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


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

When I first became an instructor in the 1970s, the most common technology available was the overhead projector. The instructor could write 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 bit cumbersome, but it worked. We also made use of printed self-paced modules.

Then, seemingly overnight, technology exploded – videotapes and computers were going to do training for us and replace trainers. Companies looking for ways to do training on the cheap have tried ever since to make the technology deliver the training. The trouble has been that technology delivered training is 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 flight training simulators that failed because pilots refused to use them. At least half of 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 effective training 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 or competency-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 be desired.

The solution that we, my team and I, finally came up with was to try to make the computer act like an instructor as much as possible. That means that at appropriate points in the lesson, the computer delivers a work sheet for the learner to complete. In the initial case the learner was required to get 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 skills and get signed off.

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

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

Our free course, “Discover Your Money Temperament,” shows some of the aspects discussed above. For a complete example you might take one of 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 often hard work. In today’s world we must do the best we can with a computer. The computer does allow for individual learners to work on their own, but beyond that the core elements don’t change.


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Thank you.


Fred Parker is the Director of Course Design and Development at https:/ 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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