Over the last decade working with program managers, I have found that they are terrific at looking at the “big picture” of their programs, but they sometimes need help evaluating available resources for creating training related to those programs or the related projects.
“Should I create the training in-house?” This is a question that program managers might think about. Developing training with available staff resources is certainly an option. Many organizations have knowledgeable staff on a given topic, or staff who are intimately aware of the ins-and-outs of the projects at hand. It’s common for organizations to recruit them to develop the related curriculum. Often, these subject matter experts (SMEs) present the training as well. (Do SME’s make good trainers? They certainly can. And you can help. See Do SMEs Make Good Trainers? for some tips.)
There are several areas to consider before committing to developing training in-house, particularly if specific training outcomes are critical. The importance of asking yourself these questions will vary depending on your program and what behavior changes you want in response to the training. By asking them, you’ll be more informed as you decide which path is the right one for your particular training situation.
Gauging Your Training Development Capacity
What level of training development skills is available in-house? Is developing training “another duty as assigned” for my staff subject matter expert? Or do I have specialists in training design and development?
SMEs are often phenomenal at executing and being resources for the ins-and-outs of a topic. The tricky part comes in trying to quickly ramp up other staff on the most critical pieces of a project. For instance, because of their passion or deep knowledge base, or even their depth of involvement, SMEs may have trouble prioritizing or identifying the “need to know,” from the “nice to know.” The “nice to know” may be interesting and compelling but may not line up with training goals and objectives.
It can be helpful if your SME has a solid instructional design background, can distance themselves from the topic, and can be a bit objective. If that’s not the case, an outside instructional designer (ID) can work with your SMEs, pull out the critical content and the most potent, memorable learning helps (anecdotes, images, policy implications, etc.), and help provide clarity on specific, measurable learning objectives.
Have past training projects included a plan to reinforce lessons learned? If not, do we have the skills or infrastructure in-house to implement one moving forward?
It’s been shown that there is greater learning retention when follow-up is part of the training program. Training is often a singular event, for example, security awareness training required once a year. However, to change behaviors, people need to be reminded regularly about the new way of doing things. Follow-up and reinforcement techniques are key elements to include when developing training in-house. These can include tips/tricks through email and badges for accomplishing certain tasks.
Defining reminder methods and opportunities for practice at the outset of training creation, then implementing them after learners have taken the training, will help make sure that the training has ongoing reinforcement. This creates greater success in accomplishing your outcomes and higher ROI (return on investment) on your training program. Someone skilled as a learning architect can help you develop a plan that incorporates reminders and determines intervals. Reinforcement techniques can be implemented manually or automatically, and the approach you take will guide what technologies or systems will help facilitate effective and timely reminders.
How effective has our past training been? Have we gotten the change in behavior we wanted or solved the business problem that we identified?
Effective training design starts with the end in mind: Identifying outcomes and related metrics as you start the creative process will keep the training focused. Focused training is good. Focused training that engages the learner is better. Focused, engaging training that the learner applies in their day-to-day activities is best. A good instructional designer can move through these in a way that works for the medium, whether it’s online or classroom training.
Which brings you to the next few questions when considering online or mobile training.
Developing Online Training
How do we translate our slide-based classroom training to an online environment (or, can we convert instructor-led training to web-based training without creating “death by PowerPoint?)?”
This question is critical, particularly if your course developers and trainers are used to classroom instruction based heavily on slide presentations. Even for those that don’t have that reliance, classroom training provides an immediate feedback loop to the instructor about who is paying attention and is engaged. Translating that engagement to an online equivalent requires a different set of instructional design tools and techniques.
Where will our audience access or consume the training? At their desks through the company learning management systems, or on the run using their tablets or smartphones?
Even while desktop training is still widely used, using a mobile device—either a tablet or smartphone—has become a preferred platform for accessing training in different situations. Developing and maintaining a single version of the training that can be delivered using multiple platforms requires thought about interactions, images, buttons, etc.
While a strong ID can develop a strategic approach that takes advantage of proven, learning-enhancing strategies and create training that maps to your learning objectives, other roles come into play for online learning: graphic designers, user experience and user interface professionals, and web or application developers. This combination of skills can help you move from stated objectives to training that engages your learners and is both available and easily navigable on different devices.
How will online training fit into our overall program? Will it be built as a “one-off,” or with elements that can be repurposed?
Building the training in “chunks,” or modules, gives you greater flexibility to reuse elements within your follow-up or reinforcement sequence as well. Are there on-staff training program managers available to look at a “master plan” for how the training will be used, and that will help identify the “parts” that can be used in several “wholes”?
Will our online training be accessible to all learners?
When elearning is designed for accessibility, it becomes elearning that can reach all of your learners—whether they are students, employees, or the general public; whether they use reading glasses, or have a broken arm; whether they are hard of hearing, or are completely blind. When considering how to develop a curriculum for training that is accessible to those with disabilities, remember that accessible elearning, as any custom elearning, needs to be designed for how people learn. It needs to be interactive, meaningful, and structured so that the learner can achieve their training goals.
Seek out resources to become educated on accessibility guidelines for digital content and applying them to your overall learning development program.
Next Steps – Choosing a Path
Your learning project needs may impact the weight you give to some questions. As you assess your team’s in-house capabilities, other considerations that affect your program may arise. Other roles to support your learning project may be revealed. The process of honestly answering these questions provides a firm understanding of your available in-house training development resources, and perhaps identify more options to choose from.
From there, you can weigh the costs and benefits of taking an in-house versus outsourced approached. Whether you choose to equip your in-house team with needed skills or team with another department or outside company. By consulting with an outside vendor (See Learning and Development: Why Hire an Outside Company? for some advantages to this approach), you’ll be better equipped to provide perspective on your immediate needs.
About the author
Heather Poggi-Mannis is a Learning Strategist with Microassist, Inc. based in Austin, TX. She creates & delivers custom training emphasizing usability & accessibility for corporations, federal, state & local agencies.
Learn more about Custom Elearning Solutions
Accessible Elearning Solutions: Why Make your Training Accessible? One in five people in the United States has a disability. For many of them, much of today’s online content can be virtually impossible to use. Inaccessible online training creates barriers to learning, and can impede job performance.
Learning Dispatch Series on Learning & Development Roles
- The Importance of Using Roles When Developing Learning
- Instructional Designer and Course Developer: One Person or Two?
- Empowering Learning Development Project Managers
- The SME Role in Course Development
- Do SMEs Make Good Trainers?
- The Indispensable Role of Clients in Learning Projects
- Graphic Designers: Do You Need One on Your Learning Development Team?
- Accessibility Expertise: Determining Where It Belongs in Elearning Development
More Training Development Resources
- Learning Fundamentals: Which Training Methods Work Best?
- Training for Behavior Change Can Be Harder than It Looks
- Managed Learning Services: Custom, End-to-End Training Support, Tailored to Your Organization
Last updated February 2020