In our modern world, people experience information overload due to the rapid pace of online delivery systems such as email, text, and social media channels that let us know what’s happening in an instant.
As a result, grabbing someone’s attention today and having them stick with the learning process takes some savvy but is a doable task as long as you know what works and what doesn’t.
So let’s dive in and discover how content development, when done right, can create worthwhile learning experiences.
What is Training Content?
Training content is any information presented to your employees or staff to equip them with the necessary skills to perform a set number of tasks.
Knowing your learners’ preferred learning styles will guide you to know which learning content forms will accomplish the needed knowledge concisely.
Shaping your training content to fit your learner’s experience saves you from wasting time. It will also streamline the proficiency of your staff, ultimately serving your bottom line.
How to Develop Training Content
Putting energy into acknowledging what you want your employees to know and how that will serve your business can be easy when implementing the following guidelines.
Conduct a Training Needs Analysis
A training needs analysis is a process whereby you assess the needs of the business and how your staff can facilitate those needs.
- Business Needs: what are the businesses’ goals short and long-term, and how can your team facilitate those goals?
- Learners’ Needs and Profile: who in your organization needs this knowledge to succeed at their job? For example, new accounting software may not be something your warehouse staff needs to know, but it definitely will be a priority for your accounting staff.
Analyze Training Needs of Your Target Audience
Based on an employee’s role in your business, you will discover that learning objectives will vary from job to job.
As you move forward developing training content, you will find the most success targeting the training to the audience versus making a broad catch-all application of training materials.
Awareness of your intended audience helps you define what learning objectives the employee can achieve and how they will move through the training.
The learning objectives tell you and the employee the steps, milestones, and goals they will satisfy upon completing the training material.
Your content creation tools should also contain measurable ways to assess knowledge of the material learned.
One way is through formative assessments, which are intermediate checkpoints that test the mastery of the course material.
The second way is through summative assessments, which include testing all training in a scored format and often requiring a particular score to pass the training successfully.
Getting a handle on what material you should include in your training content will be best served by interviewing Subject Matter Experts (SME’s).
SMEs will provide you with their knowledge and existing training materials, including PowerPoint presentations, presenter notes, reference documents, web resources, test questions, etc.
As you analyze these materials with the help of the SMEs, you can distill down the teachings into short, concise, engaging, learnable chunks that make learning the material more accessible.
As you create the learning objectives, be sure to include;
- Key information
- Case studies
- Real-life examples or scenarios
- References to additional learning resources
Tips for Content Development
Crafting good content follows some straightforward but important rules:
- Utilize clear, consistent, and concise material that is easy to understand
- Do not use jargon or terms that the employee may not yet understand
- Establish uniform text with the same fonts for titles, subheads, paragraphs, consistent font color, row length, etc.
- Placement of text consistent across all slides or screens
- Create appropriate white space between critical ideas and teachings
- Only include the minimum amount of text to convey course material
Next, let’s learn about two different philosophies that can shape your training content further.
Knowles Adult Learning Theory
American educator Malcolm Knowles introduced the concept of androgagy in 1968. Today that term means Adult Learning Theory. It suggests that adults learn differently than children.
Knowles suggests that adults do their best learning when these four pillars integrate into the learning experience.
- Adults are eager to be included in the planning and organization of course development.
- Adult experience that draws on the good and the bad plays an integral role in shaping adults’ learning.
- Adults will learn more effectively when content learning includes the relevancy of their immediate jobs or personal life.
- Taking ambiguity out of subject matter and centering it around problem-solving enhances an adult learning experience.
Although other theories exist for adult learning, Knowles’s ideas continue to be an influential consideration when creating instructional training content.
Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction
Developed in 1965, Robert Gagne proposed nine events that speak to learning behaviors.
These events include the following:
- Be sure to gain students’ attention by stimulating thought-provoking questions, surprise, and ice breaker exercises.
- Informing students upfront with course objectives by describing required criteria for performance will put adults at ease.
- Stimulate prior experience. Allow adults to pull in their individual experiences to enhance learning.
- Present the content freshly and engagingly utilizing different media types such as video, demonstration, lecture, or podcast.
- Provide learning guidance utilizing examples, case studies, visual images, metaphors, and analogies.
- Have students demonstrate their competency in course materials. Assessing a student’s progress through quizzes, tests, individual and group projects is an easy way to gauge retention of training content.
- Providing feedback in an engaging manner such as peer evaluation and self-evaluation. Thus creating ownership of materials learned.
- Assess performance by testing if objectives have been met by administering short pre and post-tests before moving forward in the course.
- Enhance retention of course materials learned by associating prior learned materials with the bigger picture. For example, having students map out how the pieces all work together utilizing mind maps, etc.
Gagne’s nine events can help you shape the learning behavior of your training content, allowing for a comprehensive learning experience.
Types of Training Content
The following list will give you many options to craft exciting and engaging virtual training content.
1. Slide Presentations
You may be thinking that slide presentations are an old-school way of teaching; however, slide presentations are still a viable format for presenting training content.
Slide presentations are simple and easy to utilize when teaching a large group of people in a live setting.
When considering eLearning content, you will find that some learning management systems allow you to insert slide decks right into their platform, offering compatibility with Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides.
2. Visual Training Content
Let’s face it, many of us are visual learners, and having a break in the content with a visual can reinforce learning differently.
Images that provide high-resolution pictures while staying on-topic to the relevant training material can evoke an emotional learning experience. Thus, creating a deeper understanding of the training content.
Illustrations are an excellent way of outlining a process by giving us a bigger picture of how it all comes together.
Screenshots are handy when you are utilizing a learning management system or app to facilitate eLearning.
And annotating what is happening on the screenshot can be easier to understand than straight-up instruction on doing something.
Videos are a nice reprieve from reading content.
They break up the learning experience and reinforce it differently.
According to TechSmith, be sure not to make your videos longer than 20 minutes and ideally 3-6 minutes as training content can lose students’ attention.
3. GIFs & Memes
Gifs and memes are another way to break up the training when a video is not needed.
GIF stands for graphics interchange format and is typically a short video that captures a clip from a TV show or movie.
A meme is a text overlaid onto an image that conveys an idea or behavior that often contains an inside joke.
Both GIFs and memes are a great way to insert humor into a topic that may require fun to recapture the attention span of the employee or learner.
Guides are valuable resource materials that spell out step by step how to accomplish a set of tasks.
They can be offered as a link in the material to refer to later on, or they can be actual guides that you have created in-house.
Either way, they enrich the training material and support the learners when they return to their jobs.
5. Charts & Graphs
Charts and graphs combine contrast and present data groups in a visual format that is easier to comprehend. And they can hone a point that instructional text may not be able to capture.
6. Mobile Content
How you design your mobile eLearning experience is crucial because it is just as easy to lose an employee’s attention here.
To safeguard the mobile experience, you want to make sure that you limit the details on each screen so that the material is easy to digest and does not require excessive scrolling to get to the point.
And lastly, be sure to be aware of your content’s download speeds because an employee will become easily frustrated if they have to wait for the material to become available.
Podcasts are another way to enhance the mobile learning experience.
In essence, they are recordings of material that can be listened to on an employee’s mobile device and enhance retention of training content while on the go.
Quizzes allow students to gauge how well they are digesting and remembering materials.
And quizzes are beneficial when large volumes of material need comprehension to gauge progress made throughout the course.
Lastly, keep in mind that following up with a test at the end of the course will solidify what has been learned and be a provable way to know a student’s competency of the material presented.
Experiential learning or hands-on learning takes the course content from the abstract to the “how do we use this in the field?”
Real-life examples that allow the student to problem-solve are great tools to reinforce learning retention, primarily if the material is not applicable right away.
Let’s face it; learning can be dull if presented in a monotonous way.
Unlike quizzes and simulations that gauge a student’s competency, a game design creates a break in the learning process while still carrying a learning objective with it.
Games are a less severe format in which to learn and, if done right, can give a student another way to learn. Just be sure not to let it sidetrack your students too much, as you only want to offer a small break from the learning track.
Most learners are curious about what a training program will entail.
Checklists satisfy this need by helping learners map out their journey with the course and prepare them for expected timelines.
Especially useful in an eLearning course, students can use the checklist to review their progress and be ready for what’s coming next.
Interviews with subject matter experts such as the people already using the presented materials can enhance the learning experience.
Students benefit when they see the course material used in real life.
It allows the student to elevate the learning experience by transforming abstract knowledge into everyday life.
Just be sure to keep the interviews brief as you do not want to overwhelm, bore, or avert your student’s attention from the intended learning objectives.
Learning Has Evolved, And So Can You!
Remember, you are competing with employees and staff who are constantly bombarded with information, trying to get their attention.
Being equipped with multiple content formats and grasping what adult learners need to be proficient learners puts you ahead of the game.
So hit the ground running and “wow” your employees with content development that creates training programs that are engaging for learners, fun, and interesting while up-leveling your employee’s competencies.