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Who is the Author, Vivian Bringslimark?
(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.
For many organizations, the sole purpose of refresher training is to satisfy 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 checkmark 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.
From passive lecture GxP refreshers to active learner centered sessions
Yet, senior leaders are not grasping that just “telling them the GMPs” is not an effective training technique, nor is it engaging. Even if it’s backed up with a slide deck, it’s either “death by PowerPoint” or click to advance to the next slide for CBT refresher modules. 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 can end up with disciplinary letters for deviations and CAPAs for failure to follow GMPs.
Look at the GXP Refresher course outline for the last 3 years at your company. What is the ratio of content to interactivity? When I dig a little deeper, I usually discover a lack of instructional design skills, and minimal 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).
See What’s so special about SMEs as Course Designers?
What about using previously developed compliance materials?
I am not criticizing the use of previous course materials if they were effective. But asking an SME to “deliver training” using a previously created PowerPoint presentation does not guarantee effective delivery. Neither does replacing clip art with new images or updating the slide deck to incorporate the new company template. These visual “updates” are not going to change the effectiveness of the course unless the content was revised, and activities were improved.
For many SMEs and Trainers, 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 slide was not in the habit of entering his/her speaking points for someone else to deliver. Speaker notes embedded at the bottom of the notes pages within PowerPoint 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 managing other aspects of the course such as visual cues, tips for “trainer only” and managing handouts, etc.
The SME has the burden to make content decisions such as what content is critical; what content can be cut if time runs out. Perhaps even more crucial is how to adapt content and activities to different learner groups or off-shift needs. Without a leader’s guide, the SME is unsupported and will fall back on the lecture to fill in the duration of the course.
“SMEs put down those speaker’s notes and step away from the podium!” Vivian Bringslimark, HPIS Consulting, Inc.
Better Training Means an Investment in Instructional Design Skills
Interactive, immersive, engaging are great attributes that describe active training programs. But it comes at a price: an investment in instructional design skills. Trained course designers have spent time and budget to create an instructional design that aligns with business needs and has measurable performance outcomes. 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 in the classroom.
The Leaders Guide, invaluable for effective course delivery
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 Trainer/SME 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 such as virtual break out groups, etc.
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. SMEs as Facilitators (Instructor Led SMEs| ILT 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.
Given all the time and effort to produce the leader’s 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 markup their copy.
During the knowledge transfer session/ discussion with the course designer, ILT 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 ILT 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 ILT 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. For example, 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.
Why do ILT SMEs need their own Qualified Trainers workshop?
In order to pull this off, ILT SMEs need to learn how to facilitate learning experiences such as preparing to have a facilitated discussion. One of the biggest fears ILT SMEs have when asked to facilitate an exercise or an interactive activity is the fear of it bombing such as discussions.
Discussions can often bomb
While popular and commonly used, discussions can also fail miserably if not designed well. Relying on the SME to facilitate the discussion without carefully preparing the path to the targeted outcome is leaving it to chance that the SME knows how to execute the activity successfully. It includes the upfront questions to ask, pertinent examples as reference, and application type activities in which clarifying comments can be addressed.
“It takes effort to get out of your head and connect with individuals.” Ludwig, D. Training Industry, Fall, 2015, p. 23.
“… So as to remain current in the practices they perform …”
Is once a year GXP refresher enough? Before you rush to answer this question, consider the following. Do you have:
Then you might be sending the mixed message that your employees are NOT trained well enough or sufficient in their knowledge and application of the GXPs.
There’s a difference between GXP training content that is delivered as a repeat of the same materials vs. new and/or updated. Yes, new content takes resources and time. But, how many times do you want to sit through the same old slides and get nothing new from it? Recall the definition of insanity – doing more of the same while hoping for change. – VB
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. SMEs who attend an 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.
Hacking GMPs: Deliberate Attacks or Accidental Workarounds?
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Who is the Author, Vivian Bringslimark?
(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.
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, 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 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?
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
Silberman, M. (1990). Active Training: A Handbook of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples, and Tips. Lexington Books, New York.
Who is the Author, Vivian Bringslimark?
SME Impact Story: The Real Meaning of TTT
White Paper: Step Away From the Podium
(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.
Well maybe not the worst, but it’s the kind of stuff that makes a SME wake up in the middle of the night before delivering their first classroom session. Or cause a seasoned trainer to panic because she left the training rosters back at the other facility and cannot turn around to go get them! This is certainly not the way to begin a classroom session. Especially when the assignment is given last minute or with barely 24 hours notice to prepare and get mentally ready.
Yup, I’ve got it covered Boss.
And yet, there is an unspoken expectation about the SME’s ability to perform “like a full time trainer” because s/he is a subject matter expert and can train people. With all of the focus on the content, the perfectly worded slide deck, carefully designed activities, ample supply of handouts and possible workbooks, there isn’t any energy left to remember to do one thing more; except show up early for the session. So SMEs are kind of lulled into a false belief that they’ve got everything covered. And then it hits them that they forgot (….). Any full time trainer can fill in that line with an example and true tales from their classroom experiences.
So what’s a classroom trainer/facilitator to do?
It’s called a Materials Checklist Job Aid and I don’t leave home without mine, anymore. The list contains items needed to run a classroom session. Don’t assume that these items are stashed in conference rooms just waiting for your use. Ever write with one of those dried out magic markers? Seriously, I carry two sets of flipchart markers: mine and for learners. Plan on using flipcharts? There may be only one sheet left in the room and it could be written on by the time you arrive. The checklist contains other items also needed for activities and a spare box of pens because I’ve experienced sessions where employees come to class without pens.
Using pent up energy wisely
I now customize the checklist for each workshop I deliver. I include notes about which flipcharts need to be titled before the session begins and those for after lunch. And sometimes, I’ll list key reminders like “Know Your Opening” and “Nail Your Ending” as suggested from SME as Classroom Facilitators workshop so I am modeling what I teach as well. Having this list handy in my leaders guide, allows me to focus my energy on greeting the learners as they arrive and not running rampantly around the room in a panic trying to recover from a forgotten prop.