Recently, I spoke with a former colleague who has worked in the instructional design field for over 20 years. As we talked, he pointed out how much the field has changed in that time, and particularly how the number of training delivery options has increased. Our instructional design toolbox is growing! It’s an exciting time to be an instructional designer as the limits of what we can do continues to expand. But are we using our tools effectively?
Imagine the response if a carpenter tried to drive a nail in using a wrench, or an artist used a large paint brush to perform intricate brush strokes. While the wrench and paint brush are both valuable tools, in these cases they were used inappropriately, making them ineffective. Granted, these examples are a little exaggerated, but they illustrate the importance of understanding the tools available to us and how to use them to get the best possible result.
As instructional designers, we have many different types of tools available to us. When we think of tools, we may think of development tools such as Flash or one of the many rapid development authoring tools available. I’d like to talk about another set of tools we use: training delivery modalities. Each time we design a new corporate training offering, we must make a decision regarding what type of delivery modality will most effectively meet the training need. Options could include an asynchronous WBT course, a media-rich simulation, a mobile learning course, a video, an in-person ILT course, a virtual ILT course, a podcast, a manual or document such as a quick reference guide, a social learning tool such as a wiki, or a blended approach using a combination of several delivery modalities.
As our menu of training delivery modalities continues to grow, it’s important that we take the time to consider the benefits and disadvantages of each option and make thoughtful and informed decisions regarding which delivery method to use. When determining which training delivery modality will be most instructionally effective and cost efficient, consider some of the following factors:
1. Complexity of Learning
Look at the instructional objectives and ask, “How complex is the learning required in this training?” Instructional objectives that focus on more complex learning will require a delivery modality or blend of modalities that provides greater learning support. For example, it would be ineffective to use a delivery modality such as a wiki or a video to teach a far transfer task that requires learners to use analysis and judgment to make decisions under varying conditions. These modalities wouldn’t provide the practice opportunities necessary to master this type of objective. However, if a video or wiki was used in combination with a deliver modality that provided varied practice opportunities, this approach would be more likely to meet the training need.
2. Audience Size and Location
Audience size and location should strongly influence our decisions regarding delivery approach. Some delivery options, such as an asynchronous web based training course or a media-rich simulation, may be expensive solutions for a smaller, more centralized audience, but would be appropriate for a larger, more dispersed audience. As instructional designers, it’s important that we consult with our clients to help them select delivery methods that will be both instructionally effective and cost efficient for their audiences.
3. Content Stability
Content stability, in other words, how quickly the web based training content is likely to change, is another important factor to consider when selecting a delivery method. When content is less stable, a lower cost delivery method may be appropriate. If content will be useful for a longer period, consider investing more to create a higher quality training experience.
While some of these factors may seem like obvious considerations, it’s surprising how often haphazard decisions are made when selecting training delivery modalities. Don’t get caught using a wrench to drive in a nail…make sure you’re getting the most out of the tools available to you.
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