Tuesday, March 5, 2013

3 Steps to Avoid the Training Dev Iceberg

When building training, instructional designers (IDs) spend a titanic amount of time coercing information out of subject matter experts (SMEs). They beg SMEs for content - over and over again. When they get the content, IDs study it for hours on end. They work with SMEs for days conducting applied cognitive task analyses (http://1.usa.gov/13AMRAT), trying to get to the core of the way experts think. Finally, IDs try to become authorities on the subject in weeks, when it took the SMEs years - even decades - to achieve mastery

So, it's no wonder that when review time rolls around, SMEs feel like they've run into an iceberg. The front-end analysis was only its tip. Now, they're feeling the pain of what's below the surface. They spend double the time they thought they'd have to, fixing mistakes and pouring over content they've seen dozens of times before.

Training managers everywhere are aware of this problem. But most often they try to fix it by altering the most obvious part of the process - reviews. Google docs, online collaboration sites (http://basecamp.com/), PowerPoints, alternate versions of the course that include textboxes for comments (http://bit.ly/15tTiUH), or Lectora's ReviewLink (http://bit.ly/1648eu6) and RapidIntake Review (http://rapidintake.com/review) are among the most popular "solutions." The trouble is, although they are helpful, these tools usually don't make a significant dent in the overall project time.

If you're truly interested in reducing the amount of time required to launch a training program: 
  1. Commit to having SMEs at the core of the development. As Tom Kuhlmann says, "It’s a lot easier to train a SME to use a tool like the Articulate suite than it is to train you to replace the SME" (http://bit.ly/4bkPah).
  2. Get SMEs up to speed in simple instructional design by following Onlignment's 60-Minute Master's program (http://bit.ly/ITPQaR).
  3. Have the SMEs use the successive approximation model (SAM) developed by Michael Allen (http://bit.ly/13B0vUp). In other words, get them to rapid prototype. The IDs can use their expertise in learning theory to help shape learning activities and simplify content at each iteration.
I hear you saying, "But that will take way too much of the SME's time. They have their regular job to do."

Actually, it takes significantly less time than the "model" I described at the top of this blog. In fact, the SME-at-the-Core model routinely decreases development time and costs by 30%. Plus, it lets SMEs and IDs focus on their areas of expertise. And, as SMEs get better at learning development with subsequent projects, time is further reduced. 

The trouble is, fewer than 10% of all training departments will adopt this model because they're scared of SMEs. Don't be. SMEs want to coach. They want to impart their wisdom on others. And they love to learn new things themselves. Let them captain your ship around the training development iceberg.
Brian is the Practice Leader of Workforce Performance at virtualwirks. He applies the efficiencies of virtualization to training and human performance programs for global clients.

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