Thursday, March 26, 2009

Developing the training material

If you have been following this blog, then you should have already gone through the posts on analysis and design. In this post, I will be giving a brief overview on the steps involved in the development phase. The objective of the development phase is to create high quality printed and electronic training material. This is achieved by creating a series of checklists and making sure that all the training material that was planned for adheres to these check lists.

There are primarily five checklists used to ensure the quality of the training material:
  1. Learner's Materials Checklist
    • There should ideally be one checklist for group training and one for self paced training. Obviously, if only you have planned/designed for both formats.

  2. Facilitator's Guide Checklist
    • The Facilitator' Guide is a very important component of the development phase

  3. Audiovisual Materials Checklist
    • Audiovisual Materials usually consist of the presentations, videos, audio etc. that are used for enhancing and/or supporting the training delivery

  4. Technology Based Training Checklist
    • In case you have designed for Technology based trainings i.e. Web Based Trainings or Computer Based Trainings, you should ideally have a checklist for this as well

  5. Pilot Session Checklist
    • The most important event in the development phase, is the Pilot Session. A well designed/developed program should ideally require only one Pilot Session. In case some major gaps are found, it is imprtant to go through the same iteration once again.
I believe the development phase of a training program is one of the most critical phases. It requires the developers involved to have an eye for detail, and everyone who is involved in this phase needs to have an uncompromising attitude as far as quality goes. I remember that in one of my previous organizations, the training material developers used to be the ones burning the midnight oil just to get the right quality material ready.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Designing a training program

In the previous post, I covered the process that one needs to follow for conducting a Training Needs Analysis. If you are familiar with the instructional design workflow, the next step after ananysis, is design. O in this post we will look at the process that a training professional needs to follow for designing a training program.

The main purpose of the design phase is two fold:
  1. Create the overall program plan/schedule
  2. Create the program development guidelines
Designing a training program is a very different cup of team when compared to analyzing a training need. While analysing you will be more concerned with the data, is it correct, is it all there, what does it mean etc. The design phase is in stark contrast as it is a very creative process. It builds upon the analysis done previously and uses the information of the training needs, audience profile, and the knowledge of various training strategies and techniques to create a blue print of the program structure.

It is very important to realise that creating a good training design is like making a work of art. It is a highly creative process, and is more often than not requires a lot of brainstorming. It is a very iterative process as there are constant Starts and Stops, blocks, backtracking, fast forwarding, and freezing involved. During all of this chaos and confusion it is important to remember that you are working like an artist, and all artists know that chaos and confusion sometimes go hand in hand with art and creativity. You will also need to trust that your analysis has prepared you to bring together the varied training strategies into a coherent training program.

Anyways, you can use the following steps to take you through the design phase. Once again I hope this helps.

  1. Create the program guidelines
    • You will need to define the program guidelines in terms of goals, objectives, subject matter, assessment plans, and the mode of delivery
  2. Decide if the training program needs to be created internally, or can it be outsourced
    • You will need to evaluate if the expertise to develop this program is available internally, or would you need to outsource it and also the costs involved
  3. Next you need to design the "Instructional events" and "Instructional flow" for the training program
    • Your instructional events can be broadly categorized into prework, in-program, postwork, and support events
    • the creation of instructional flows allows you to bring your instructional events together
  4. Next, you need to create a design blueprint
    • You will need to select, sequence, and create a timeline of the Instructional events and flows
  5. Convert the blueprint into a development guideline
    • Guidelines are specifications that lay the groundwork on which writers, software developers, and graphic designers will use to develop training modules, sestions and learning events
  6. Flesh out the project plan created during the analysis phase
    • You will now add more specific milestones to the project plam, identify specific people who will work on this program, and specify budgets
  7. Finally, create a design document
    • This document will summarize the findings of the design phase and should be used to present to the decision makers as a progress report
In my career, I have always found the design phase to be the most exciting and the most rewarding phase in the life cycle of creating a training program. Personally, if you ask me this is the most important and the most influential phase in the life cycle.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Analysis of the Training Need

More often than not, Training Need Analysis is the most overlooked phase when it comes to creating a training program. In this post, I will try to cover some of the basic concepts that can be used to analyze training needs quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

The first step to starting a Training Needs Analysis is to understand the purpose of the exercise. A Training Needs Analysis exercise should help you answer the following questions:
  1. What is the organization’s need?
  2. Who is the target audience?
  3. Is training a cost effective method of addressing the need?
  4. If yes, then how are you going to train them?

The exercise of finding answer(s) to each of the above questions is called, Training Needs Analysis. Now let us see how we can go about answering these questions. You can follow the below mentioned steps to get the answers for the above-mentioned question:
  1. Before starting the analysis, get an approval from your internal or external customer
    • This helps you in identifying the commitment of the customer, and how strong is the training need
  2. Understand and document the desired performance level
    • This step helps you in identifying the needs and expectations of:
      1. The Organization
      2. The Customer
      3. The Target Audience
  3. Analyze the performance gap between the current and desired performance levels
    • The identification of this gap will help you ascertain if a training intervention is required or not.
  4. If a training intervention is required, then create a project plan
    • Identify the time, budget, and effort required to complete this project
  5. Create a broad level outline of the subject matter
    • This will help in setting the stage for the design phase
  6. Identify the learning needs of the target audience
    • This help in identifying the appropriate learning strategy for the design phase
  7. Finally, document the analysis conducted in a summary report
    • This report will help the customer and the organization get a summary of your findings in the analysis of their training needs

Whenever I have to conduct a Training Need Analysis, I am always reminded of the first time I tried doing it. Based on the identification of the organization’s needs, I ended up creating a project plan without analyzing my target audience. In the very first session I realized, that the supervisors of my target audience should have also been included in the training program. Aah, the good old days of economic boom… when you could afford to make such errors and keep the job…