You’ve just finished developing, implementing and evaluating a great training program. You’re satisfied and ready to roll. Is that the end of that project? Well…it depends. Ask yourself the following question: “Is the training program going to continue to be offered for a lengthy period of time, if not ongoing?”
If the answer is yes, you’re not done yet! You need to maintain the course by keeping it current to the needs of the business. If you don’t maintain the training, the success of the training will diminish over time. Policies may change; audiences may change and even tasks within the training may change. You need to go back to the beginning regularly with an ongoing project – which means go back to the Analysis phase.
First, let’s look at the academics. Many Instructional Design (ISD) models, such as ADDIE (see Figure 1 at right) and the Dick and Carey model (see Figure 2 below) are circular in nature. Once the instructional designer has completed evaluation after the first implementation of an ongoing project, in order to ensure the consistent, enduring value of the project, analysis must be completed and the cycle started again on a regular basis. Revisiting analysis and the subsequent steps of the ISD model may happen annually, monthly, quarterly or as often as needed. For example, new hire training is used over and over. The business keeps evolving. New products appear, new positions are created and life goes on.
Now, for how it really works in your world: You live in the real world and whatever ISD model you espouse, resources and time are not always available to go back through the whole ISD model again and again. What do you do?
To be realistic, too often we have to cut corners or make assumptions when we have to update an existing program, due to time, logistics or business urgency. What you find is that when you have to make assumptions, sometimes those assumptions are wrong. And cutting corners may make you miss a crucial training need. Here are some tips to help you keep your training current, effective and engaging:
- Make sure that when you originally create the training that you complete a thorough analysis (including goal analysis, learner analysis, task analysis, etc.). Then design the training as clearly as possible, with a design document approved by your business partners that includes a plan for how the program will be maintained. Agreeing on the maintenance process early saves a lot of time and potential grief later.
- During the initial development, keep training as lean as possible while maintaining effectiveness. If you know that things may change, such as codes or policies, refer to external sources for that information. Direct the learner to the policy on your company’s online site.
- If codes or things like serial numbers have to be included, provide an external supplement for learners that can be easily updated without updating the entire training program. Of course, keep practicality in mind with this item. You may want to design your course with that in mind, creating one that can be re-used by many learners until it needs to be updated. Creating a supplement for which each learner will absolutely need to have his/her own copy can be cost prohibitive and confusing.
- Completing pilots and tryouts also really help decrease the amount of edits later. You can (among many other things):
- Determine if practices work like you want them to
- Find grammar or spelling errors
- Determine if the learner is successful
- Complete peer review with other instructional designers too. Your peers may see things that you are just too close to the material to see yourself.
After the initial training is implemented, these tips may help:
- Get involved in new project development meeting as early as possible. That way you can learn about the project early and determine how it may impact existing programs. You can proactively complete analysis for the changes to existing training by being involved early. Getting into the project meetings early on will help you form stronger business relationships with other team members and develop the concept that training development is as important as the service or product development. After all, if no one can use, explain or sell the new product or service, it will not succeed.
- Have a generic impact analysis plan or tool created that you can use with new products or services to identify where they affect existing training. This type of tool can plan for the amount of effort/time involved in integrating a new product or service into existing training. Having such a tool also ensures that new information is integrated efficiently and effectively.
- Know the training material very well. If you only develop but do not facilitate training material, take time to sit in the class on a regular basis and see how your material works with different classes and how successful the learners are during the class. If the training is online, ask participants who have taken it before to provide feedback to you. Don’t wait until changes come to review the material. If you stay involved with the training as much as possible, identifying and making changes to the material will be that much easier.
- This last tip seems obvious but too often we pass it by. Observe the learners in their job environment regularly. Take time to get to know how their job works and how their days progress. If you know their job well, you will have an easier time identifying how changes new products or services will impact your learners and thus the training material.
Following these tips can help avoid the stress of cutting corners, making incorrect assumptions and rushing to fix things when they change. Also these tips help you reduce the effect of changes to existing training on the business.