- Richard Kidd, PMP | Contact
Truly effective training requires a holistic approach involving all stakeholders. From extensive prior training experience, at Cirdan Group, we have learned that an end-to-end approach is essential to providing great instruction. The instructive design process should begin with the creation of clear, concise materials and should end with measurable feedback from the user. Additionally, close attention should be paid to the expectations of stakeholders and end users, and to creating engaging materials that will immerse users in your material and reinforce understanding. Here are five key ways to ensure that your training plan is as effective as possible:
1) Analyze Existing Materials and User Feedback
If you work in a large organization, chances are there are legacy materials readily available that you can utilize for planning your training activities. Take a look at the existing company documents for content, format requirements, and any lessons learned or best practices data from previous training campaigns. If your company does not gather feedback from users on your training programs, this is a perfect time to start!
Once you have located all the related documents, build on earlier successes by borrowing previously successful techniques. Take a close look for any lessons learned data that could be applied to your program. Sometimes a small, subtle note from a user can make a huge improvement in a training class, instruction manual, multimedia presentation, etc. Also, how effective was the previous training campaign in preparing the user for the desired result? The users may have been happy with the training program (it was entertaining, the presenter was lively) but it is much more important to understand how well the training prepared the user to apply the knowledge imparted in the class.
2) Know Your Audience and Stakeholders
Involving all stakeholders in the research and creation of the training plan, while always keeping the end user in mind is the foundation of a well-crafted training plan. Truly knowing your audience prior to creating the training plan is crucial. Just as you would adjust your communication style as you communicate with various people throughout the day, it is necessary to understand the users of your training plan. Once you have analyzed the user base, there are plenty of documented best practices and books available on the various learning styles and the best way to present information to a certain demographic.
Gathering input from stakeholders prior to the creation of a training plan is very important to the overall success of the program. Each stakeholder will likely have their own perspective on the important points of the curriculum and how to properly measure success. Once you have spoken to stakeholders, you will have to sort through plenty of feedback and opinions on the development of the plan, but ultimately you will be able to move forward with the creation of an informed program.
3) Set Clear Expectations
Setting clear expectations up front when presenting training materials and courses allows the user to know precisely what it is he or she is required to learn. Beginning with the end result in mind will help users understand the scope of the training class, which results in more attentiveness and engagement. Users who are more informed on “the why” of a class and will be able to objectively process the information, and participate in a dialog throughout the course.
4) Keep them Engaged
Your training material has a clear, concise message, but is it keeping the user engaged? Studies show that students lose interest and begin daydreaming after only 10 minutes of instruction. You should pay close attention to the order in which information is presented in training courses and materials, and keep the user engaged by presenting information in a variety of different ways. Frequent breaks at logical stopping points keep training fresh. In short, make it memorable. Inserting a video, multimedia presentation or an exercise can do wonders for keeping the user attentive and submersed in the material.
Reinforce Key Information - For maximum retention, key information should be repeated throughout the class or material, and information should be presented to the users multiple times over the course of weeks and/or months. Users retain information much more effectively when they have a break lasting several days between exposure to the same material. A good example would be layering training knowledge over several different types of media and methods, for example, first presenting a well-crafted training manual to the user a few weeks prior to a training course, and asking the user to review it prior to the course. Second method is to review the materials during classroom instruction. And finally, after the face-to-face training class, have the students attend a webinar about a week later. Repetition, with time breaks between learning opportunities, greatly improves the retention rate of users.
5) Collect Measurable Feedback and Iterate
The most important part of creating an effective training plan is to gather feedback from users and make a commitment to continually improve the program. A training program can be compared to a software application; a developer would not release version 1.0 of an application and never release an update, if the goal was to have satisfied and productive users.
Be sure to collect measurable feedback and user comments that can help improve future programs. A good example of this is to use an end of day training class evaluation form, with a rating scale for a variety of different elements of the class. Space should available for users to elaborate on their ratings with comments. Once this information is gathered, it is incredibly valuable to the improvement of your program.
Instructive Design can be very complex and it is never easy to get a training program right on the first attempt. Our mission as training program developers should be to create an environment where the potential for learning is maximized. And if you follow the suggestions above, you will be on the path to having a well-informed group of end users.
Cirdan Group, Inc. is a managed services, Information Technology (IT) program performance and risk management consulting firm that provides IT training, staff augmentation, program evaluations, independent verification and validation (IV&V) assessments, business analysis, and project management services for commercial and government clients. With headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, we have been in business since 2003. We are a privately held corporation, incorporated in Maryland in 2006. We have been a Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) registered Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) since 2004, #07-370.
Cirdan Group has been developing technical training plans and materials since 2005. Cirdan Group has produced numerous training manuals, created in-person training curriculum, created and managed help desk support for up to 400 users at a time and has many years of experience training on highly-customized commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software.