

There are formal training classes that she can attend, but if she's feeling overwhelmed, she may decide that she wants to retire.

I hate to say it, but there are people out there who would prefer to NOT make this kind of leap. Give her an opportunity to get with the program, but be advised that she's avoiding the existing software now, and a 10 year newer version is 100 times scarier.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:25 AM on March 3, 2014

In my experience this demographic has as tough a time catching on to the mindset of googling for how to do things as they do learning any new software. It really kind of makes it more difficult for them to move forward than for you or I who do that kind of thing all day long. I think it's going to be actual training or nothing.

If it were me I'd try to see if you can get some 14 year old "assistant" to sit with her.
posted by bleep at 8:39 AM on March 3, 2014

I think that some people have developed learned helplessness toward technology, which pretty much prevents them from ever developing any of the behaviors that help us younger people navigate changes -- i.e., they're afraid to just poke around for fear of "losing everything" and they don't quite understand search enough to craft a good search term to get to the answers they want, etc. I'm not trying to discourage you, but my mother is very much like the woman you describe (except that she's using a computer at home, not work) and my spouse or I end up going over there every two weeks because "I've lost my Google" (can mean various things from having accepted an offer to make Yahoo her home page to having moved an icon) or some other minor aspect of a view pane has changed. And even getting a generic Geek Squad type to check in isn't helpful, because it takes them most of the visit to realize how low a level the question may be coming from.

I'd guess you either need to make peace with checking in once a week until she gets more comfortable, or suggesting to the powers that be that it's time for real office staff. sorry.
posted by acm at 8:41 AM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't know if you want to be involved at all on an ongoing basis, but it might make the transition easier to install something like Teamviewer on her machine, so that you can help solve small problems without actually needing to go in there. It might make her less reluctant to contact you, as it's less work for you to actually see her problem.

Also, just in case you haven't heard about Techsoup - I strongly recommend it for non-profits.
posted by Magnakai at 8:50 AM on March 3, 2014

Best answer: A few thoughts:

1) Teaching her all about how to use Office might not be worth it at this point, in my experience with church newsletters, bulletins, etc. it might be easiest just to set up a formatted template that she can change each week as needed. Then you only have two tasks to teach her: how to save/retrieve a new version for each revision and how to do the mailmerge.

2) The fact that the ribbon in the Office 2010 and 2013 is context dependent is often hard for people to get, and continues to trip me (a very savvy digital native) up all the time, especially if you knew the old Office menus that weren't.

I'm just going to copy the list of instruction websites from the website for Jessamyn's book on this very topic, because they are useful and the linkrot isn't too bad:
How to help someone use a computer
Tips for Teaching Older Adults to use Computers (pdf)
ACRL Multilingual Instruction Glossary
Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science
Wikimedia Commons
Library Success Wiki
How to use the web for topic search tutorials
posted by Wretch729 at 10:02 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, just in case you haven't heard about Techsoup - I strongly recommend it for non-profits.

To clarify: you can most likely get Office with a substantial discount.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:21 AM on March 3, 2014

Best answer: One thing that helped me get started using the new ribbon was NOT using the new ribbon :-) Above the ribbon, there is a quick-access toolbar. I spent some time in the first week Customizing the Quick Access Toolbar. I made a note of all the common commands that I use all the time but which I couldn't seem to find on the D*&% ribbon, and I put an icon for each one of them up on that toolbar.

If it helps, here's my list from Excel:
New File, File Open, File Save, New Worksheet, Print, Print Preview, Set Print Area, Set Print Titles, Undo, Redo, Sort, Insert Line, Delete Line, Insert Column, Delete Column, Freeze Panes.

Most of the other stuff is right there on the Home ribbon, but just last week I added Format Painter to my toolbar because I found I was needing it a lot while I was on the Data Ribbon and I don't want to switch back all the time. (I do use the ribbon now, but those tools are still there.)
posted by CathyG at 10:29 AM on March 3, 2014

Best answer: Perhaps she would prefer a dead tree manual (example)?
posted by oceano at 10:31 AM on March 3, 2014

Do not teach her to google. that will be more difficult than just teaching her the office functions she needs. I would just get a teen volunteer or a teen paid per hour as needed to help her with things. So like she has a list of what needs to be changed / formatted adn updated adn teen actually does it. You're going to run into a huge resistance to learn in her demographic and they don't necessarily take well to the intensive training they need because it can seem patronizing because they've made it this far without all of it haven't they?
posted by WeekendJen at 10:35 AM on March 3, 2014

Response by poster: Yeah, if we ever filed for a 501(c)(3) then the paperwork is since missing, and I can't get anybody to approve springing for someone to do the actual stuff to figure out if it was ever done or do it if it wasn't, which is awkward. (Churches that meet the requirements do not have to file to be tax exempt, and it's, well, not free.) I am the equivalent of the 14-year-old assistant; I am the youngest person there, and I'm in my 30s, and the next youngest is more than twenty years my senior. Only about half our (couple dozen) members even have home internet access and most are over the age of 80. It's a very small and very much dying church, unfortunately, which means that right now we're kind of in survival mode and lots of things that would be more sensible options are not on the table.

But there's a lot of good tutorial stuff here and I'm going to do the thing with the Quick Access and I think that should go a long way, and I think the Missing Manual book might be a good fit. And definitely installing Teamviewer. Fingers crossed this will keep the phone calls to an occasional thing.
posted by Sequence at 10:50 AM on March 3, 2014

Give her the ability to find things the old 2003 way:
UbitMenu gives you an additional "Menu" ribbon, that recreates the old menu.

Try it for free. It doesn't change any internals of office, it just adds a custom menu via XML file at startup.
posted by mmkhd at 11:04 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah, I forgot about UbitMenu. I used that too and it made my life a lot easier.
posted by CathyG at 11:14 AM on March 3, 2014

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