Effective Instructional Design
News Flash…great courses don’t happen by accident.
They say sometimes the sun even shines on a dog’s, uh, backside. But too many things need to go right to expect that same dog to create a great training course! Among the most important things that must go right is instructional design.
Adult learning is more complex than most people realize, and because of this, instructional design is the lifeblood of good training. Whether online, mobile, instructor led, or some Blended Learning combination, it takes a well thought-out design for training to be effective.
What You Can Expect
At ThinkingKap, our goal is to take a problem-centered approach, with content that simulates real world scenarios. But it doesn’t stop there. Our design strategies take into account everything from current trends in training, to adult learning psychology, and even brain science, to optimize and contextualize training for maximum effect.
One psychological factor in training is something called cognitive load. Simply put, our brains can only take in so much at a time. Have you ever tried to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? That is an example of cognitive load.
When designing training, creating parallel learning pathways—i.e. audio and video–is good as long as the concepts conveyed in those pathways do not compete for attention to the point the learner can’t focus on either. Our brains really can’t do two things at once, especially when both of those things are new.
Good design also matches the right learning strategies to the right medium. eLearning is fundamentally different from classroom instruction, and the design for each delivery method must be deeply integrated into the structure of the training.
ThinkingKap starts every design project envisioning what success looks like by ensuring we have clear learning objectives. These define what someone should be able to do after completing the course, and they form the foundation for the course design. Objectives get at the “what” AND the “why” behind your course.
Learning objectives remain our compass as we navigate this process. By understanding where we’re going, we can see more clearly what is essential, and what isn’t. Come on, admit it, you think ALL your information is important. And maybe it is, but not necessarily to a new learner.
That’s the next design step, to sift through your information to find out, given the audience you’re designing for, what’s important, what isn’t, what’s important but can wait, and what’s the best sequence to present the information to make learning efficient. The goal is to avoid overloading students or “info dumping” at all costs!
The essence of teaching is to support the bridge between what learners know already and what they need to learn. Our design strategies help connect the dots between the knowledge they need and when they need it, in a manner that’s adapted for their context. Too often, designers get in their own way by throwing too much at learners and obstructing the message. We’ll help you design a clear and efficient path to their success.
The benefits of good training are clear. You get better work out of your team, and you face less financial risk from the mistakes that happen when people lack training.
The source of good training is just as clear: Learners get the most out of a course when it’s well designed. A careless design, on the other hand, will cause them to tune out and retain little.
Service in Action
One of our clients wanted help with a project that involved rolling out a family of new building automation products that control critical environments. The challenge was that they had one classroom laboratory already set up with the legacy controllers, and needed to utilize the same laboratory for the new controllers. So, we had two laboratories that needed to share the same physical space and critical environment equipment. We had an existing course to use as a baseline, but no one at the client yet knew exactly how the new controllers would impact the existing instructor material, since product development was in flux. In addition, the client wanted to reduce the length of the course from 4 days to 3 days.
ThinkingKap’s instructional designers became immersed in content analysis of both old and new material to see where there might be overlap and where processes and procedures would vary depending upon which controller – old or new – was installed. This involved comparing product content, workflow processes and procedures, and laboratory layouts. The result was a design strategy that included:
- Pulling some of the content out of the old ILT course and turning it into eLearning.
- Reusing critical environment overview content.
- Creating a lab tour to reinforce and support various types of lab equipment.
- Creating a case study around the classroom laboratory.
- Museum placards to identify all laboratory equipment, controllers, and sensors.
- Recommendations for creating wiring toggles between old and new products.
- Logistics for equipment needed to support hands-on practice activities.
- Course map with activities and hands-on lab exercises identified.
- Gap analysis for identified content, processes, and procedures.
In this case, you can see the instructional designer can end up wearing many different hats. That’s because the designer is concerned about more than just the learning objectives. The designer also has to be concerned about the context and environment in which the training occurs; removing barriers that might get in the way of learning; and doing everything possible to ensure training runs smoothly.
Engage the Learner
To effectively train the adult learner you need to engage them in the material — this course provided just that. It was cleverly written, specific to our business functions, and welcomed an enjoyable way to learn a topic which can be uninteresting.