TechRepublic members had plenty to add to Marsha Glick’s recent article on designing training programs. Marsha hit on the highlights of effective course design, and readers have filled in the details through their e-mails and postings. Since it takes both parts to make a complete and educational whole, here are the member comments so that you can add their tips to your program design efforts.

Make sure it’s engaging
Trainer Cindy H. offered these ideas about designing classes:

  • Make it real. Give the class an exercise to complete that will apply immediately and directly to the type of work they need to get done.
  • Make it fun. If you’re using PowerPoint, use an interesting character or include .wav sounds that will wake up your audience.
  • Always, always, always test your training materials. Make sure you’re not “assuming” anything. Have an end user try out your documentation to see if it works for her.

Don’t forget about attention spans
Doug B. sent an e-mail describing the 90:20:8 rule (or sometimes the 50:20:8 rule) that deals with attention spans, and the best way to present information so that it is retained.

“Basically, this rule says that a given block of instruction should not be longer than 90 minutes total (or 50 if you like 50:20:8 better). Every 20 minutes there should be a ‘spike’ in the instruction. This could be the use of a different visual aid, a practical application, another speaker, or anything that will vary the delivery of the material. This will tend to revive wandering attentions and bring them back to the topic at hand. The eight refers to an eight-minute break between each block of instruction.

“Additionally, there is the concept of primacy and timeliness. It has been shown that ‘trainees’ will best remember the first topic presented in a block of training and the last item presented. This means that the most important points you want to hit should come at the beginning and the end.”

All of these issues are obviously as important to remember when designing a class as the content itself.

Screen shots are easy graphics
David A., MCP+I, MCSE, and hopefully an MCT in about a month, wrote that he found screen shots to be one of the most valuable training tools.

“They give the students the time to really study that image that flashed up on the screen for a few seconds at their own pace.

“One tool I’m fast finding invaluable is Capture Express. You have so many options; it makes the old [Print Screen] and [Alt][Print Screen] seem positively archaic.

“I have Capture Express assigned to the [F11] key (although you can choose just about any combination of keys), and it’s just terrific.”
Click here to read about how to create a training program with screen shots or here to see what other screen capture utilities TechRepublic members like.
How is your delivery?
Cathy L. reminds us that even if your class plan is great, it won’t mean a thing if you can’t deliver it effectively.

“I have seen too many ‘company trainers’ that don’t have good public speaking skills and that handicaps their presentation of their training material. (A company trainer is one of those employees that gets training assigned to them as an additional duty, not someone whose primary function is training.)”
Check out TechRepublic’s article on public speaking for tips on how to improve your presentation skills.
You may need two versions
Nancy S., a software support technician, liked the 12 steps that Marsha outlined in the course design article and said it was helpful to have them written out. She also suggested that creating two versions of each training program is beneficial as well.

“One for those people who have never used a computer (also those who have but just don’t get it) and one for experienced users. If you have enough to break the group down further, have average users and expert users.”

Beyond the basics
Marcel has these ideas for when you’re designing advanced training:

  • Case studies. Examples showing off the things you’re teaching, which can be used as templates for solving future problems.
  • Lots of hands-on work. Don’t show it, let them do it themselves.
  • A workshop approach. You do less teaching and more facilitating.
  • Tailored courseware. I’ve written some documents myself and added some things to it during the course, seeing what subjects students were experiencing problems with.”

Do you have some real-life examples of problem solving that you use in your networking classes? We want to collect these solutions in one place and create a download that other trainers can use to help their students learn about real-world problems and answers. Send us an e-mail with your case studies or stories about how you fixed what when.