Developing Training Activities and Materials

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    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

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    Preparation for Developing Your Training Activities and Materials

    The design phase and the development phase of systematic training planning often overlap. During the design phase or development phase, the various training activities must be selected, for example, to be instructor-led, computer-based, Web-based, self-directed, interactive, or multi-media.

    The development phase of systematic training often includes selecting the most appropriate media and materials, for example, developing audio-visuals, graphics, and manuals, preparing any needed facilities, and piloting course content to ensure it is understandable.

    Often the design and development phases are highly integrated. The design of the training is often piloted, or initially tested, during the development phase to ensure the content is understandable and applicable to the learners.

    Key Considerations to Develop Your Activities and Materials

    What is the Immediacy to Achieve the New Learning?

    The more immediate the need to achieve the learning, the more important that the activities and materials be understandable and readily accessible to the learners. In these situations, it often is warranted to use an expert who can promptly design, develop, and deliver the training plan, activities, and materials.

    Also, it’s very useful if the activities and materials can be based on activities already underway in the workplace so that learners do not have to take time away from work, but rather can promptly affect their work even as they participate in the learning program.

    What Are the Learners’ Preferences and Learning Styles?

    One of the biggest mistakes in designing training plans is choosing activities and materials that do not match the preferences and styles of the learners. Probably the most common example is putting adults through extended hours of lectures. Those activities usually lull adults into a stupor, rather than sustaining sufficient interest and engagement to accomplish sustained learning among the adults.

    One of the best ways to discern the most appropriate styles of activities is to have learners undertake a learning styles inventory or at least consider the various styles that seem common to the types of learners who will be in the training program.

    How Much Time Can Learners Realistically Apply to the Learning Activities?

    This has become one of the most important considerations when designing and developing training plans. Workplaces seem increasingly busy as people try to do more with less. It’s often very difficult for them to take time away from the office. The more the training activities can accommodate the busy schedules of learners, the better — and the more likely that learners will actually attend the training sessions. It’s often better to design frequent and short training sessions than fewer, extended sessions.

    Can the Learners Readily Access the Activities and Materials? Do They Build On Current Work Activities?

    One of the biggest advantages of compute- and Web-based activities is that learners can access them from anywhere, which greatly decreases the cost of training and development activities. Thus, the rapid expansion of technology-based activities in training. (See Online Learning.) One of the best ways to ensure that training activities are highly accessible is to build them into the activities already underway in the workplace.

    How Much Money is Available to Obtain and Develop the Resources?

    It’s common for curriculum designers to develop wonderful training programs that seem guaranteed to achieve the goals of the program, but after further review, are clearly so expensive that the program is prohibitive or not realistic. Therefore, it’s important, even before the initial needs assessments are done, to get some sense of the availability of funding to obtain and develop resources. Technology-based and on-the-job-based activities often are much less expensive than hiring subject matter experts. However, those experts are especially useful if the training is to convey highly specialized or technical content.

    Will the Activities Achieve the Learning Objectives?

    Now we get to the most important consideration. Even if the activities are well-suited to the learners, readily accessible, and well-funded, will they together really achieve the overall goals of the training program? Here again, is where it’s useful to consult an expert or to reference best practices or competencies in the particular areas being trained.

    How Will the Activities and Materials Be Field-Tested?

    It’s very important to explain the activities to a few of the learners and to have them examine the materials. They are best suited to judge if the activities and materials are truly understandable and suited to the needs and styles of the learners. Listen to their advice, and modify the activities and materials

    Critical Consideration — Selecting a Trainer

    Perhaps the most important ingredient of any training program is the trainer (unless the program is entirely self-directed). Today’s learners are very sensitive to how well a trainer engages them by being enthusiastic about the material, cultivating interaction among the learners, and really listening to — and respecting — them.

    Is the Potential Trainer Well-Suited to the Nature of the Learners?

    The most important consideration when selecting a trainer is if they are well suited to the training design required to meet the learning goals. For example, if learners prefer computer-based instruction, they’ll benefit from a trainer who understands online training technologies. If learners prefer ongoing coaching, they’ll benefit from a trainer who is readily accessible to the employee for ongoing advice and guidance. If learners struggle with communication skills, they’ll benefit from a trainer who can integrate remedial communication strategies with other training methods.

    Collaborate With Other Departments or Groups Doing Similar Training?

    Consider whether other supervisors or companies have employees who need similar training. If so, one might combine your needs and funding to get a trainer to conduct in-house training.

    Use Former Employees as Trainers?

    Consider using an ex-employee who has the skills needed by the learner. Of course, this option depends on whether the ex-employee left the organization on good terms and remains in good standing with the organization.

    Use Subject-Matter Experts as Trainers

    There’s a wise saying “Telling ain’t training.” Just because someone has strong knowledge of the subject matter does not mean that he or she will be a good trainer. If you are considering hiring a consultant to conduct the training then consider issuing a Request for Proposal which asks potential trainers for the following information.

    • A written proposal for how they would carry out training, evaluation methods, cost, etc.
    • The goals preferred from the training when to have the training and what evaluation results should occur
    • Request that trainers remain available for a follow-up consultation if desired
    • Ask the trainer what methods they use to ensure their consultation projects are successful with clients
    • Ask for at least three references
    • Consider having the employee briefly meet with the consultant to discuss training needs and establish a rapport

    See the extensive advice and the sample forms for a request for proposals, a proposal from consultants, and a consultation plan.

    Resort to Self-directed Learning?

    If a suitable outside consultant or training program cannot be found, consider self-directed learning. Self-directed is accomplished primarily by the learner who leads or takes a strong role in determining learning goals, how they will be accomplished, and how learning will be verified. Self-directed learning can be used where employees are highly motivated and self-reliant. Learning can be verified with a variety of means, e.g.,

    1. Written reports describing what learning activities have occurred and what results were produced
    2. Observation of the employee by a supervisor or other skilled expert equipped to assess the progress of the employee
    3. A portfolio or collection of results showing the employees’ improvement over time
    4. A presentation from the employee that includes a description of learning activities and a display of results, etc.

    Many Possible Types of Training Activities

    There seems an increasing amount of different activities that can be considered when customizing activities to the goals of a training program and to the nature and needs of the learners. Consider Various Ideas for Learning Activities.

    Additional Resources to Develop Your Training Activities and Materials

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to this Topic

    In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to this topic. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also, see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “Next” near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

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