For sure it's difficult to know how much is too much at the beginning of a course. A few strategies I might use along with the partner interviews:
- Keep the discussion area for technical questions separate from course topic discussions -- like a SOS forum. More tech savvy participants can choose to help out or opt out.
- Be light about it. Tell students not to tear their hair out. If they get stumped or frustrated ask for help.
- Provide templates / show examples.
- Emphasize that the activity is relevant -- that these are tools they will need to participate in the course
- Provide some step-by-step instructions (screencasts or help files) if needed
- Allow enough time for the activity