Excerpts from this 6 hour course highlight several aspects of my approach to the design and development of instructor-led training sessions. This product training is for the SMART Response interactive response system, a software and hardware-based assessment product for K-12 educators. The course materials for this session include a facilitator's guide, learner workbook and presentation file.
This course teaches a product that - in its most basic form - follows a linear, repeated use process. In a basic use situation, the learner must simply follow that process in the correct order. The process itself, however, involves several sub-procedures, varies somewhat between models, has a set of adjustable variables, and is arguably not as intuitive as might be desired.
The following images show how I structured the course iteratively to ensure that all learners walk away with a high level of comfort with this basic use process, while providing space for the trainer to extend the instruction towards strategic use for more experienced session participants. The overall design objective was an “Extraordinary made simple” experience, where learners leave the session with a high comfort in basic use of the system and a sense of what is strategically possible with the technology.
I include integration activity points throughout my course designs, regardless of whether they are instructor-led or asynchronous, but it is certainly easier to integrate effectively in an instructor-led situation. Integration activities relate the instruction and the product to the learner’s daily work to ensure that each learner knows how the instruction adds value to their individual routine. The following activity appears at the beginning of the course to set a context and generate motivation for learning, and again at the end of the course to aid the integration component of the instructional cycle and encourage transfer of learning.
One of the design challenges with this session was that several models of the product exist, which have a core use pattern, but differ in use to varying degrees. Users of a variety of product models were likely to be in any one session and it would not be possible for the trainer to know the distribution of users in advance. Additionally, from both a product marketing perspective and a learning perspective, it was desirable to emphasize the similarities between models rather than the differences.
In response to this challenge, I created a course structure and supporting materials that emphasized core product use but enabled the training specialist to differentiate their instruction when learners of that model were present. Learners set themselves up to use their model at the outset of the session and established homogenous practice groups with other learners of that model. Pull tabs were used in the presentation file to enable the trainer to focus on core material unless it was necessary to mention a deviation. The information on the tabs was a support to the trainers as much as to the learners, because it’s difficult for a trainer to remember the subtle differences between each model. During activities, modifications were outlined in the facilitator’s guide and presentation file when necessary.
Addressing the variety of abilities and skill-levels within a learning group is always a concern with instructor-led training. Because this course is for an accessory product, sold as an optional or added-on component to a system, training sessions for the product tend to have an uncomfortable mixture of power-users and complete technology novices.
Although this course is intended for novice users, I used several techniques to differentiate the instruction and enable the trainer to be flexible with the pace and content in order to accommodate the variety of abilities.