The last several weeks we have been going through how to conduct a needs assessment to know what training is needed. For the next few weeks we will talk about preparing for training. As before I will take you through several steps or phases of that preparation. Those phases include:
- Developing curriculum
- Preparing the space and equipment
- Getting materials ready
- The day of training
This phase is about developing the curriculum. This is not intended to be a short course in instructional design – because there is no such thing. Developing effective curriculum takes hours of training for a designer and years of practice to develop their craft. This post is intended to give a trainer some hints and suggestions about potential trouble spots to watch for that may make your training less than effective for your learners. Some of it you might do yourself and some would be a conversation with an instructional designer (assuming you’re not doing it all yourself).
The curriculum you will use in your training can come from several different sources. It may be a package that you purchased from a vendor for this topic, it may be something that was developed in house previously as part of regular training, or it may be training curriculum that you are developing from scratch to meet this need. Regardless of where the training content comes from, there are several things you should do with it before you present it to learners.
First, do the learning objectives/outcomes align with both the needs uncovered in your survey and the company’s values and mission? Too often packaged curriculums were actually written for another business or purpose and then resold to further monetize the time spent developing it. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with that curriculum – it just may not be fully aligned with your needs. If the curriculum was developed previously within your company, your company’s mission/vision/values may have changed over time and what you will be teaching may not be in sync with current mission, processes or procedures. A review of the learning objectives/outcomes before you began may save you from having to adapt while in front of learners. Also, remember that it isn’t just the statements that need to be reviewed but also the examples and activities may need to be tweaked to match current needs.
Activities and Examples
Second, do the activities and examples in the content match the current processes and procedures? Even if the activities and examples are aligned with learning objectives and outcomes, the actual processes the learners will be doing may have changed.
I was training in a call center a few years ago, and the process and pictures for answering a call were for a previous phone system. It had no value for the learners I had in my class. I had to develop a new set of instructions with pictures for that particular module. While what I developed wasn’t a major part of a seven-day training, it was a huge part of the success or failure of my learners when they got to the floor. Not to mention that being able to walk them through what they were going to be doing for real in two weeks reduced some of the stress in an already stressful situation.
Using current examples that are laid out similarly and have the same words in the same place helps learners to retain knowledge. The exactness required may even be down to the same colors of buttons or areas on forms.
Again, at the call center I would give my learners practice scenarios as close to the real thing as possible. Using those scenarios in a classroom setting allowed us to stop in mid-scenario and brainstorm other options to handle difficult situations. We started with some easy situations and built to some that had no good resolution. This helped them to work through hard problems without worrying about lasting effects on someone’s life.
Another thing to check – do you have the right to make changes to the curriculum. Some curricula are sold in such a way as to prohibit changes. Also, there may be a training department further up the chain of command that controls that content being delivered across several different locations. It isn’t unusual for all changes to have to be approved by this higher power. Finally with copyright, be sure that you can use the images, examples, and documents you are adding. In a training situation, you do have the right to fair use of outside materials. Talk to someone with a good knowledge of copyright laws before adding materials you find through an Internet search to your curriculum.
The last step in developing/adapting a curriculum is to beta test the curriculum on a group that is similar to your learners. Beta testing on other trainers isn’t always a good idea; they may read steps or concepts into your material that aren’t there. If they do, you may not get an accurate evaluation of your curriculum. Try to find a group for your beta test that is similar to your learners (with a similar background knowledge and skill set) you will have more useful feedback about your curriculum. Be sure to understand and use the feedback to improve your curriculum before presenting it to your learners.
I’m sure I left out some details but this should give you a good start on developing your curriculum for training.