If you follow us on LinkedIn, you might have seen our #ruminationswithruhi posts, a series of five L&D design tips from TLG’s program designer Ruhi Grewal.

Ruhi is an Instructional Design Consultant who aims to inspire L&D professionals to create engaging and effective learning solutions. We have collated her five pro design tips into this one blog for easy access.

TIP #1 WHO ARE YOU DESIGNING YOUR TRAINING FOR?

Typically, all training requirements are communicated by someone from the client’s side. But how well does the client know the learners they are representing?

Here’s a case in point: A client asks you create a learning solution for their project managers (PMs). The learning solution comprises 15 eLearning modules of 60-minutes each. PMs need to complete one module a day to successfully complete the course. You design and create the eLearning modules and hand it over to the client to deploy on their LMS. You later receive feedback from the client that the training was not a success as the PMs could not find an hour a day to complete a module. On enquiring further, you learn that most of the PMs complained that they were already working 10-hour days managing multiple projects and could not carve out an additional hour to complete the training. On hindsight you realised that if you knew the PMs were already stretched for time, you would have recommended 20-minute micro-learning nuggets instead!

Does this sound familiar? If so, how can you as an L&D professional discover relevant information about your learners?

Determining your learners’ needs is something that you should typically do during the Analysis phase of the ADDIE model. Here are two tried and tested approaches you can use:

  • Create an anonymous survey and ask the client POC to send it out to 5-10 learners. In the survey ask them to share what a typical day looks like for them, ask them about the challenges they face, where they need more support, and so on.
  • Ask the client POC if you can set up a call with some learners. Request your client POC to not attend the call as sometimes employees clam up or feel judged when there is a supervisor listening in. On the call, ensure all their responses stay confidential and ask them about a typical day at work, what their challenges are, where they need more support, what they would do differently if they had to train someone, and so on.

Once you have uncovered details about your learners, create a persona/caricature on a sheet of paper with all the information you’ve received, and place it near your laptop to constantly remind you who you are creating this learning solution for.

TIP #2 HOW TO GUIDE YOUR CLIENT

You have a new client who is eager to roll out an eLearning induction training in three months. This is a tight timeframe, and after a series of calls with your clients you create a project plan which your client approves and signs-off. In the project plan you specify that the client has two days to review each asset – but you fail to state how many fixes you will make. After creating the first storyboard explaining HR policies, you send it to the client for review and two days later you receive a long list of changes to fix. As per the project plan the fixes will take more time than you had planned for, and you get into a call to let the client know that you only have time to fix 10 comments and not all 22 they had listed. The client insists that all the fixes need to be made. To placate the client, you and your team work days and nights to make all the fixes.

What could you have done differently to avoid this situation?

Sometimes, clients can be very particular about what and how the development life cycle should be, especially those new to L&D. They tend to focus on dates in the project plan and are unaware of what goes into creating learning materials (or assets). Therefore, as a learning designer, it’s up to you to guide your client and help them understand how you will be creating the learning materials.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Instead of just sharing a project plan with dates, show the client samples of each stage in the life cycle so they get a glimpse of what’s behind the scenes and the effort involved to finalise each asset.
  • Create an execution document that provides clarity to the client about your expectations from them. Help them understand that to meet the final deadline there is limited time to make fixes after their reviews. Classify bugs/fixes into critical and non-critical and specify how many fixes in each category you can make after each round of review.
  • Engage in regular conversations with your client and remind them that you need to work together to meet timelines. Give them a heads up if delays are expected and how you to intend to make up for them.

TIP #3 WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS IN LEARNING PROGRAMS

While assessments are an integral part of any training program, they are sometimes designed as an ‘afterthought’. Have you ever taken a test or assessment that had nothing to do with the actual content you were taught? Or, perhaps you realised that the assessment comprised trick questions making it impossible to pass?

Unfortunately, both are indicators of badly-designed assessments.

An assessment should evaluate how well learners are able to apply what they’ve learnt. They also help you, as a designer, ‘stick’ to creating questions based on the learning objectives, ensuring that your learners are evaluated solely on the content covered.

Let’s look at the two types of assessments used in learning programs.

Formative: This type of quiz or assessment is typically conducted during the training and used to reinforce the learning process and build learner confidence.

Here’s how to use them in different delivery mediums:

  • Instructor-led training/face-to-face training: The facilitator pauses at regular intervals to ask questions on the content covered. If learners are not able to answer the questions or if the facilitator sees a confused crowd, the facilitator should go over the concepts using different examples or a different methodology (such as group activities) to ensure the learners understand the content.
  • Virtual instructor led training: The facilitator pauses at the end of a logical section and uses the virtual platform’s features (or an external application) to gauge how confident participants are about the content, such as thumbs-up/thumbs-down, hand signals, online polls, discussion boards, and chat boxes.
  • eLearning: Questions are interspersed with the content at logical points in the learning process (such as at the end of topics) with detailed feedback provided to reinforce the concepts covered. Learners need to re-attempt the questions until they answer them correctly.

Summative: This type of evaluates student learning at the end of the training to ensure that the assessment aligns with the goals and expected outcomes of the training.

Here’s how to use them in different delivery mediums:

  • Instructor-led training/face-to-face training:: Learners can be given a timed exam paper that will be graded by the facilitator. Alternatively, the learners can be given a time period to submit a final project. This can be a one-time assessment, or depending on the nature of the training, learners may need to re-attempt the assessment until they achieve a 100% score.
  • Virtual instructor led training: Similar to an ILT, participants can be given an exam paper or asked to submit a final project. Alternatively, participants can also be sent a link to an eLearning module that contains summative questions that are graded.
  • eLearning: Questions are created that mimic real-world scenarios to evaluate if learners can apply the concepts in the training, back on their job. There is no detailed feedback provided and learners are only told if they answered it correctly or not. Depending on the nature of the training, learners may need to re-attempt the assessment until they achieve a 100% score.

TIP #4 MANAGE YOUR SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS (SMEs)

While designing an eLearning program that is technical in nature, the client may assign a subject matter expert (SME) to provide the content and review all the assets of the training program. But what do you do when the SME stops responding to your requests putting your project in jeopardy?

It’s interesting to note that sometimes key employees are given the additional responsibility of being a SME over and above their current workload. In these instances, they are expected to stretch themselves and accommodate all your requests, which might not always happen in a timely manner. In other cases, SME responsibilities are integrated into their KRAs and their workload adjusted – making them more invested in your training program.

Regardless of how busy they are, here are a few tips on how you can help manage your SME and their time to keep your project on track.

Tip 1: When you create a project plan, clearly share with your SME how much of their time you need each week and for what. This allows them to plan their time efficiently and flag any days they may be unavailable.

Tip 2: Make sure that you have an escalation matrix in place to highlight the chain of command you will follow in case you fail to receive timely inputs from your SME.

Tip 3: If the content is ‘in their head’, set up structured interviews where you share the questions with them beforehand to give them time to prepare. During the interview, ask them to think about when they were a novice/newbie and how they would have liked the information/experience they have now to be imparted to them.

Tip 4: Clearly indicate how many fixes you will accommodate during your review cycles. It’s also a good idea to classify bugs/fixes into critical and non-critical and specify how many fixes in each category you can make after each round of review.

Tip 5: Remember, everyone is a born critic! So, ask your SMEs to react instead of responding. For example, if you need a scenario to explain a concept, don’t ask them to write it themselves (as a response to a request) because that will take up more of their time. Instead, take a shot at writing it yourself even if you know it’s wrong. This forces them to react to it as they can immediately identify what’s wrong with it and edit it accordingly.

TIP #5 POWERPOINT VS. WORD STORYBOARDS

When you design an eLearning course, the storyboarding phase is where your client finally gets to see your recommended design in action. But which storyboard format should you choose – Word or PowerPoint? What are the benefits of using each of them? Let’s find out.

PowerPoint storyboards

PowerPoint storyboards mimic the screens exactly as they appear in the actual course. This includes the user interface with navigation controls, onscreen and audio text, and the visuals created.

One of the biggest advantages is that this format helps clients new to eLearning visualise exactly what each screen looks like. Clients can easily make changes to the text directly on the slide, and they may also recommend different visuals to better convey the content being taught on a particular screen.

While clients generally prefer this format, it is a time-consuming process as you will also require a visual designer to create the visuals for each slide.

However, by agreeing to spend more time in this phase, you drastically bring down the time required to build the course in an authoring tool as the programming team mimics the slides exactly as they are in the storyboard.

Word storyboards

Word storyboards contain tables with each row describing what happens on the screen. This includes all the onscreen and audio text, the visual treatment, and any learner interactions such as clicking parts of the screen to reveal further information.

It’s a good idea to use this format if you’re hard-pressed for time to close this phase of the eLearning lifecycle and there are no visual designers assigned to your project who can create the visuals for each screen.

You can also use this format if your course is part of a curriculum where you are re-using standard screen layouts and visuals that the client has already seen and signed-off on, which also saves time.

The biggest drawback to using Word storyboards is that if your client only sees the screens after the entire course is built in an authoring tool, they may ask for lots of changes. Making these changes directly in the authoring tool may require additional visual designers and programmers (who may not be available) to meet the agreed upon timelines in the project plan.

So which format would you choose? Leave a comment telling us why you prefer PowerPoint or Word to create your storyboards.

We hope these tips will help you refine your program designs and save you tons of time and energy. If you’d like more help on program design The Learning Gym can help:

  • Develop and design programs (in-person, virtual and hybrid) from scratch
  • Revamp existing programs to make them more engaging and effective
  • Convert existing face-to-face programs into virtual format
  • Develop ideas for how to make learning stick
  • Evaluating the impact of training initiatives

To find out more about our Training Design and Consultancy Services, email us on info@thelearninggy.co.

Subscribe and get updates to The Learning Gym blog!

Leave a Reply