Recently I've been going through some of the tutorials at lynda.com. If you haven't heard of lynda, or haven't checked it out lately, you should take some time and look around the site. There are tutorials for all levels of expertise, and just about any tool you've heard of has been covered.
So far, I've gone through some of the content for Flash and Dreamweaver. Both of these tools have some excellent tutorials, and the presentation is very good. I've found though, that in the attempt to cover these tools comprehensively, I end up skipping around looking for the bits I don't know while trying to skip the bits that I do.
One of the nice things about the site is the way they've organized their content. Each tool has several tutorials aimed at users with different experience levels. For instance, the Flash tutorials focus on Actionscript, Mobile, Illustrator, and Flash in general. In each case, selecting a tutorial gives you a very nice table of contents for that "class". The "chapters" are organized well and generally fit my expectations.
In my case, as I knew very little about flash I chose to start with Flash fundamentals. As I began the tutorial, I quickly figured out I couldn't do these "start-to-finish" like I might normally take a class. What I learned (outside of new bits of Flash goodness) is that the sections for beginners generally cover all of the functionality in the tool, so users who've done work with other similar tools (like MDI based windows) will find these bits are called out and explained in painful detail.
The flip-side to this is that in order to learn something quickly, you need to skip some of the individual sections like "Understanding file types", "Exploring the toolbar" or "Working with ...". For me this was quite frustrating as I typically like to master the basic disciplines (with anything I do) before moving on to the more advanced bits. I'm usually just a little paranoid that I'll miss some tiny, innocuous step that then enables some of the more advanced functions.
What's worked for me here is using a different approach to absorbing the tutorial content. I'll find a section I'm unfamiliar with and start after the bits about "Understanding...", "Exploring...", etc. Usually the "Using..." type sections are just about right. In some cases I've found there's that innocuous bit that I don't know and can't infer from context, and so I'll stop the tutorial I'm running and go back to the section that covers what I missed.
Overall this is a new way of learning for me, somewhat uncomfortable, but none-the-less effective. It seems to take less time to get something new, but it's definitely not a linear learning process. I expect as we become more accustomed to using computer-based training, we'll also start changing the way we learn new things. "Change" still seems to be the only thing that doesn't.
Loren Mack is a design architect in xDesign who creates strategic and tactical designs for the Service Oriented Architecture/Business Integration group at Sun.