GoalBullsEye"Content covered is not content learned."

-Ruth Clark

 

As content developers, we decide on the way training materials are organized, the resources used in the training, the sequence and organization of the training, and the exercises and activities to be included.

To do this effectively, it’s important to always refer to the results of the needs assessment, skill profile of the target audience, specific and measurable learning objectives, assessment items, and the complexity of the training content. Armed with those important resources and points of reference, we can now begin a content analysis to determine the best way to present the content. A content analysis simply refers to the act of identifying, organizing, and closely examining any source materials that you’re going to use as the basis for the training.

 

To do this, we should first be aware of the overall goals of the training, which could fall into any of the three categories listed below:

  1. Inform – Simply put, this is training that communicates information, such as facts and concepts.  Training designed for this type of learning goal primarily involves transferring information to students while they process the information.
  2. Perform (procedure) – This is training that allows for a more direct approach and involves the teaching of skills that will be put into practice immediately and often.
  3. Perform (principle) – This is training that builds strategic skills.  It involves scenario-based activities that allow students freedom to explore and discover with minimal direction or guidance.

 

 

Again, a proper needs assessment will help you identify the appropriate training goal. Once you have identified the overall goal of the training, you can more effectively match the training method to that goal.  For example, if the goal of the training is to inform, you may want to incorporate pre-reading.  If the overall goal is to perform (principle), you may want to present a scenario and ask students to make decisions based on the details of the scenario.  It’s worth noting that, depending on the breadth and scope of the subject matter, you might have a multiple goals for one training program.

With your goals clearly defined, you’re next task is to organize your content into logical chunks.  There are some general guidelines that are important to remember when organizing your training content, which I’ve listed below.

Tips for Organizing Content: 

  • Make sure the training progresses logically from one idea to the next and include an introduction and summary for each lesson
  • Identify areas that are lacking, outdated, or require enhancement and conduct additional research as needed
  • Distill the material to main ideas and vital information by reducing or “chunking” the content
  • Use headings, white space, bullets, and bold text to group ideas and call out important information. 
    • Use headings to organize your information for the reader
    • Use white space to enhance the readability of the page
    • Use bullets to group ideas or list points to remember
    • Use bold text or graphics to call out important information
  • Look for opportunities to build scenarios and “tell stories” while engaging the learners and allowing them to interact with the content by making decisions and applying/practicing the skills being trained

Another important element of developing your content is to consider your deployment strategy.  The common settings for instruction—instructor-led, online, self-paced, and blended instruction—have specific requirements related to delivery/deployment.  While this topic is worthy of a separate article (coming soon!), the key point I would like to underscore here is … test, test, test.  Create a prototype of your eLearning and test it early so that you have time to recalibrate before it’s time to launch.  If your training is instructor-led, conduct a pilot to test the materials.

Finally, while training is not typically evaluated until it is underway, you should always plan your evaluation strategy early in the instructional design process, usually well before the actual training begins.  Know the overall business goals of the training and ensure you instructional design strategy aligns to those goals. The ability to show that the training provided the benefit is was intended, in relation to the costs; helps provide stakeholders with objective information on the success of the program.

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