Instructional Design: Not Just for Full Time Trainers Anymore

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 work bench.

For years, this distinction was clearly practiced where I worked. Trainers were in the classroom and SMEs delivered OJT. Occasionally a “full time” trainer would consult with a 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, full time 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 full time trainers! What defines a full time trainer from a SME is less important, what is imperative however is what defines effective instruction.

Instructional Design is a recognized profession

What goes into good instructional design?

Believe it or not, instruction design (ID) / instructional technology is a degreed program offered at numerous colleges and universities. Underlying the design, is a methodology for “good” course 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 staffs, there are less resources available to develop training materials. Not to mention, shrinking time lines 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 power point slide deck is not instructional design. Nor is asking a SME to “deliver training” using a previously created power point presentation effective delivery.

What is effective 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 a SME, even for full time 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 Principles, etc., provides a process with steps to facilitate 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 the consequences can have on overall training effectiveness. There is a science to instructional design.

The “art form” occurs when a designer creates visually appealing slides and 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. The course materials “package” is complete when a leader’s guide is also created that spells out the design rationale and vision for delivery, especially when someone else will be delivering the course such as SMEs as Classroom Facilitators.

The Leaders Guide

Speaker notes embedded at the bottom of the notes pages within power point slides is not a leader’s guide. While handy for scripting what to say for the above slide, it does not provide ample space for facilitating other aspects of the course such as visual cues, tips for “trainer only” and managing handouts, etc. A well-designed leader’s guide has the key objectives identified and the essential learning points to cover. These learning points are appropriately sequenced with developed discussion questions to be used with activities; thus removing the need for the facilitator to think on demand while facilitating the activity. This also reduces the temptation to skip over the exercise/activity if s/he is nervous or not confident with interactive activities.

A really good guide will also include how to segue to the next slide and manage seamless transitions to next topic sections. Most helpful, are additional notes about what content MUST be covered, tips about expected responses for activities and clock time duration comments for keeping to the classroom schedule. Given all the time and effort to produce the leaders guide, it is wasted if the course designer and SME as Facilitator do not have a knowledge transfer session. Emailing the guide or downloading it from a share point site will not help the SME in following the guide during delivery unless an exchange occurs in which SMEs can begin to mark up his/her copy.

Using previously developed materials

I am not criticizing previous course materials if they were effective. But replacing clip art with new images and updating the slide deck to incorporate the new company background is not going to change the effectiveness of the course unless content was revised and activities were improved. For many SMEs, having a previous slide deck is both a gift and a curse.

While they are not starting with a blank storyboard, there is a tendency to use as-is and try to embellish it with speaker notes because the original producer of the power point slide did not include them or worse, provided no leader’s guide. The SME has the burden to make content decisions such as what content is critical; what content can be cut if no time. Perhaps even more crucial is how to adapt content and activities to different learner groups or off-shift needs. SMEs who attend a HPISC. ID basics course learn how to use design checklists for previously developed materials.   These checklists allow them to confidently assess the quality of the materials and justify what needs to be removed, revised or added; thus truly upgrading previously developed materials.

What’s so special about SMEs as Course Designers?

They have expertise and experience and are expected to share it via training their peers. But now the venue is the classroom as well. It’s training on course design methodology that is needed. SMEs and most trainers do not automatically have this knowledge. Some develop it by reading A LOT, attending well-designed courses, and over time with trial and error and painful feedback. The faster way is to provide funds to get SMEs as Course Designers at least exposed to how to effectively design for learning experiences so that they can influence the outcome of the objectives. This is management support for SMEs as Trainers. -VB

Facilitating the Shift from Passive Listening to Active Learning

On the one end of “The Learner Participation Continuum” is lecture which is a 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.

In the middle of the range are effective “lectures” and alternate methods such as:

  • Demonstrations
  • Case Study
  • Guided Teaching
  • Group Inquiry
  • Read and Discuss
  • Information Search.

Shift one step to right to begin the move to active learningNow before you insist that the SME as Facilitator move to the far right and conduct only immersive sessions, a word of caution is in order. 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 is the key.

How is this done? Upfront in the design of the course materials. The course designers have spent time and budget to prepare a leaders 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.

During the knowledge transfer session/ discussion with the course designer and/or instructor, Classroom SMEs make notes of how the instructor transitions from one slide to the next and how s/he provided instruction for the activity. This is a good time for Classroom SMEs to ask how to modify content or an activity if certain conditions should occur. Especially important for SMEs to ask is what content is critical and what content can be skipped if time runs short. It is always a good idea for the Classroom SME to mark-up his/her copy of the materials. And then again after the first delivery to really make it their own leader’s guide. -VB

Speaking of personalizing their leaders’ guide, SMEs may want to experiment with different ways to “open a session” to get experience with a variety of techniques and observe which ones yield better results.

Moving from Lecture to Delivering an EFFECTIVE Lecture

While lecture has its merits, today’s learners want engaging content that is timely, relevant and meaningful. Yet, most 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.

Presenting 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 HPISC. “SME as Facilitator” workshop, attendees 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 (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 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.

Great presentations are like great movies. They open with an attention-seeking scene, have drama and conflict in the middle so you stick around long enough to see the hero survive and they close on a memorable note. Using the movie analogy, a SME as Facilitator can open the session with something more than his/her bio. They can pick a notable career achievement that most folks aren’t aware of.  Keeping the interest alive, the SME can then draw the connection of content to the audience and address the WIIFM question on everyone’s mind. (WIIFM = What’s in it for me?)

While we don’t need to add to anyone’s stress load, overcoming conflict makes for great story telling. Case studies, major CAPAs, deviations and audit observations make it real life. Use of visuals especially diagrams is visually appealing to learners and keeps them engaged. (CAPA= Corrective Actions Preventive Action Investigations)

Thoroughness in the preparation reflects care and thoughtfulness. Learners appreciate the personal desire to deliver a more lively lecture. Therefore, I like to use the concept of a lecturette; 10 minute blocks of time to chunk up complex topics. Interspersing a 10—15 minute lecture segment with an activity whether self, small group or stand up at the flipchart, gives learners the opportunity to engage with new and/or more complex content in smaller doses.

Stepping away from the podium forces the SME to take action and allow the learners to “get up close” with the SME as Facilitator. This in turn is reflected in the learners desire to respond to questions and dialogue during a facilitated discussion. The rule of thumb for lecturing is approximately 20 minutes max. But with today’s technology buzzing away at your fingertips or on the tabletop, I’d say more like 10 or 15 minutes max if you are an engaging facilitator.

difference between a novice and wise teacher

Remember, the goal of a session is to maximize retention of the audience, not just tell them the content. Attendees learn more if the SME as Facilitator can focus their attention on the topic and deliver content that is relevant to their work situation. Involving the learners in a variety of ways is the key to effective lectures and great presentations. – VB

You might also want to get up to speed with current trend for SMEs – check out the blog post – Are your SMEs becoming duo purposed? Comments welcomed.

Moving from Presenter Controlled Training to Learner Focused Facilitation

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.

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 first hand 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 to a more Learner Controlled approach shifts the focus 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 program includes opportunities for group participation, utilization of participants’ expertise and real life problem solving.

Learners are prompted to openly discuss issues and problems within the “learning lab”. 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 develop a story from an incident, a deviation or significant CAPA, etc.

The reward is that the 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. — VB

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

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

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

References:

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.