Performance Management

There is NO Easy Way to do Effective Training, by Fred Parker


There is NO Easy Way to do Effective Training


Notice it says “Easy.” However, the core elements oftraining are quite simple.


When I first became an instructor in the 1970s, the mostcommon technology available was the overhead projector. The instructor couldwrite on the film during the class or have professionally prepared slides made.Often the learners were given an outline with space to take notes. It was a bitcumbersome, but it worked. We also made use of printed self-paced modules.


Then, seemingly overnight, technology exploded – videotapes andcomputers were going to do training for us and replace trainers. Companies lookingfor ways to do training on the cheap have tried ever since to make the technologydeliver the training. The trouble has been that technology delivered trainingis generally ineffective, primarily because people learn things from other people,not from machines. I can cite one classic example of a suite of very expensive flighttraining simulators that failed because pilots refused to use them. At least halfof their time had to be with other people.


Training and learning require interaction with other people.So, we have come to the current situation; how can we deliver effectivetraining via computer?


I ignored this problem as long as I could but was forced to deal with it beginning around 2002 when my major client demanded two different series of training modules, a technical skills course in PowerPoint® , and a Supervisor skills course in Adobe Flash®, both with voice-over.


Let’s remember the core principles of performance orcompetency-based training. They are:


  • Observable and measurable objectives
  • Relevant practice and skill checks with feedback
  • A final skills demonstration to be signed off.All attempts to replace that demonstration with written tests leave much to bedesired.

The solution that we, my team and I, finally came up with isto try to make the computer act like an instructor as much as possible. Thatmeans that at appropriate points in the lesson, the computer delivers a worksheetfor the learner to complete. In the initial case the learner was required toget their supervisor to sign off on the practice before they went back online.At the end of the module the learner had what they called a “Competency Assessment.”The learner got with their supervisor or trainer to demonstrate their skillsand get signed off.


For organizations that really want effective training, thereis no other choice. Once the core pieces are in place the lessons can be enhancedwith technology. Videotaped demonstrations, for instance offer an excellent wayto give good or bad examples of how to do things. There are ways to conductvirtual classrooms. We can do live or recorded webinars. Those also are only aseffective as the course design allows.


Computer advances have made this process more streamlined., our courses are truly self-paced, and as interactive aswe can make them. At the beginning of each course the leaner downloads the workbookwith all of the practices (we call them all skill checks). Some of the skillchecks have online feedback, while others instruct the learners to discusstheir results with their colleagues or supervisor for feedback.


Our free course, “Discover Your Money Temperament,” showssome of the aspects discussed above. For a complete example you might take oneof the Rapid Training Design (RTD) courses. We can’t afford to give them away,but the reasonable price may surprise you.


As the title of this blog says, there is no easy way to do training, even though the process is pretty simple. Learning new skills is oftenhard work. In today’s world we must do the best we can with a computer. Thecomputer does allow for individual learners to work on their own, but beyondthat the core elements don’t change.


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Thank you.


Fred Parker is the Director of Course Design and Development at Fred has 40 plus years as a consultant designing, developing, and delivering performance-based training including all manner of technical training, individual development soft skills, and basic leadership. Clients include all sizes from a local sandwich shop to the military to fortune 500 multinationals. Now beginning to convert previous courses to online.

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