Have you flipped your OJT Train the Trainer Classroom yet?

When I got introduced to the flipped classroom back in 2012, I fell in love with the concept immediately. But I was stymied on how to sell the mind shift to management. And then it occurred to me that I was already delivering the flipped classroom for my Qualified OJT Trainers Workshop and have been for quite some time.

In the academic model, students study the concept at home using video instructions and other learning technologies. Then they come to class to do the homework in a collaborative and mentor style environment. The corporate approach can be tweaked if you rethink when and where learners (aka employees) access the content. If the content exists elsewhere, why waste valuable classroom time lecturing on it when you can create a facilitative and experiential learning lab?

But what content are we talking about?

As part of a Robust Training System, procedures are established that describe how to execute the many elements of a training system including how to quality a department SME as trainer and the OJT Methodology. These standard operating procedures (SOPs) become the basis of the Qualified Trainer (QT) curriculum, for LMS tracking purposes. Upon release (or by the effective date), flagged employees read the required Training SOPs and become aware of implementation timelines. The “Read and Understood” portion is completed in advance and outside of the classroom. Hence, the content of the QT workshop is not a slide deck repeat of the curriculum content.

OJT TTT Workshop is NOT SOP Training

Recently I was challenged about why I was working with the company SMEs at all. If I didn’t work at this company, wasn’t engaged with day to day processing activities or involved in writing their SOPs, how could I possibly teach the SMEs anything about teaching their processes, my contender demanded. Furthermore, he marveled at my audacity to assist with rebuilding their quality training system.


Seemingly, there is still some confusion about the purpose of an OJT TTT workshop. This stakeholder’s frame of reference was entirely research oriented and analytical in execution. In his experience, train the trainer meant true expert trains others on the subject matter (technical SOPs) via a knowledge transfer session. See graphic below. It took multiple conversations and an invitation to join the training design team for him to embrace the notion that SMEs should and could be taught learning theory. Also see The Real Meaning of TTT. 

The “flip” is in the instructional design

If I am asking for 8 hours of participation from SMEs in a classroom setting, then it MUST BE value added. The focus of the workshop design is “Life as a Qualified Trainer” and the realities of delivering OJT on the shop floor and/or in the analytical QC lab. Attendees will not find this content in their curriculum or in the e-DOC system for SOPs. And this is precisely why the classroom is the most effective environment to come together in a structured, guided and facilitated learning experience.

It means that the instructor-trainer is no longer the sage on the stage, but becomes a guide on the side, where the QTs are doing most of the talking. This switch in learning design reinforces collaboration among the QTs and better transfers the knowledge building so that scrap learning is significantly reduced. Activities are designed to be active and participatory thus promoting “learning by doing” practice and honing their learning for each step of the OJT Methodology while recognizing robust training system key concepts in action. The final activity requires engagement and participation of each nominated QT in order to complete the course.

A community of internal QT graduates

During the experiential activities, QT’s will share anecdotes or a “war story” from their past. Listening to those stories creates a connection and often the insights gained forms a bond with each other. A wonderful consequence of the TTT flipped classroom design is the community of internal QT graduates that grows after the workshop is over. QTs leave the classroom able to articulate and share what they learned and experienced together. This does not happen when the course is delivered as eLearning/CBT or self advanced power point slides.

Today’s classroom is still viable

The modern learner needs a modern learning experience. And while modern tech tools are fast on the rise, let’s not dismiss what a flipped classroom can produce – confident, competent and valued Qualified Trainers. Are you ready to flip your learning design to meet today’s modern learners? – VB

Retraining and Refresher Training: Aren’t they one in the same?

I say no, not at all. Ask an Operations Manager and he’ll acknowledge that what it’s called is less important than getting the “assignment” done and entered into the LMS. He’s usually more concerned about the loss of productivity during the training than the effectiveness of the training at that time. It isn’t until later when the training may have to be delivered again (repeated), that the comment “training doesn’t really work” is heard.

Retraining is typically delivered as repeat training. Corrective Actions from *CAPAs usually trigger these types of required training events. In the context of the specific CAPA, we uncover the error, mistake, non-conformance or what I like to call performance discrepancy from expected outcome. It is believed that by delivering the training again, the cause of the discrepancy will be resolved. That is if the root cause was determined to be a lack of knowledge, skill or not enough practice.

Some folks believe that more is better and that with several repeated training sessions, employees will eventually get it right. It always amazes me that we find time to do repeat training over and over again but complain very loudly for refresher training, significant **SOP revision training or even new content training.   (*Corrective Actions Preventive Actions, **Standard Operating Procedures).Retraining Quote

Refresher Training implies that training was already provided at least once. The intention here is to review on that content.   A lot of regulatory training requirements are generated to satisfy this need. Common examples are Annual GMP Refreshers and several OSHA standards such as Blood Borne Pathogens training. While the aim is to refresh on the content, it is not necessarily meant to just repeat the training. Also included is the part – “so as to remain current” with current practice, trends and new updates. Hence, refresher training needs to include new material based on familiar content.

Upon Biennial SOP Review

There are some folks who would like to use this required SOP activity to coincide with the need to “refresh” on SOPs already read and/or trained. The rationale being that if the SOP hasn’t revved in 2 or 3 years time, more than likely the training hasn’t been repeated either. So, it sounds like a good idea to require that SOPs be “refreshed” upon using the same SOP cycle. One could argue for the prevention of errors; thus, in theory, this sounds very proactive.

But donning my Instructional Designer Hat, I ask you, what is the definition of training – to close a knowledge gap or skill gap. What value is there for forcing a mandatory “refresher reading” on SOPs just because the procedure is due for technical review? In practice, this becomes one huge check mark exercise leading to a paper work /LMS backlog and might actually increase errors due to “information overload”! Again, what gap are you trying to solve? In the above refresher scenario, we are avoiding a compliance gap by satisfying regulatory requirements.

Refresher Retraining

Defending Your Training Process

For those of you who have fielded questions from regulators, you can appreciate how the very training record produced generates follow up questions.   How you describe the conditions under which the training occurred or is “labeled” can impact the message you are sending as well. Calling it retraining instead of refresher training implies that training had to be repeated as a result of a performance problem not meeting expectations or standards. Whereas refresher training occurs at a defined cycle to ensure that the forgetting curve or lack of practice is not a factor of poor performance. It is a routine activity for satisfying regulatory expectations.

For end users, clarifying the difference between refresher training and “repeat” training in your Policy/SOP not only defines the purpose of the training session, it also provides the proper sequence of steps to follow to ensure maximum effectiveness of the training. There’s a difference between training content that is new /updated vs. delivered as a repeat of the same materials.   Yes, new and/or updated design takes resources and time.   How many times do you want to sit through the same old same old and get nothing new from it? Recall the definition of insanity – doing more of the same while hoping for change.   You just might want to review your Training SOP right about now. – VB



Using Neuroscience to Maximize Learning: Why we should start paying attention to the Research

In October 2015, I had the privilege to have a discussion with Anne-Maree Hawkesworth, Technical Training Manager of AstraZeneca, Australia before the 2015 GMPTEA Biennial Conference kicked off. Anne-Maree was in Orlando, Florida to present her concurrent session entitled Insights from ‘Inside Out’ – Employing lessons in neuroscience to facilitate successful learning” during the conference. As an avid fan and follower of the neuroscience literature being published, I was hungry to learn more and she generously gave up a few hours of her time to meet me with over a latte and a nibble of delicious chocolate from Australia.   What follows is a snippet of the exchanged dialogue.

Q: Why has neuroscience become so popular all of a sudden?

Actually it’s been around for a while. It’s not new, even though it sometimes seems that way. For example, look at Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve that is so frequently referenced. It was first introduced 1885. And there are other classic research studies available if you conduct a good search.

Q: Why do trainers need to pay attention to neuroscience and the recent literature?

Quite frankly, they need to start learning how to design their training using these principles. They have to stop lecturing from the slides and speaker notes.

Q: Okay, then what do they need to know?

Concepts like chunking, memory techniques, and the effects of multitasking. Multitasking is very bad for learning. You end up learning nothing. It becomes a waste and yet we are multi tasking now more than ever. For example, management is expecting us to do more. For example, take an e learning course and answer their emails while taking the course!

V- this means the design has to change.  AMH- exactly!

Q: We need help. What should trainers tell Management about neuroscience?

That less is actually more. Stop requiring us to dump more content in slides. We end up remembering less. If you won’t believe us, there’s scientific evidence to back up what we are saying! And don’t dictate how we use the classroom. For example, I have my learners standing for most of the sessions involving activities that I facilitate. In one of my sessions, I had removed the chairs from the room and used ZERO slides.   Imagine that! Oh and I love flip charts!

Bonus Tip: AMH shared a little secret with me. She revealed that Production folks like to do flip chart work. They just don’t want to be the spokesperson. So if you can get them past that, they’ll love being busy writing on the chart.

Q: I noticed that you didn’t include motivation in your slide deck. Was that intentional? How are they related?

I only had 60 minutes, but yes motivation is so very important. We have to keep them motivated to learn. We have to continually grab their attention.   It should be one of the 12 principles.

Q: Earlier you mentioned Chunking. What trends are you seeing in micro learning? Are you implementing any of it?

I am looking at small chunks of learning at the time you require the learning as opposed to “Just in Case” learning that tends to occur months in advance.  Micro-learning is great for follow-up to formal class room or eLearning to boost memory. I like micro-learning in the form of case studies and in particular branching scenarios. Cathy Moore has some great material on her blog and webinars on branching scenarios.

I also like to chunk information within my training and use lots of white space to help separate pieces of information, this helps in facilitating learning.

Q: I work with a lot of Qualified SME Trainers from Production.   How do you get past the brain lingo when you explain neuroscience?

You explain that there are parts of the brain that do different things at different times. There is no need to turn the session into brain science 101. I show them a slide or two and them move on.

Q: Earlier you mentioned “principles”. Can you elaborate on that?

I’d love to but we are near the end of our time together. I can recommend trainers look up John Medina’s 12 Brain Rules.  Briefly they are,

  1. Survival
  2. Stress
  3. Attention
  4. Sensory Integration
  5. Vision
  6. Exploration
  7. Exercise
  8. Sleep
  9. Wiring
  10. Memory
  11. Music
  12. Gender

Alas, I could have dialogued with her for the entire conference albeit, she was jet jagged and the latte was wearing off.   Thank you Anne-Maree for sharing your thoughts and effective classroom delivery techniques with us.   Together, we will shift the classroom design mindset.   -VB

Batteries Not Included: Not all Trainers come with Instructional Design skill set

So you are a Trainer. You know how to use Power Point (PPT) software and how to present in the classroom. Does this make you an Instructional Designer as well? Some say yes and others cry foul as they cling to their certificates and advanced degrees.   Instructional Design (ID) as a field of study has been offered by many prominent universities for quite some time and is now more known as Instructional Technology. Entire masters programs have been created to achieve this level of credentialing. So forgive me when I say, not every Trainer or Training Manager has the skill set or ID competency embedded in his/her toolbox.   It’s analogous to the toy box on the shelf at Toys R Us – “NOTE: Batteries Not Included”. Except in our case, the note may be missing from the resume, but definitely embedded into the job description! And for Compliance Trainers, the challenge becomes even more daunting to make GMP training lively.

Power Point Slides are only a visual tool

Interactive, immersive, engaging are great attributes that describe active training programs. But it comes at a price: an investment in instructional design skills. Using Power point slides does not make training successful. It’s one of the main tools a trainer uses to meet the objectives of the learning event, albeit a main one. It’s the design of the content/course that makes or breaks a training event. Yet, senior leaders are not grasping that just “telling them the GMPs” is not an effective delivery technique, nor is it engaging. Even if it’s backed up with a slide deck, its either “death by power point” or click to advance to next slide.   Koreen Pagano, in her June 2014 T & D article, “the missing piece”, describes it as “telling employees how to swim, then sending them out to sink, hoping they somehow can use the information we’ve provided to them to make it shore”, (p.42). To make matters worse, employees end up with disciplinary letters for deviations and CAPAs for failure to follow GMPs.

Look at the GMP Refresher outline for the last 3 years at your company. What is the ratio of content to interactivity? Oh, you say, those sessions are too large to pull off an activity? Rubbish, I respond. When I dig a little deeper, I usually discover a lack of ID skills and creativity is a factor. And then I hear, “Oh but we have so little time and all this content to cover, there’s no more room. If I had more time, you know, I’d add it in.” Koreen informs us that “training is supposed to prepare employees to be better, and yet training professionals often stop after providing content” (p.43).

Remind Me Again Why We Need Refreshers?

For many organizations the sole purpose of the training is to satisfy the compliance requirements. Hence, the focus is on just delivering the content. Ironically, the intent behind the 211.25 regulation is to ensure that employees receive training more than at orientation and frequently enough to remain current. The goal is to ensure compliance with GMPs and SOPs and improve performance where there are gaps. Improved business performance is the result and not just a check mark for 100% attended. And the practice of repeating the same video year after year as the annual refresher? Efficient yes, effective, well just look at your deviations and CAPA data to answer that one. When you shift your focus from delivering content only as the objective to a more learner centered design, your sessions become more performance oriented and your effectiveness reaches beyond just passing the GMP Quiz.

Cut Content to Add Interactivity

Unfortunately, full time trainers and SMEs have the “curse of too much knowledge” and it manifests itself in the classroom slide deck. STOP TALKING and get learners engaged in some form of activity, practice or reflection exercise. But please use some caution in moving from lecture to immersive techniques in one fell swoop! If your sessions are the typical gloom and doom lecture and you decide to jump right into games, you might have a mutiny in your next GMP refresher. Instead, you need to introduce participative exercises and interactivity slowly.   See No More Boring GMP Refreshers (impact story).

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Whose GMP Refresher is Boring NO More!

So how does a Compliance Trainer with limited ID skills and budget pull off a lively GMP Refresher? They attend GMP TEA Biennial Conferences year after year. During 2015 Conference, I will be teaching attendees how to move from passive lecture style GMP refreshers to active learner centered sessions via two concurrent sessions. One of the benefits of shifting to this design is the opportunity for learners to process the content, to make it meaningful for themselves and then associate memory links to it for later recall when the moment of need is upon them. This can’t happen while the trainer is lecturing. It happens during activities and reflection exercises designed to generate their own ideas during small group interactions and link it back to the course content/objectives. This is what Part 2 of the conference session is all about; brainstorming and sharing what GMP TEA members use for interactive activities related to GMPs. Visit gmptea.net for more about 2015 GMPTEA Conference agenda.

Hope to see you in both sessions! -VB


Pagano, K. “The Missing Piece”, T & D, June 2014, pp. 41 – 45.

Rock, D. “Your Brain on Learning”, CLO, May 2015, pp. 30 – 33,48.



With a little help from my Validation Colleagues – The Training Protocol

In the blog, “Learning on the Fly“, I blogged about an urgent learning need requiring instructor-led classroom delivery that needed to be facilitated among a group of talented SMEs.  During the needs assessment portion, I hit a huge barrier.

“I teach GMP Basics and conduct Annual GMP Refreshers several times a year and preach to audiences that you must follow the procedure otherwise it’s a deviation.  And in less than two weeks, I am expected to teach a process that is changing daily!   Yet on the other hand, how could I teach a work instruction that is known to be broken; is being re-designed and not yet finalized?”

My dilemma challenged the essence of my “learned” compliance belief system about following the 1st basic GMP principle – “thou shall follow written procedures”!  The instructional designer side of me screamed – how can you teach flawed content?  That’s wasted training that results in scrap learning. How is that training going to be effective beyond a check in the box?

And then it hit me – validation engineers use protocols to capture their “change in process” work.  Whether it’s experimental batches, 3 batches for process validation or *IQ-OQ-PQ protocols for equipment qualifications.  They are validating the procedure or the new process before it can become the standard operating procedure by developing the plan, developing acceptance criteria, managing the unexpected deviations and capturing the results.  So why couldn’t I borrow the concept and adapt it to my situation?

While it was the intention of the business unit leader to deviate from the approved set of work instructions, a planned deviation would not be appropriate in this case.  The purpose of the training sessions was to test the new sequence of steps and confirm the robustness of the criteria to make correct decisions where needed.  The learners would still be in compliance with the quality policy document and would still meet the intention of the quality system regulation.  They were essentially testing the future “how-to steps” for the proposed new work instructions.

Now before you fire off a rant of emails to me, I did not copy and paste the validation protocol template.  I did however, include a “please pardon our appearance while we are under construction” paragraph in the training plan to document the departure from the current set of work instructions.  This protocol like section also included our intentions for the outcomes of the sessions and stipulated required SOP training of all affected users once the finalized set of work instructions were approved and went into effect.

Sometimes the very solution can be found around the next cubicle.  –VB

*Installation Qualification, Operational Qualification, Performance Qualification

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.