Ever wish for a way to embed tailored help content specific to your organisation directly into Dynamics 365? Now you can! It’s called Learning Path….
Customised Help Content at your fingertips
With the release of Dynamics 365 (Feb 2017 at time of writing), you can now author your own content, deploy to different Dynamics 365 instances, and provide users in your organisation with contextual help right inside Dynamics 365 as they work.
Why is Learning Path Important?
There are many ways to help end users learn and become familiar with carrying out their daily tasks in Dynamics 365. While everyone has a different learning style (some prefer structured classroom training, others might prefer more exploratory approaches), most people appreciate helpful prompts that remind them of how to carry out a particular task right when they need it.
With the new Learning Path in Dynamics 365, you can:
- Provide contextual help for end users with quick start tours or guide them in performing common daily tasks,
- Make guided help appear “just in time” so that users can complete their actions without leaving Dynamics 365,
- Customise help content so that it is specific to your organisation
- Write once (in one instance) and publish to multiple instances (under the same tenant), or by import and export,
- Present different media types (e.g. videos, web links, internal/external references etc)
- Show content to different devices (web client, tablet, phone)
Learning Path Prerequistes
For detailed guidance on Learning Path, there is nowhere better than Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Help and Training Centre.
For a quick review of the prerequisites, here are the highlights (as of Feb 2017):
To use customised Learning Path content:
- You must be on Dynamics 365 (online – latest version, or Dec 2016 update installed). You can check this in your O365 Admin Portal.
- You must opt in to Learning Path (see here for more info)At a system level, you opt in by going to Settings > Administration > System Settings
At a personal (per user) level, Learning Path is usually “opted in” by default.
- Learning Path contents are created and associated with CRM security roles which match the roles that your end users are assigned to. That is, if a Learning Path content is developed and assigned to the CRM “Sales Person” security role, the end users who also have this same security role will be able to see the content.
To author Learning Path content:
- The CRM user must be assigned a security role with authoring privilege, e.g. the CRM system customizer or system admin security role,
- The CRM user must be included in the O365 “Learning Path Author security group”
Learning Path Content
At the time of writing, there are two types of learning path content:
- Interactive “bubbles” which form a sequence to provide help or guide users on specific tasks. For example, guide path can be used to teach end users how to create a contact record, or provide general quick tour of links and buttons on a page.
- Vertically formatted help content, which is initially shown as a “table of content” with items that the user can expand, revealing relevant webpages, videos, or links to existing guided paths content in Dynamics 365
Beware of the Different Guided Path Bubble Types!
When you take a closer look at the “bubbles” in Guide Path content, you soon discover that there are actually four different bubble types, each of which provide a different user experience. Here’s more detail:
Bubble with Next Button
- This bubble has a “Next” bubble that user clicks to go the next step. When used, the screen will lock so user must either click on the “Next” arrow to go the next bubble in sequence, or click the “x” to close the guided path and return to Dynamics 365.
Bubble with User Action
- This button has no “Next” arrow, but highlights a page object on the screen that the user must click on to proceed to the next bubble in the sequence. In the picture below, the “Contacts” link in the navigation dropdown menu is highlighted. Again the rest of the screen is locked down so that the user must either click on the highlighted element, or click “x” in the bubble to get out of the guided path.
- The bubble with user action is a good choice if you want to reinforce a particular learning action (e.g. click this link!)
Bubble with Simulated User Action
- This bubble looks just like the bubble with “Next” button, except that when a user clicks on the Next arrow, it simulates the click of the highlighted page object (usually a link or a button), and the guided path will move to the next bubble in sequence.
- I would advise to use this with caution because the simulated action can look confusing to the end user. In particular, you should only use this bubble type if you have an actionable object on the page that you can anchor this bubble to. For example, a button or link you want the user to click.
- In the below example, the Simulated User Action bubble is placed on the “Export to Excel” button. Clicking on the Next arrow simulates clicking the “export to excel” button.
Bubble with Learn More
- This bubble should only be used as the last bubble in a guided path sequence. It has a “Learn More” button that you can customise to redirect users to a Learning Path sidebar (e.g. back to the home table of content).
An Author’s view of the Learning Path Content Library
For CRM users who have permissions to author content, the Learning Path “admin hub” is the Content Library. To go there, click Trainings > Content Library.
The Content Library displays a list of Guided Tasks and Sidebars authored by all authors who have publishing rights.
For detailed explanation of the different configurations in Content Library, please refer to the Microsoft training reference at the beginning of this post. I just want to mention two important function which all authors must carry out:
- Manage > Check inOnce you have finished editing a guided path content or sidebar content, you must check them in. This allows other authors to see and modify your content.
- PublishEnd users in Dynamics 365 will only be able to see your content after you publish it. If you have multiple CRM instances set up in the same “Publishing Group”, you can select which instance you would like to publish the content to.
From the Content Library, you can either create a “new” sidebar or edit an existing sidebar. The configuration panel will appear and allows you to editing some of the basic settings such as which “clients” or “form factor” the sidebar should work for and whether the sidebar should “open” on page load or when a button/link is clicked. You can also choose if the sidebar should have one or two columns in “template”.
Clicking on the “Settings” on bottom left menu opens the side bar for you to place your customised content in. You have the ability to place links to web pages, videos, references to guided tasks and other sidebars etc.
You can also preview the sidebar before checking in the changes and publishing the content.
Authoring Guided Path Contents
The process for authoring new or editing existing guided path content is similar to that of authoring sidebar content. You will need to configure “Settings” for the guided path, such as the “client” and “form factor” and which “CRM security roles” should be associated.
The “Flow Editor” is where you can add a sequence of bubbles for the guided tasks.
Each bubble you select on the flow editor can be dragged to a specific object on the CRM page. You can then place text or video inside the bubble. Check in your changes and publish to make the content available to end users.
Learning Path and CRM Security Roles
How does the CRM security role affects Learning Path content? Simply put, you can assign specific CRM security roles to each Sidebar or Guided Path in the Content Library. Only those with the associated security roles will see your learning path content.
When authoring a sidebar or guided path, select those CRM security roles applicable to the content in the setting pane. Below shows the settings for a sidebar.
Initially, the “CRM security role” field (as above) contains all CRM security roles in your Dynamics 365 instance. This can be controlled in the Content Library administration area. Simply go to the Content Library, click on the Configuration tab and you’ll see the Security Roles synchronisation pane below. Deleting a security role from the below list will ensure that role disappears from the “CRM Security Role” field. Clicking on “Sync Role” button will bring any missing security roles back.
Personally, I’m not sure how useful this synchronisation function is. Perhaps one good use case is when a CRM instance has many security roles, but you want to present Learning Path content to only a small handful of applicable security roles.
Export/import Content Library
To back up your customised content, it’s a good habit to regularly export your content. To do this from the Content Library, select the contents you wish to save and simply click Manage > Export. You can save the content as a zip file and all files will be exported as .json. This gives you the ability to unpack the zip file and source control the json files if you wish.
Learning Path – Handy Tips
- Plan your content before insertingAs of Feb 2017, Learning Path authoring controls can sometimes appear a bit buggy on screen. As the content are saved in the Azure SQL database, and controls are rendered on the client by Azure web services, when placing bubbles on CRM pages sometimes it appears to freeze. Best practice is to plan out your content and save regularly. There doesn’t seem to be auto-save functionality so if you close the browser you will lose your unsaved modifications.
- Designing Just-in-time and interactive learning experience is different from writing static documentsWhen you design e.g. guided paths, keep in mind which page object you wish the users to focus on. For example, a guided path designed to provide a page overview can have bubbles sequence moving from e.g. left to right, instead of jumping all over the page. Also, the content of the bubble must be concise and specific to that page object.
- Bubble Types in Guided Paths – choose wisely!My personal preference is to keep to a limited number of bubble types to avoid confusing the end user in a guided path. For example, mixing the “Next” bubble type with “Simulated User Action” bubble can appear confusing for the end user on screen.
- Stick to at most five or six bubbles per Guided PathIf you find yourself designing a guided path with more than a handful of bubbles, it’s probably better to break the content into smaller chucks. Who would want to click on e.g. 12 bubbles before they come to the end of the guided path sequence?
- Consider different learning media typesThere are many ways to deliver training and help content apart from static documents. Why limit yourself to producing written training guides for classroom based training, when you can produce content in wiki, animations or videos (especially effective if you need to roll out the same training content more than once, in different geographies?)
If you have content in different media types, you can now embed them in a sidebar or in bubbles in a guided path.
Be creative to engage end users and make learning fun.
- Strategies for version tracking of your Learning ContentLike any collaborative content, having multiple authors means that you have to agree to a system of version tracking for that content and a publishing process in your organisation. While you can label a content with a specific “version number”, this is not enforced in Learning Path.
So now that you have seen what Learning Path is and how it works, how do you plan to use it in your organisation?