My father built additions to people’s houses. Before he began any new job, he would ask himself lots of questions. These questions would guide him as he went forward with any project. What tools and materials do I need to build this addition? Exactly what are the owners looking for with this addition? How can I be sure I’m building something that will exactly fulfill their needs and expectations? Will the addition pass code inspection?
Developing new training courses is another example of where asking questions can be extremely beneficial. In fact, when you’re tasked with building a learning addition (a new training course) for a company, it’s helpful (and self-instructive) to ask as many questions as possible. Here are some ideas for the types of questions you might want to ask yourself as you prepare to, and actually do, develop a new training course:
Question 1 – What tool will I be using to construct the training course?
Whether you use PowerPoint, Articulate, Captivate or another favorite course construction tool, if a particular product worked well for you in the past, stick with it. If what you used previously left something to be desired, try something new. But decide and carry forth; changing horses is fine on dry land but not in mid-stream where currents swirl and development deadlines loom.
Question 2 – What does your audience need to learn in order to do their job or use your product better?
This question is more than just essential, it’s very nearly everything. The purpose of any course is not only for people to learn, but to learn specific things to improve performance. Let this be your guiding light, your North Star, telling you what content to include in the course, and just as importantly what NOT to include. Stick to what the students need to learn, and your course will be free of unneeded and wasteful content. You want to call it “course objectives?” Fine, call it that, but just never stop thinking about what people need to know versus what they don’t. (For an interesting perspective see the article at https://medium.com/lifelearn/focus-on-skill-mastery-not-knowledge-acquisition-7b0118baa972 by Tarmo Toikkanen.)
Question 3 – Who is your target audience?
Who will be taking this course? What is their job function? What problems do they have performing their job now? What learning style would best suit them? What is their comprehension level and learning style? (See an instructive article on this subject by Nell Gelhouse at https://elearningindustry.com/training-audience-analysis-inform-use-training-design.) Go forth and ask these smaller questions to answer the bigger one – who is your target audience? Write for them. Don’t waste their time with content unrelated to their needs or long, uninteresting courses. Ask their managers what they need to do better, quicker, more efficiently, more professionally, more profitably, whatever the need; and keep it short and interesting. Get answers and develop courses with those answers in mind.
Question 4 – How will I prove that this course helps people do their job better?
Remembering that the purpose of any course is to help people do their job better, it’s important to ask yourself, right in the beginning, how you will prove that the course is doing that. You want to prove that the people who took your course gained new knowledge or skills that will help them do their job or use your product better. Do you want assessments built into the learning module to test knowledge gained in real time? Will their managers allow you to observe their work both before and after your students have taken your course? (For more see How to Measure Training Results: A Practical Guide to Tracking the Six Key Indicators by Jack J. Phillips and Ron Drew Stone; https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/799398.How_to_Measure_Training_Results?from_search=true.)
Question 5 – Is my course sequentially correct?
Nearly as important as including the right content (meaning only content that will help your audience do their job or use your product better!) is arranging the content in the proper order. After the first block of content students learn, every block after that should build on the previously learned content. Don’t show a learner how to pick tomatoes at the peak time until you’ve shown them how to plant the seed, water it, support the growing shoots, and remove damaging insects. Keeping your course sequentially correct will make it more logical, help you determine if anything important is missing, and help students understand the direction they are going toward their learning goal, which, again, is doing their job better. For a good perspective on sequencing and planning aspects of training courses, see the article at https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/planning-training-session.htm by The Mind Concept Team.
Question 6 – Which of the two classroom types am I creating?
There are only two types of classrooms on this planet. Walk down the hallway of any school during class time and you will see lots of examples of both. In one type of classroom, the students are slumped back in their seats with their eyes glazed over, listening (or pretending to listen) to a teacher drone on about some subject matter. In the other type of classroom, students are leaning forward, elbows on desktop (if they’re not actually standing which is even better), eyes alert and full of intent, actively engaged in some type of hands on work. That’s it, there are no other classroom types. I won’t even say which one is better. Just make sure you keep asking yourself which of the two classroom types will someone see when they’re walking past students taking your course. Develop your content, all of it, with this type of classroom in mind. (Oh, and if students are sleeping through your training class, guess whose fault it is?)
In conclusion, these are just some of the questions it might be valuable to ask yourself as you plan for and develop your training course. Please comment below with some of your own questions you’ve asked to help you develop successful training courses.