Dear Lifehacker, My mother just got a new computer. She's eager to learn, but we're starting from scratch. How can I give her some tools to learn on her own so I don't need to hover over her while she explores every menu and every option? Sadly, I don't have the time to really teach her, but I'd love to help her teach herself, and don't want her to not ask me if she has problems. Please help! Signed, The Prodigal Son
Photo by Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock.
Dear Prodigal Son,
We know how you feel -- sometimes dealing with a tech-challenged loved one who wants you to be their personal technology trainer can be frustrating, not to mention time-consuming. Thankfully, it sounds like your mother is eager and willing to learn new things, even on her own. Let's focus on that and give you some tools that can help her learn how to use her new gear without your help but still allows you to ride to the rescue if she really needs a helping hand.
Guide Her to Help Pages and Tutorial Videos
Microsoft and Apple both have extensive knowledge bases with tutorials and getting started guides that can help any computer novice. For example, Microsoft offers extensive training materials to help you get started with Microsoft Office, as well as dozens of tutorial videos that can also help. Microsoft offers similar getting started and tutorial videos for Windows. Apple also offers getting started videos on how to use your Apple products, so if her new computer is a Mac, Apple has her covered as well. She can also join Apple's support community, which is a great resource for beginners with questions and answers from other Mac owners who are willing to lend a hand.
Also, don't discount the value of built-in help menus and pre-installed tutorials for a beginner. They may not be useful to you as an advanced user, and not often helpful when you're troubleshooting a specific problem, but for a novice who's learning their way around, they can be invaluable and show off little-known but time-saving features. Make sure she spends some time with the beginner's tutorials for the apps she'll use most frequently.
Build Her a "Curriculum" of Easy-to-Follow Online Videos and Articles
Since your mother is eager to learn on her own, get her started with some basic tutorials and online training classes that will help familiarise her with her computer and the apps she's using. Google's own Teach Parents Tech site is a great way to show her the basics, complete with instructional videos that she can walk through, pause, rewind and re-watch at any time. You may also send her some of our Emailable Tech Support articles, specifically some time-saving keyboard shortcuts everyone should know, how to close a crashed program, how to uninstall a program, which can be especially useful if her new computer came loaded with crapware.
You'll also find a wealth of online tutorials and getting started videos on specific applications over at YouTube, but your mileage may vary on exactly how helpful they are. Make sure to review them before you send them over.
Set Her Up for Remote Support
Even though your mum may be knee deep in tutorial videos and help pages for all of the programs she wants to use, she still may run into issues that require your assistance. The best way to set up your mother's PC for remote troubleshooting depends on how much access you have to it, but suffice to say you have options. We're big fans of TeamViewer and Join.me because they're easy to set up and easy to use, even for novices. If you need total control over your Mom's PC when you're not there, you may consider LogMeIn instead. Whatever you do, make sure you give yourself a way to come to the rescue if she starts having serious computer problems and needs your help, or if you do have some time to walk her through changing her settings, installing a new printer, or something else that she needs help with -- even if you're not there.
After you set her up with a remote troubleshooting tool, go the extra mile and set her up with a free video-conferencing solution so you guys can see each other when you talk. Even if it's just a Google+ hangout while you work on her computer, she'll appreciate the visual connection. Plus, free video calls may even save you a few bucks as opposed to calling her on the phone, and you get a much more personal conversation as a result. She'll feel more accomplished having learned how to call and talk to you face-to-face, and you'll always have a way to help her out if you need to.
That should keep her busy learning the ins and outs of her new computer, and it should give you the freedom to let her learn with the tools needed to help her when she needs it. Good luck!
PS Do you have any additional online tutorial resources or favourite tools you suggest Prodigal Son add to his mother's curriculum? Any other tips to help his mother beef up her computer skills on her own, or tools he can use to help her? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
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