Category Archives: Instructional Design

Using PowerPoint in Training

powerpoint  As a business trainer, I spend a lot of time working in Microsoft PowerPoint.  It is the go-to tool for presentations, training, and general briefing platform, for many different reasons.  It is easy to use, has many useful features, and is generally accepted as one of the best presentation tools for many different venues.  The slide-based presentation method is great for showing step-by-step processes, breakdowns of structures or reports, and providing overviews of topics from the simple to the complex.  Using these features can make the difference between a clumsy slide show and a great presentation.

Microsoft provides their own tips for making effective presentations.  In my own experience, when using PowerPoint for a presentation (or “slide deck” as some call it), simple is better.  But there is a clear difference between simplicity and lack of function or form.  You want to make sure that:

  • Your information on the slide show is clear, concise, and pointed, but not so vague that it becomes useless.
  • Screen shots or images must be sharp and easily visible to a room of viewers that might be sitting 40 feet away.
  • Use colors that are starkly contrasting and can be read on a projector or large screen.
  • Avoid leaving a ton of white (negative) space on slides, as it not only looks bad, but it shows that you might be missing important information (even if you are not).
  • Feel free to use slide transitions and animations for interest, but in moderation.  “Shiny” doesn’t necessarily equate to “good”.
  • Keep the number of slides to a minimum to shorten the time needed for the presentation.

Here are some bullets about using bullets in slide shows:

  • Avoid using full sentences.  Summarize points using quick phrases and speak to the points in full sentences. (Appeal to both auditory and visual learners)
  • Your bullet point should be no more than two to three lines, depending on the width.  Audiences need to be able to read it quickly and then pay attention to you while you’re speaking for elaboration on what they just read.
  • Some people are against this, but use basic animations to bring in your bullets one at a time, on command, in the final presentation.  If you have a slide of 5 or 6 bullets, you don’t want the audience reading bullet 4 while you’re still talking about bullet 1.

Even though we’ve talked about Delivering training, when it comes to presenting PowerPoint materials, I’ve got some more bullets:

  • Use a remote clicker or presenter, rather than standing in front of the computer keyboard.  I know, I know… you feel comfortable being able to see the material as it goes by.  Use a printout of the slides or note cards to help you, rather than hiding behind the computer.
  • Don’t spend more than 20-30 seconds on a single bullet (unless a follow-up conversation or tangent question is warranted and relevant).  You’re not there to ramble.
  • If you’re using screenshots in a presentation, make sure you point out what is the necessary focus of this picture, either with a laser pointer or your own hand.
  • Finally… PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not read directly from the PowerPoint slides!!!  You do not want to insult your trainees by assuming they can’t read on their own.  You will also lose precious credibility and motivation on the part of the students.  If you’re going to do that, you might as well just email them the presentation and not waste your time.

Keeping to these simple rules can make a huge difference in your presentation skills.  A great PowerPoint presentation can be used as an effective teaching tool, but it can also show your knowledge of the subject and give you the platform to get through to your trainees.  For more information, I find the University of South Carolina’s tips to be a useful guide.

Photo credit: PowerPoint Templates Design Tips


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.

Photo credit:

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

Instructional Design Models

ISD ProcessMany times in my experience, management has approached my team to give them a training objective.  Many times, these objectives are set up with little information, a short timeline, and minimal understanding of the purpose of the training.  The first step to any successful training class is buy-in from management and accurate information to make the objective of a training clear.  We will talk about management buy-in in a later blog post.  Once this information is gathered, instructional designers and trainers can utilize many tools to help them design and implement trainings.

In a professional business environment, instructional designers use a number of models to design and construct their classes.  These models can help an instructor to put together a solid class and to keep their tasks in order.  There are many models that have been designed over the years, and some are better than others.  Richard Culatta provides a list and description of some of the more commonly used models.  Here, we will be looking at a few models in review, but one model is of particular interest.

ADDIE is a model typically used by training developers and business process trainers.  The basic steps of the model determine how a trainer should go about setting up, designing, and implementing a training class.  In reality, most trainers go through this process, although unofficially and it may not include all of the steps detailed in the model.  Those primary steps are defined in categories in order of the acronym: Analysis, Design, Develop, Implementation, Evaluation.  Each of these phases has individual steps involved and can be broken down into tasks and required information.  We will get into these steps individually with our future blog posts.

Another model of instructional design is ARCS.  John Keller created this model to facilitate learner motivation.  We talked about motivation in the last blog post, but this model puts a structure underneath the concept.  As we said, motivation is key to having a successful class.  ARCS provides a framework of concepts to motivate learners in a class, ranging from attention (A), relevance (R), confidence (C), and satisfaction (S).  Keller’s paper from Florida State University details more on each step of motivation.

Whatever model you choose to use in your instructional design, it is important to keep a structure in place to make your job as easy as possible.  Utilizing a model for training design will also help you to keep tasks in line, help you to meet deadlines, and to make your trainings more successful.  Since we’ll be talking about the ADDIE model in detail, subscribe to my blog to learn about it!  It should be helpful to all of the trainers out there.