7 Tips to More Effective Instructional Design

If you’ve been in the corporate world a while, chances are you’ve been subjected to less-than-stellar training: dull, bullet-filled Power Point presentations, one-sided lectures that drone on and on or, worse, training courses that have absolutely no relevance to your job, skills or needs. At times, it can seem as if companies design their courses just to check a box that training was provided.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

We’ve discovered so much in recent years about how to get the most out of every aspect of learning—from the environment and content to the instructors and participants. At The Bob Pike Group, we provide consulting and workshops that give professional trainers the keys to successful Instructional Design, and we encourage you to check them out. In the meantime, here are 7 quick tips to help you start designing training sessions that engage participants, boost retention and improve outcomes.

1. Start by knowing the unknowns

Before you design your training, determine what participants actually need to learn. Rather than waste your time and theirs covering material your audience already knows, do the groundwork to discover where the critical learning needs are—so you can keep your training design focused and engaging.

2. Give participants a reason to learn

Make sure you design training that communicates a relevant outcome for participants. Learners need to understand how gaining new skills or knowledge is tied to their own job success and professional future. When audiences can see a personal benefit to completing training, they are more likely to stay motivated and involved.

3. Stick to the 90-20-10 rule

A foundational principle of the instructor-led, participant-centered training approach, 90-20-10 is key to maximizing learner engagement. Quite simply, the goal is to keep your total course length under 90 minutes, changing pace every 20 minutes and promoting participant interaction every 10 minutes. The Bob Pike Group are experts in a range of methodologies that use 90-20-10 to great effect. Learn more.

4. Consider your sequencing

Think about your audience and objectives to determine what sequence you should deliver your content in to best enhance learning. Would structuring lessons to follow a “start-to-finish” job performance order be best? Do you want to follow critical sequencing, ordering content in terms of relative importance? Or should you go from simple to complex, covering familiar topics before moving on to the unfamiliar? The choice will depend on your subject matter and participants’ needs, so consider carefully.

5. Use a tiered approach with e-learning

If you’re using e-learning independently or in a blended learning context, ditch the static PowerPoint bullets and embrace a more interactive, tiered content approach. Think of it as a hierarchical triangle, with high-level audio-visual information up top in the first tier. This is where learners get overview basics on the chapter or topic. Tier 2 delivers the more text-based meat and potatoes—detailed strategies, concrete instructions, helpful tips, etc. The final tier is where you encourage interaction from participants, whether through quizzes, games or application of new skills. This kind of hands-on engagement goes a long way toward improving retention and learning outcomes.

6. Incorporate Gamification elements

Every trainer has seen it: that glazed look of “huh?” It’s easy to blame yourself. But the truth is, no matter how great an educator you are, there will always be some learners who just don’t respond to traditional training techniques. That’s where Gamification can help. Gamification is a training approach that adds game elements—group exercises, role-playing, video games, quizzes, badges, prizes, etc.—to create a more enjoyable and rewarding learning environment that boosts engagement. Learn more here.

7. Build in objective assessments

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the design phase is when you need to start thinking about measuring outcomes. How will you determine the effectiveness of your training? What objective criteria must be met for success? How and when will you measure competence during training and back on the job? Now is the time to set these expectations with your leadership so you can build appropriate evaluation tools—quizzes, assessments, performance metrics, etc.—into your design.

Instructional Design is an ongoing process. Even when you’ve hit upon a successful session format, you’ll want to keep looking for ways to improve engagement, retention and on-the-job results. The Bob Pike Group is always developing innovative new approaches to create better learning environments and can do the same for you.

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