Confessions of a Designer Turned Learner

Corporate Training| Instructional Design Tips
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In addition to my work at Allen, I do some technical editing on the side. I work remotely, and I only go “to the office” once a year for an annual conference. The interesting thing about my job is that I am required to take the training that applies mostly to in-office work. I am often given a week or so to complete the training, and it is always completion-based. I just have to finish the presentation and indicate that I have fulfilled the requirement. Since the training has nothing to do with my editing job, it has become a hoop to jump through.

Maybe it’s because I am an instructional design consultant, or maybe it’s because I get annoyed when I’m required to take training that doesn’t apply to me, but I have been thinking a lot about the training I’ve been taking. Being a learner who is also a designer changes the way I look at any training. The experience helps me when I sit down to design—by reminding me to get into the minds of my audience and think about what is good training and what is training for the sake of training.

If a course is only for mandatory completion, there is little incentive to giving anything more than my brief attention. And, if the content isn’t applicable, I simply tune-out. Oh sure, I read the on-screen text, but I don’t learn. I don’t have to. I guess that might say something about me, but what it really says is that taking training for a side job means that I don’t have a lot of time to sit and learn about irrelevant topics. There is no reason to be invested in the training, only in my completion status.

Most of the training I’ve taken has consisted of dense PowerPoint presentations infused with tacky clip art. There was one web based training course that simulated an office space. It was by far the most interesting and held my attention the longest. However, since I don’t work in the office, it still didn’t apply to me. I simply clicked the pages to get the completion score. I even turned off the audio so I could complete the course faster.

Since I don’t work “in the office,” I’m not sure how the training is received by the office employees. I do know that the web based virtual office space was the best training the company has produced. I remember more information, and I even remember the visual cues. The mix of visual and exploratory learning was very effective.

My guess is that if the decision-makers see that their employees have completed the training, they must feel that their employees are trained and the company has achieved its goals. Unfortunately, the challenge of any training is applied comprehension and knowledge, and that isn’t as clearly recognized as a completion mark.

I also can’t help but think about the quality of the training. The web based training simulation was well thought through and visually stimulating. The PowerPoint presentations have seemed thrown together. If the company doesn’t take training seriously, then why should I? If I feel that they are jumping through a hoop so that I can then jump through the hoop, then I won’t be as invested. It’s just that simple.

The formatting and appearance of any training sets up the ethos of the company and helps the learners feel as though they are an investment. They are worth the price of effective, relevant, well-designed training.

One of my Allen clients has decided to take such an approach. They want clean, consistent corporate training that is polished and applicable. I sat in on a steering committee, and the learners were excited to receive such training, and they were pleased to be part of the design phase. Learners want to be taught and trained, and training is an excellent way to make learners feel valued.

Due to my recent experiences with corporate training, I have been asking myself the following questions: Am I tuned into my audience base? What are their motives for taking the training? Does the training apply to them? How should they feel about taking the training? Are they given enough time to complete the training? What virtual environment will best enhance and enable their learning?

As a designer, I am glad to switch roles from time to time and become the learner. It helps me test different learning methods and mediums. It has also helped me be more sympathetic to the learners I design training for. I want them to have a better learning experience than I do when I take training. I want them to learn and feel as though they can perform their jobs better as a result of what they complete.

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