August 27, 2014

When selecting your courseware solutions from a vendor, you should look for: a) content accuracy and completeness; b) the course’s designed learning objectives; and c) the production values (which should be rooted in full motion video and optional word-for-word audio).

Today I’m going to a concentrate on the middle one of those criteria: the designed learning objectives.

There are three primary considerations you must initially take into account when discussing learning objectives. The first is the makeup of the population being trained. For any designed learning objectives to be successful, you must have a clear understanding of the characteristics of the learners in your organization. For example, does the course you are evaluating use college level vocabulary when you know that the majority of people you need to train cannot assimilate anything written above a fourth grade reading level? Also, are the pictures used in the proposed program similar to the types of equipment the learner will encounter on your shop floor?

Second, what “behavior changes” do you expect after the training has been completed? Do you want the individual learners to be able to identify specific pieces of equipment? Do you want them to be able to demonstrate their ability to perform a maintenance task correctly while, at the same time, using appropriate work and safety practices?

Third, does the course you are evaluating prepare the students for the conditions they will encounter? Will the course arm them with the references, illustrations, graphs, and, a help desk — all readily available in well designed media courseware.

After examining these three considerations, it’s time to consider the specific objectives of any courseware you are considering. “The Performance Juxtaposition Site” lists the three main characteristics of good objectives as follows:

“Objectives should identify a learning outcome . . . The objective needs to state what the learner is to perform, not how the learner learns.

Objectives should be consistent with course goals . . . When objectives and goals are not consistent, two avenues of approach are available: change (or eliminate) the objective, or change the course goal.

Objectives should be precise — It’s sometimes difficult to strike a balance between too much and too little precision in an objective. There is a fine line between choosing objectives that reflect an important and meaningful outcome of instruction, objectives that trivialize information into isolated facts, and objectives that are extremely vague. Remember, the purpose of an objective is to give different people the same understanding of the desired instructional outcome.”

Expect a courseware vendor’s sales representative to be able to identify the learning objectives in any programs she asks you to evaluate. Good training objectives identify the desired learning outcomes, are consistent with your company’s goals, and are specifically meaningful to your needs.

For the best in training outcomes, being able to evaluate any training option in these ways is far more important than the bells and whistles you encounter in a typical vendor’s presentation.

And, of course, all these same criteria apply directly to you if you’re tasked with developing your own training programs for your organization.

Enjoy your holiday weekend. More next Wednesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)