Monthly Archives: March 2014

Keeping Attention on You

training  We’ve been spending some time talking about motivation in the classroom, but that is only part of the equation.  Some students have a hard time focusing and paying attention in training.  In a business setting, it is assumed that all of your trainees are adults and will do their best to pay attention to what is going on in class.  You need to keep up their attention so that they can maximize their absorption of the materials, and be able to recount them when needed in their jobs.

From personal experience, one of the easiest and quickest ways to get your class’ attention is to say something like “you might want to write this down… it will be on the test.”  Telling the class that there will be an assessment at the end of the course has its merits as well, but this is dependent on your reputation and the precedent of giving assessments at the end of every training.  We’ll talk about assessments in a future blog post, since it’s a major talking point in business training.

Indiana University states that the normal adult attention span is 15-20 minutes.  In a training class, the teacher needs to be able to use this attention span to their advantage.  Barraging your trainees with a mountain of content can overload them, so you need to break it up into smaller, easier to digest, chunks.  I found an interesting list here to reference some tips on keeping an audience’s attention.  Some of them are pretty easy – offer refreshments, give them a quick break, and use humor to keep them interested.  I like #9 in particular: shake things up.  Maybe assign an impromptu skit or Q&A session.  Get the students up and moving around, maybe with an ice breaker or other activity.  Keep the mood light, and be open and honest with your class about how important the material is, and you are there to facilitate their learning in the easiest way possible.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have managers in your class, who might be there as part of their job, or because they need to learn the materials just as much as their employees do.  To keep their attention, all other external stimuli should be removed.  Set some ground rules before the class begins: laptops should be closed and phones should be put away.  If you’ve got a class where hands-on exercises on a computer is planned, walk around the room while you teach.  Use your presence as an authority figure to press them into paying attention and not goof off on their computer.  Distractions should be as limited as possible, obviously except for those that you plan as part of the course.

Above all, remember that people are still people, and that they can only hold their attention for so long.  If you keep these things in mind, and make your class as interesting as possible, then you can say that you did your best to teach the materials and your class is ready for what’s coming next.

Photo credit: University of Texas


Creating Motivation in Learning

Motivation at work  There’s always one.  One person who comes to you before or after class and says “Why are we here?  What is the point of this class?”  Heaven forbid this person blurts this out in the middle of class.  If it’s not a class that you are completely sold on, or perhaps something that you’re not completely qualified to teach (a math teacher in a science class, for example), you may not have a direct answer quick at the ready.  You might be caught off-guard with the question and be sitting there saying “Uhhhh… Ummmm….”

How do you deal with that?  How do you create motivation in your students, be it for a required class in school or a business training that the entire company must attend?  Teachers and trainers alike struggle to answer this question, and many don’t come up with a simple answer.  The bad news is, there is no simple answer.  The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to generate motivation in your students, it just takes some creativity and prep work ahead of time.

We talked about motivation a while back in a previous blog post: “Motivation is Key to Learning“.  There are mountains of evidence (not to mention personal experience of any trainer or teacher) on why motivation is important to the success of a class.  I found an interesting (albeit somewhat outdated but still relevant) article on Stanford’s website about Motivation and how one can create it.  For any class, relevance to the audience is key.  Make the learning objectives personal for them and show them how the material can help them succeed, or where they might need to remember this in the future.

In a business setting, most likely the trainees are directed to attend the training as part of their jobs.  This leads to some inherent motivation, but not necessarily because they want to be there.  You, as a trainer and subject matter expert, need to tell them why this information is necessary for the completion of their jobs.  It may even be necessary for the survival of the company – take SOX compliance or customer privacy training as examples.  This information should also be echoed by management.  They may not be excited about being in training, but you can help by making the training more fun.  Use some humor, pass out candy or run some interesting exercises.  Ice breakers and impromptu skits are a good way to keep the energy going in the room.

Whatever you do, any trainer or teacher will tell you that motivation is essential, otherwise there is no point in anyone wasting their time.  This motivation will help the students engage in your materials, and they might even enjoy the time they spend in the classroom, learning new things.

Photo credit: Examiner

Was it all Worth It?

Assessment Word block  Businesses all around the world spend billions of dollars on quality assurance and control. They ensure that all products that they put out to market meet a certain standard, usually somewhere around 99%. They have trained professionals checking a sampling of products that meet the expectations of the business and can be sold to waiting consumers. If this product is no good, ideally the business will get consumer feedback and continuously improve the products. Products improve over time, and businesses can measure how effective (or popular) their products are based on certain quality measurements and marketing research.

Training has little differences with quality control. In the fifth and final phase of the ADDIE instructional design model, trainers Evaluate their courses and see how effective they were. Ultimately, a trainer uses the Evaluate phase to determine how well the solution achieved the objectives of the training, through measurement and assessment. This can be done through having the students complete evaluation forms, assessments of the students’ performance either during or after the training, or direct observation of their comprehension of the materials. Once this measurement is completed and analyzed, the trainer should then determine if additional instruction is needed, and make the necessary corrections.

An interesting methodology of measuring training effectiveness comes from Donald Kirkpatrick. He breaks evaluation of training into four distinct levels, getting more complex and deeper in evaluation as you go higher.  The four levels are as follows:
Level 1 – Reaction: How favorably do the participants react to the training?
Level 2 – Learning: How well did the trainees acquire new knowledge or skills during the training?
Level 3 – Behavior: How effectively did the trainees apply what they learned in their jobs after the training?
Level 4 – Results: How well were the target objectives achieved as a result of the training?

Depending on the answers to these questions, the ADDIE cycle should be completed.  If the objectives aren’t met to your satisfaction, you might need to restart the model, or go back to the design phase and try revamping the training.  Sometimes you will need to re-apply the training to additional employees to better permeate the culture.  You might need to adjust your materials, delivery style, or assessment methods to get a better result.  Ultimately, the goals of the business need to be met as best as possible using the tools at hand.  The ADDIE model is designed to be a cycle, something that can be used over and over again until the objectives are met.  Using this model will allow you to structure your training courses and make your job easier.

Photo credit: University of Connecticut

It’s All in the Delivery

SeminarComedians need to be able to deliver a good punchline in order to entertain their audience.  Pizza guys need to be able to deliver a good quality product to satisfy their hungry customers.  Doctors need a good bedside manner to make their patients feel welcome and secure.  And trainers or teachers need presentation skills and a good technique of delivery to make classes successful.

The fourth stage of the ADDIE instructional design model is the Implementation phase.  This is where it all comes together: the pieces and parts that were developed in the first three phases are now on the table, ready to be served.  This phase is where all of the materials are presented, the exercises executed, the course modules uploaded and published.  Depending on the medium that your class is, there are a number of things to keep in mind when implementing your course.

MIT provides an interesting tool for training delivery ideas and tips.  For a typical eLearning course, you want to make sure that the course is easy to access and that users will have few (hopefully no) problems with entering and participating in the course.  Courses that are given over a virtual environment (say over a video conference or internet call), this can be its own beast in itself. (We’ll cover online trainings in a separate blog post).  The most prevalent delivery method is the tried and true Instructor Led Training, or ITL.

If your class is going to be an in-person ITL course, there are a number of things to keep in mind.  The environment is one of the more important elements – it needs to be comfortable (not to the point of putting your students to sleep) and open.  If needed, there should be a decent projector and screen for your slide show or other presentation media.  Each student in your class should have their own space.  As for the trainer, you need to present yourself as an authority figure on the subject matter.  Speak with clarity and annunciation, and ensure that everyone in the room can hear you.  Ask questions.  Call on people to answer.  Interject a little humor or jokes to keep the mood light.  Avoid getting too far off topic if you can help it.  I could talk about this for hours, but let’s just say we’ll be covering this more in future posts.  A good read for pointers on the training delivery can be found here, from the University of Kansas.

Delivery of a course is the part where a trainer can see their effort bring good results.  And speaking of results, how do you know that your training was effective?  Can you call your class successful in retaining the materials?  Do you need a follow-up class or re-training?  We’ll answer these questions in the last part of the ADDIE model – Evaluate.  Subscribe to my blog and stay tuned for more!

Photo Credit: eCOM Solutions, Inc.

Building a Training, Brick by Brick

Construction Workers Looking at RoofAfter a city planner comes up with a new idea for a building, and after the architect draws up the schematics of the new facility, the scaffolds are put into place and the construction begins.  First, the land is graded and cleared to make room.  Then, the foundation is established using cement, wood beams and posts, and hardware.  The walls are erected, electricity is wired, plumbing is installed, and a roof is placed atop the new structure.  Finally, the floors are laid, the walls painted, and the decorations hung.  Within a matter of months, this new building is a shiny new structure that adds to the landscape of a complex of facilities for a city government.  This new building will house departments, people, paperwork, and processes that allow the city government to function efficiently and effectively to serve the people.

A training cycle in business is much like this process.  If we follow the ADDIE model like we have been discussing, we are at the “building” part of this process.  The ADDIE model calls this part the “Develop” phase of instructional design.  This is where we use the information gathered in the Analysis and Design phases and construct the performance solution (or materials) to be implemented for our project.  We build the actual materials for the training solution, including presentations, assessments, exercises, etc., all according to the information we have from the first two phases.

We will cover our own tips on developing materials in future blog posts, but here’s the basic idea.  You need to find resources to use in your training (references, texts, process guides), and then decide how you want to deliver those.  Make your content using whatever tools you have at your disposal, whether it’s Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Captivate, or Windows Paint.  Determine the delivery method, which can be one or multiple media for presenting the materials (in person, online, eLearning, or by proxy).  Finally, the presentation you design should have one ultimate goal in mind: engage the learner.  Obviously these steps are not comprehensive, and they don’t have a specific order to them.  Additionally, Texas A&M has an interesting list of things to consider when working on development of materials for a training class.

Let’s take another construction example: building your own house.  Once you’ve got the specs in mind, you need to establish a process for actually building the house.  You can’t build the roof without walls, and you can’t put up the walls until the foundation is in place.  That would be a very strange-looking house.  The same goes for training materials.  The whole presentation could be a waste if you don’t have a solid template for your slide deck, or an exercise to engage your learners.  Your training course would collapse before your eyes, just like a wall with no solid foundation to stand on.

Can you think of some good tips to make good materials?  Ever had a situation in which you needed to think outside of the foundation?

Photo Credit: Industry Leaders Magazine

Design – The Most Creative Part of Training

BlueprintAs a trainer for a business process organization, one of the most challenging (and sometimes fun) aspects of training is the design.  The creative process of making materials your own and coming up with new and interesting ways to deliver materials is always changing, and many instructional designers spend years developing their own style.  There are an infinite number of possibilities, and based on your analysis of the training needs, anything can be integrated into the design of the training as long as the objectives are met.  The sky is the limit in this phase.

As you can probably tell, the next phase of the ADDIE model is the Design phase.  This phase of instructional design is the creative parts, and where a trainer must come up with the blueprint of the training to be given. gives a great breakdown of this phase… basically including a number of questions that must be answered as part of this process.  What are the objectives of the training?  What must be accomplished as part of this training?  What delivery methods or instructional techniques are appropriate for this training class?  How will you assess the trainee’s knowledge of the materials afterwards?  These are some of the many questions to be answered as part of designing a training class.

One big part of the Design phase is knowing your audience.  How do your students like to learn?  What styles of learning do they favor?  What is their personality type?  Will the personality of the trainer (hopefully you) mesh or clash with the personality of the class?  You can refer to my previous blog post “Putting it All Together” for information on different learning styles and how to adapt your training design to those styles.

In essence, there is a simple checklist to consider when working through the design phase:

  • Clearly state your objective.
  • Identify content.
  • Write instructions.
  • Apply instructional strategies.
  • Choose lesson format.
  • Choose delivery options.
  • Choose type of assessment:  Formative, Summative, or both.

Once you have all of these elements in place and documented, check with your training sponsor or management to get their feedback.  Based on that, you can adjust your blueprint, or proceed to developing the materials and preparing for delivery.

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Analysis – Answering the Hard Questions

AnalysisHow do you know what your training needs to accomplish?  How do you know what needs to be done in order for your organization’s goals to be met?  Most trainers are familiar with this process… management will set goals or strategies for the organization, and then lean on training and development to make sure employees are ready for those goals to be measured.  Trainers need to be able to evaluate the goals of any class or objective and decide what needs to be done and how that can be accomplished through education.  As part of the ADDIE instructional design model, the first step is called “Analysis”.

The first stage of any training should be the analysis portion.  Using the ADDIE model, the Analysis phase is defined as “a systematic exploration of the way things are and the way things should be.  The difference is the performance gap.” (Source: ADDIE Methodology) As part of this phase of instructional design, one would need to answer a number of questions.  “What outcome do I want?” “Who is my audience?” “What does my learner already know?” “What content do I need to present?” “What instructional strategies will I use?” UTHealth has a good list of resources to help trainers break down each of the tasks during any analysis phase.

These are some (but not all) of the questions that a trainer should be asking of himself or their project sponsor / manager during the Analysis portion.  Essentially, the biggest question that should be answered is: “Is this training relevant?”  Most of the time, the answers to these questions would need to come from either investigation into the objectives of the training, management of the program or team in question, or from the sponsor of the training class. But above all, the Analysis phase of the ADDIE model is most important because this is where you decide what outcome or behavior you want at the end of your lesson.

Contrary to what you might think, the Analysis phase simply answers questions based on what is needed from the training session.  The actual development of materials and delivery come in the later phases.  Analysis can and should be done throughout the training cycle, but it is of highest importance at the beginning when the objectives must be identified, and to save everyone a good deal of time and effort in the long run.

What kinds of experiences have you had looking for answers for a training?  Have you ever had to be on the receiving end of those questions?  Let’s chat about it here!

Photo credit: Drumbeat Marketing