Batteries Not Included: Not All Trainers are Instructional Designers or Classroom Facilitators

When I left the manufacturing shop floor and moved into training, full-time trainers presented in the classroom using a host of techniques, tools and relied on their platform skills to present content.  Subject matter experts (or the most senior person) conducted technical training on the shop floor in front of a piece of equipment, at a laboratory station, or a workbench. 

For years, this distinction was clearly practiced where I worked.  Trainers were in the classroom and SMEs delivered OJT.  Occasionally a “fulltime” trainer would consult with an SME on content or request his/her presence in the room during delivery as a back-up or for the Q & A portion of a “presentation”.  It seemed that the boundaries at the time, were so well understood, that one could determine the type of training simply by where it was delivered.

Training boundaries are limitless today

Today, that’s all changed.  No longer confined to location or delivery methods, fulltime trainers can be found on the shop floor fully gowned delivering GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) content for example. And SMEs are now in the classroom more each day with some of the very tools used by fulltime trainers!   What defines a fulltime trainer from an SME is less important, what is necessary however is what defines effective instruction.

Your title might have the word trainer in it.  One of your responsibilities might be a qualified trainer. And you know how to use PowerPoint (PPT). 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. 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 if you are QA L&D or HR Training and Development.

Instructional Design is a recognized profession 

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.  Underlying the design of a course or a learning event, is a methodology for “good” instructional design and really good instructional designers will confess that there is a bit of an art form to it as well.  Unfortunately, with shrinking budgets and downsized L&D staff, there are less resources available to develop traditional course materials of the past.  Not to mention, shrinking timelines for the deliverables.  So, it makes sense to tap SMEs for more training opportunities since many are already involved in training at their site.  But, pasting their expert content into a PPT slide deck is not instructional design. 

What is effective design? 

Basic Elements of Course Design

To me, effective design is when learners not only meet the learning objectives during training but also transfer that learning experience back on the job and achieve performance objectives / outcomes.  That’s a tall order for an SME, even for fulltime trainers who have not had course design training. 

The methodology a course designer follows be that ADDIE, Agile, SAM (Successive Approximation Model), Gagne’s 9 Conditions of Learning, etc., provides a process with steps for the design rationale and then development of content including implementation and evaluation of effectiveness.  It ensures that key elements are not unintentionally left out or forgotten about until after the fact like evaluation/ effectiveness or needs assessment.  In an attempt to expedite training, these methodology driven elements are easily skipped without fully understanding the impact of leaving them out can have on the overall training effectiveness.  There is a science to instructional design. 

PowerPoint Slides are only a visual tool

Using PowerPoint slides by themselves does not make the training successful.  It’s one of the main tools a trainer uses to meet the objectives of the learning event, albeit the main one. The “art form” occurs when a designer creates visually appealing slides / eLearning scenes as well as aligned activities and engaging exercises designed to provide exploration, practice, and proficiency for the performance task back on the job.  But there is a difference between a course that is created to help the Trainer achieve his/her agenda and one that successfully engages learners to participate, learn and then transfer their insights back home to the job where changed behavior improves the department’s metrics.

The more trainer/instructor driven the course is, the less participation is required from the learner. For example, the instructor makes all the decisions about the course objectives and content, develops the course, delivers the course, and conducts the assessment.

From passive to active to immersive

As you move along the Learner Participation Continuum, the learner is required to participate more, and the trainer does less “talking”. The learner acquires knowledge and skills through activities that s/he experiences with the assistance of a “facilitator”.  The facilitator is focused on helping the learners meet their needs and interests. It is through these firsthand experiences and facilitated dialogue with other learners that thoughtful analysis and interpretation can become the focus of the instruction. The end result is that learners take full responsibility for decisions, actions and consequences.

Moving from Presenter Controlled Training to Learner Focused Facilitation

Moving to a more Learner Focused approach shifts the effort of the design from “deliver this content” to facilitate learning transfer for performance back on the job; which is after all the end goal for a training event. The new design includes opportunities for group participation, utilization of participants’ expertise, and real-life problem solving; key principles of adult learning.

On the one end of the continuum is the lecture which is one-way communication and requires very little participation.  At the other end, we have experiential learning and now immersive learning environments with the introduction of 3D graphics, virtual simulations, and augmented reality.

Most Trainers and SMEs tend to suffer from the “curse of too much knowledge” and find it difficult to separate the need-to-know from the nice-to-know content.  As a result, it shows up in the slide deck with overburdened slides filled with a lot of “stuff”.  Training for them takes on a lecture-style format. The thought of facilitating an activity gives most SME a case of jitters and anxiety.

So, in the “SME as Facilitator” workshop, nominated SMEs as Facilitators are encouraged to step away from the podium and use their eyes, hands, and voice to engage with their audience. Easier said than done, yes. That’s why the course is designed to allow them to take small steps within the safety of a workshop environment.

But rather than trying to pull off a fully immersive session, SMEs as Facilitators are introduced to techniques that “liven up” the lecture. They are shown how to move back and forth from passive listening (sit, hear, see) to active involvement (write, construct, discuss, move, speak). This requires the ability to:

  • follow a well-organized design plan
  • capture and hold the attention of learners
  • use relevant examples and deviations if possible
  • show authentic enthusiasm
  • involve audience both directly and indirectly
  • respond to questions with patience and respect.

While lecture has its merits, today’s learners want engaging content; that is timely, relevant and meaningful.  And while virtual reality and simulations are engaging and very immersive, courses and learning events using these techniques rely on well-funded budgets.  Most Training Departments are not that fortunate.   In the middle of the range are “lively lectures” and alternate methods such as:

  • Shift one step to right to begin the move to active learningDemonstrations
  • Case Study
  • Guided Teaching
  • Group Inquiry
  • Read and Discuss
  • Information Search.

Take the 1st shift right.

It’s really about starting with the learners’ expectations and the current organizational culture and then moving one step to the right. If they are used to lectures from SMEs, then work on delivering effective lectures before experimenting with alternate training methods. The overnight shift may be too big of a change for the attendees to adjust to despite their desire for no more boring lectures. Small incremental steps are the key.

Shift to the right when ready for the upgrade

Moving from Lecture to Delivering an EFFECTIVE Lecture

Thoroughness in the preparation reflects care and thoughtfulness. Learners appreciate the personal desire to deliver a livelier lecture. Stepping away from the podium forces the Trainer/SME to take action and allow the learners to “get up close” with the SME as Facilitator. This in turn is reflected in the learner’s desire to respond to questions and dialogue during a facilitated discussion. The rule of thumb for lecturing is approximately 8-10 minutes max. For virtual sessions, the rule of thumb is approximately 5 minutes. 

Take the 2nd Shift: Cut Content to Add Interactivity

How is this done? Upfront in the design of the course materials. The course designers have spent time and budget to prepare a leader’s guide that captures their vision for delivering the course.  SMEs as Facilitators (Classroom SMEs) need to study the leader’s guide and pay attention to the icons and notes provided there. These cues indicate the differentiation from lecture, to an activity whether that be self, small group, or large group. While it may be tempting to skip exercises to make up for lost time, it is better for learner participation to skip lecture and modify an activity if possible.

“STOP TALKING and get learners engaged in some form of activity, practice or reflection exercise”, Vivian Bringslimark, HPIS Consulting, Inc. 

One of the benefits of shifting to this learner focused 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.  Learners are prompted to openly discuss issues and problems within a “learning lab” style environment. Trainers become empathetic listeners as they create a climate of trust and safety. They become a Facilitator.

Of course, this shift also requires that site leadership and local management not only support the facilitated learning lab concept but follow through on issues and concerns that surface. Failure to do so undermines not only the facilitator’s credibility but the entire training program.

Wow, won’t this take longer to design, you ask?  Yes, in the sense that the design is now from the learner’s point of view. This means that the designer will need to research examples, collect data, and might have to develop a story from an incident, a deviation or significant CAPA, etc. The reward is that the Trainer/ Classroom SME stops talking and gives employees more engaging learning sessions. So learners become more accountable for participating and guess what – the SME’s session is no longer a boring podium speech

References:

Silberman, M. (1990). Active Training: A Handbook of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples, and Tips.  Lexington Books, New York.

Who is the Author, Vivian Bringslimark?

HPISC Library has articles, impact stories and white papers.

SME Impact Story: The Real Meaning of TTT

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Compliance Training: No More Passive Learning

Special Thanks to LTEN for Publishing this article!

Looking for inspiration to liven up a lecture? I have 10 ideas for you.

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No More Boring GMP Lectures |Impact Story about how to introduce more interactivity into GMP Refresher sessions.

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Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

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Is Your Quality Training SOP Sufficient?

Is your response, “Yes!” or is it “Yea, I think so. How can I be sure?”

  • Are you trying to explain what you do for training or describe how your site handles the Quality Training System?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Who are the procedures being written for?

There shall be written procedures even for training!

Step back and take a big view of training from start to finish. There are three distinct segments: (1) preparation, (2) delivery, and (3) measuring effectiveness. To some leaders, the idea of creating more than one training procedure for these three segments is baffling.  Training isn’t that hard. Why are you making this so complicated, they ask?  The simpler the process is, the easier it is to follow and administer, is what they are really thinking.

Yet, training root cause analyses involving operator or human error often yields some contributing factors around how the individual was trained.  On the Job Training is not that simple after all and requires more than a check on someone’s to-do list.  Find out why in the e-Book, Training Root Cause Analysis. In spite of this, the level of detail in Training SOPs is always a concern for both SOP Author and Approver.    

But SMEs like KISS for Training

From an end-user perspective, I need enough detail so I can accomplish what I need to do without over-complicating my task, stay within compliance, and be effective as a qualified trainer. Since most Qualified Trainers are not full-time training professionals, the training procedures become their how-to tools not just a bunch of QA or HR rules about training. Without defining what your program includes and how to execute it, Qualified Trainers and other SMEs will conduct their training delivery assignments in a manner that is as simple as possible and may not be 100% compliant. Administrative procedures are not for them, they argue.

It takes 6 elements to make a training system robust

The big view of training may have 3 Big Blocks (preparation, delivery, and measuring effectiveness), but it takes 6 elements to execute it well.   They are:

  • GxP and Training Curricula
  • Planned OJT for Procedures
  • Use of Qualified Trainers
  • Employee Qualification and Training Effectiveness Measures
  • On-Going GxP Refresher Series
  • Training Documentation Process
6 Elements of a Robust Training System

For each of these elements, there needs to be a set of “how-to-execute” instructions. However, it is not enough to describe what these elements are. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation and inconsistent documentation or no documentation at all. For example:

  • Are you documenting on-the-job training; every time or just select sessions?
  • Does your organization complain about over-allocated curricula?
  • Do they understand the documentation requirements for your LMS?
  • Does your training document explain how to conduct OJT? You’d be surprised just how many different techniques SMEs have for conducting OJT on their watch.
  • Can anyone who has a signed training record be a department trainer? If yes, you need to upgrade your criteria and create a process around nominating and qualifying SMEs for OJT. Training is on the top 10 list for inspections.

So how is this not complicating Training?

The debate for the 1 All-Encompassing SOP (standard operating procedure) vs. multiple tailored work instructions will always bring comments after the latest version goes into effect. This includes non-QT end-user feedback criticizing how complicated and confusing the procedures are!  When pressed further for specifics, most admit that they just want to train themselves and not deal with the documentation requirements. So, addressing one set of concerns can actually create more complaints around the very changes. See the table below for pros and cons.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.23.53 AM
Pros and Cons for One AP Training SOP vs. Smaller, Multiple Work Instructions

Remind me again who these procedures are for?

The real question is to what level of detail is appropriate.  And the answer lies in the culture of the department and the company’s history with the FDA.  I once worked in an organization where the procedures were stripped to bare essentials, even the definitions were removed!  A recent warning letter left battle scars for the General Manager.

But seriously, how much is enough? Another way to answer this question is by looking at your document control hierarchy of documents.  If your site differentiates between SOPs and Work Instructions, the need for detail can be relocated into a suitable work instruction that is designed to provide detailed how-to steps.  AKA Level 3 type documents.  Refer to the diagram below.  The SOP (Level 2) can then provide a broader high-level overview addressing “the what” without getting encumbered into the “how-to execute” steps.  Some document pyramids include a Level 4 in which much detail can be used for training purposes.

A screenshot of text

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Referring to Document Pyramid determines level of appropriate detail

Back to the opening question

While addressing ease of navigation and use concerns is laudable, it is not always realistic to satisfy all users.  You need to explain what your Training “Program” contains, a high level policy that answers “the what”.  But you also need to describe how your training is conducted.  Ask yourself the following two questions:

  • Does the “Training SOP” contain many pages detailing steps for each of the 6 elements?  This is an indicator that you need to consider some Level 3 Work Instructions.
  • Do you have too many standalone task-focused SOPs (or Level 3 Work Instructions) that could be grouped into a few larger processes?  Recall the 3 Big Blocks of Training

From experience working with SME teams, three “how-to” procedures are usually sufficient: preparation process, delivery and documentation process, and measuring training effectiveness process.  So the next time you find yourself in the level of detail discussion, consider which of the levels (1,2,3,4) is the best place to park your “detailed” content. – VB

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

Think your Training SOP could use a makeover? How about a document review?

Interested to see how the 3 Big Blocks of Training and the 6 Elements of a Robust Training System all interface with each other? Send your email request above.

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.