Classroom Training: Challenges for Instructional Designers
The differences between designing an elearning course and content for classroom training are challenging to the instructional designer. In the industry, there are few people who can develop both elearning and instructor-led training. Most gravitate to one or the other and attempt to specialize in that specific area.
While elearning is focused on a self-study learning approach, instructor-led courses require the harmony of the learner and the instructor. Thus, the instructional designer actually caters to two audiences when designing and developing for classroom training. First, you have the instructor or facilitator that requires instructions and information to teach the learner. This specific audience requires detailed information that includes everything from content to administrative information.
The second classroom training audience is the learner or participant. This audience requires less emphasis about the background of the information and more on the application of the information such as activities, exercises, definitions, overviews, etc. The information is very basic while providing space for writing and other activities. Let's explore the two audiences from an instructional designer's perspective.
Facilitator or Instructor Guides
As mentioned, facilitator or instructor guides require more detail about the content of the course. In addition to the content, the guide should also include specific administrative instructions. A good instructional designer will put himself/herself mentally in the shoes of the Instructor. Visualizing how the instructor will present the materials is a great way to write these guides. As an instructional designer, it is your job to ensure that the facilitator is set up for success. So, the more information your provide for the instructor, the better the course will be received by both the facilitator and the learner.
Administrative Content: Here are some tips on providing administrative content for the instructor guide.
- List all the items or materials required to conduct activities or exercises
- Identify the roles for each participant or instructor for each activity or exercise
- Offer suggested methods to present topics (i.e., Use of Flip Chart, projector, chalkboard, white board, or other presentational items to assist the instructor)
- Provide Participant Guide page numbers, if necessary, for the Instructor to reference for the topic being discussed with the learner
- Create a "to do" list for instructors to prepare for the class (i.e., this might include pencils or pens, setting up appointments with guest speakers, printing materials, technical coordination with appropriate technology components within the course design, etc.)
- Provide timelines for each section or topic being presented within the course
- Provide a training schedule with timelines for breaks, lunches, and breakout sessions
- Provide suggested scripts for training (This is a great way to help new instructors)
Course Content: As for the course content of the instructor guides, the instructional designer must provide the facilitator with as much knowledge about the subject as possible in order to get to know the content and respond to participant questions. From the written perspective, the instructional design should attempt to provide the following information for the facilitator:
- Overview of objectives for the course or topic being discussed
- Background information on why the course is being presented
- Definitions and glossary terms
- Key points to emphasize about the content
- Reference materials for more information, if available
- Direction on implementing activities or exercises
Learner or Participant Guides
Unlike the Instructor Guides, the Participant or Learner Guides focus less on the details and more on the key points of the content and the structure for completing activites. The instructional designer should mentally picture how the participant will learn the materials from the instructor. While elearning is focused more on the self-study approach to learning, classroom training is a shared responsibility between the instructor and the learner. This means that the content of the course does not need to reside all in the participant guide. For example, "need to know" content (i.e., step by step instructions, scripting, etc.) should be included in the participant guide. "Nice to know" content (i.e., supplemental information) should be included in the Instructor's Guide. By capitalizing on the harmony of the two audiences, the course objectives can be achieved. Therefore, the participant guide should be less about "all-inclusive" content and more about the application of critical topics. Consider the following concepts to include in a participant guide.
- Key concepts or points of the subject being taught (Keep these brief and to the point)
- Structured framework for activities and exercises
- Space for note taking
- Step by step instructions
- List of course references
- Forms, computer images, and other usable items to assist in the learning processes and procedures
- Appropriate headers and footers (Obvious I know, but I have seen some materials without these items. These are critical in keeping everyone on the same page.)
Among the items above to consider, another critical factor for Participant Guides relates to first impressions of your materials. The overall presentation of your materials can also impact how the course is received by the audience. The instructional designer should also take some time to ensure that the materials look professional and offer an inviting appeal to your audience. Knowing your audience and what styles your audience responds to will help you in choosing appropriate images or designs for the participant guide and improve the success of your instructor-led course.
While I have attended many classroom training courses that displayed a lack of visual appealing participant guides, the content and how the instructor used the materials had a tremendous impact on the success of the course. This is important to note as the focus should not be placed totally on the visual look and feel of the materials as much as how the materials are structured and used in the course. Some of the worst looking materials resulted in very successful courses. However, a professional looking participant guide will improve the learning experience of your audience and could improve the quality of the classroom training objectives.
Designing materials for classroom training requires attention to detail and the understanding that the instructional designer must create materials that cater to both the facilitator and the learner. Designing and developing training for the classroom offers unique challenges for the instructional designer. By understanding the principles of instructional design and applying the concepts within this article, the instructional designer can achieve success in creating instructor-led training opportunities.