A Missing Ingredient
Let’s say you create a PowerPoint presentation; that means you’ve got a classroom program all ready to go, right? Wrong.
A training program requires more than: 1) an instructor, 2) the information that the instructor presents and 3) a roomful of learners. It also requires an ingredient that’s missing in most training: 4) tools that learners can use to supplement their learning long after the class. In other words, you need to provide materials for continued learning.
Whether you’re designing for another trainer or doing both the designing and the training, here are a few materials to consider for every classroom experience:
Participant guides: These can be as simple as a printout of your slides and script, or as complex as a booklet containing a summary of each main topic, followed by slides and exercises. Hand out the participant guides at the beginning of the presentation. Or, to save paper and printing time, make the document available for download before class via email, website or company network. Then encourage use of the guide during class. Learners can follow along with the presentation, write notes next to each topic, complete exercises and quizzes, and stay alert at all times. Finally, let learners hang on to their guide, since it serves as a refresher long after the class is over.
Practical tools: Don’t let the classroom experience become a faded memory after a few days. Give your learners some practical job aids to apply what they’ve learned, or provide other helpful tools to use every day. Depending on the class content, these might include troubleshooting tips, customer service scripts, manuals, formulas and calculations, product specification sheets or additional exercises.
References: You might have provided learners with a lot of information, but you should also give them the opportunity to learn even more—again, to continue the learning experience. You can do that by offering an annotated, categorized reference list of books, articles, websites and other sources that you used in your presentation (or might have been used, if you didn't already have too much curriculum). Then, a few weeks later, follow up by email and highlight interesting “Did You Know?” excerpts from several of these sources. This gives your learners added incentive to continue the knowledge quest on their own.
Offering these materials will add a significant amount of time (and a little bit of cost) to the development process. But learning something new and important isn’t easy, and helping your learners gain and retain that knowledge is certainly worth the trouble. While there’s a good chance that some learners will toss your material into their desk to gather dust, it’s also possible that they’ll refer to it and refresh their memory, instead of spending valuable time cleaning up their mistakes.
One final tip: We’ve addressed the classroom experience, but don’t forget to include downloadable materials in online learning programs. Most elearning design tools and learning management systems give designers the ability to include documents and web links—so learners can easily review them before, during or after the course.