Anyone who is responsible for the development of corporate training classes and programs, whether this falls within the role of a trainer or instructional designer, knows that what they develop has a potential to promote learning. However, it can be all too easy to rush through the developmental process, create a PowerPoint presentation filled with slides that have an overabundance of words, and believe that simply providing participants with the required information is enough. The problem with this approach is that retention of the information will be short-term at best and it is perpetuated by a belief that all training will be delivered in this manner. Corporate training does not need to be delivered with a single instructional style and rendered ineffective through poor design if time is devoted to process. There are seven innovative best practices that can be implemented as a means of developing classes that create optimal conditions for learning.
#1. Develop Content, Not Just Concepts
Many corporate training classes have mandatory subjects that must be delivered, which means that the content is already been pre-determined. However, there are other topics that require the development of curriculum from the ground up. For example, if a leadership development class is required it would be easy to come up with concepts or clever ideas that represent a serious thoughts about a topic related to this class. If this is followed through it can result in a disjointed series of ideas that fail to connect with the participants. When you develop content instead you are creating subject matter that is clearly stated, connected from one section to the next, presented in a logical manner, and flows easily when delivered.
#2. Design a Program, Not Just a Presentation
Many workplace educators have become accustomed to lecturing from a presentation rather than teaching from content. Developing a presentation with essential elements of the content built in is not enough to fully promote effective long-term retention of the information. It is essential to design a well-thought through program and that means creating a trainer guide first with the content mapped out prior to developing any of the instructional strategies. What this will do is help the trainer become well-versed in the subject matter and that will create a much more effective delivery when presented in class. Any presentations developed can then be used to enhance the process. One of the most effective methods of developing a program is to begin by establishing learning objectives or what it is you expect learners to have accomplished by the end of the class, whether it is related to skills, knowledge, or specific job-related abilities. This will guide the developmental process as strategies and activities can be linked to those objectives.
#3. Use PowerPoint as a Last Resort
It seems that PowerPoint presentations have become the standard and while it can be used in a fairly effective manner, people have become so accustomed to that mode of delivery they can easily tune it out. This is the reason why many new interactive and engaging presentation software programs have become popular and widely used by workplace educators who have studied the way that adults learn. The theory behind this approach is related to cognition or the method by which the mind processes information. When information is first received it is held in working or short-term memory. In order for true learning to occur it needs to move into long-term memory and this can only be accomplished when participants are actively engaged with information rather than just being dictated it through presentations. When there is too much information provided through overloaded PowerPoint presentation slides, cognitive load theory states that the information will be discarded. While poorly designed PowerPoint presentations have become commonplace it is possible to change this negative perception of training by trying a variety of tools and experimenting with them. As positive feedback is received it will provide the encouragement needed to continue to use newer interactive presentations.
#4. Back Up Everything with Research
This is a practice that can be implemented for brand-new curriculum or content that has already been pre-determined. The purpose of implementing this approach is to make certain that what is being delivered is accurate, relevant, current, and credible. While someone developing a training program may have great ideas and wealth of knowledge, is important to ascertain if this knowledge base is substantial enough to create curriculum. There are a couple of questions to consider and the first is: what is the current thinking and research in this field or related to this topic? The next question that can be asked is as follows: what are other organizations doing to train their employees on this topic? As you begin to find information related to the subject or topic be sure to assess what you are reading for credibility, relevance, and accuracy. You can do this by reviewing the author and the author’s credentials, along with the credentials of the source where the information has been published. Your credibility and the credibility of your curriculum depends on the credibility of your research.
#5. Learn the Basic Adult Learning Principles
A helpful principle to study is andragogy and one of the most important aspects of andragogy is the characterization of adults as self-directed learners. Self-directed refers to adult students being in charge of their education and making decisions about their involvement in the process. Adults have experience, they expect to be involved in the learning process, and they want to be responsible to some degree. In other words, adults want the knowledge they have gained to be relevant to their lives, meet specific career goals, or provide professional development. The primary challenge for utilizing this adult learning principle is that it can be easy to assume that all adults are ready and prepared to learn. If an adult lacks the academic skills necessary to be involved and participate in class it can interfere with their ability to learn.
Another helpful principle to learn about is the categorization of learning styles. The three most common styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. This means that adults learn differently and that is why a variety of instructional strategies must be utilized with the development of training curriculum. A helpful method of balancing andragogy and learning styles is to create hands-on activities that allow participants to engage with the information and work with it, especially when it is related to real-world issues and scenarios. While a training class will always need to be trainer-led to guide the process and deliver the materials, it can also be student-centered by including participants in the process. There are many principles related to adult learning; however, take time to learn these two as they will help to inform your instructional design.