Four Ways to Speed Up the Instructional Design Process

Written by Bill Cushard | Oct 3, 2011 3:12:05 PM

Yes, I know. The business is putting more pressure on you to deliver more training and you just don't have the resources.

“If only they understood how long this stuff takes,” you think to yourself. “If we had two more instructional designers we could give them what they want.”

The problem is not that “they” do not understand. The problem is that “you” do not understand. Everyone in the business is under the same pressure. The VP of Customer Service who is putting pressure on your team to deliver more training than you can develop, has been asked to service more customers with fewer customer service representatives, and she needs those she has to learn about five new product launches this quarter, not to mention the new CRM system that is being installed in the same quarter.

By the way, your competitors are under the same pressure and might just be working a little harder than you are.

There is no going back. Things are speeding up, and you cannot go back to the VP of Customer Service and tell her that, “based on our development process (ADDIE), we can have that new product training ready in 4 months.” Bzzzzzzzzzzz. Wrong answer! The product launch is in one month and by the way, customers are already calling about it. Yikes!

So what do you do? It takes time to create effective training. No doubt about that. “If I speed up, quality will go down, and I don’t want to develop low quality training,” you say.

Not necessarily.

There are four things you can do to speed up the instructional design process without decreasing effectiveness. In fact, you may increase effectiveness. And isn’t that what matters most? Isn’t the goal of effective training that a person is able to perform a job well? Consider four things you can do to speed up your instructional design process and quite possibly increase its effectiveness.

It will never be done anyway

The first thing you need to do is begin with the premise that learning programs you design are a work in progress. Ultimately, you will never fully complete a task because as soon as you do and get everyone trained, the product will change or be replaced. Think like a software developer and focus on getting version one of your training designed and delivered. Then, continuously update it as necessary.

Have instructional designers do the job

Have instructional designers do the job for a few days. Send them over to the call center. Let CSRs show them how to take calls and then have the instructional designer talk to customers for a few days. They will have a new appreciation for what tasks need to be learned. This will speed up the ISDers ability to understand the tasks and then design the learning experiences required.

Workbooks, not manuals

Don’t bother to write too much text into the learning materials explaining how to do each task or understand each concept. No one reads it anyway. If you understand cognitive load theory, you know that people cannot listen, read, look, take notes, and process it all at the same time. Make your training materials look more like structured outlines and less like manuals. Put all that text on a wiki.

Lots of practice activities and live work

There is an Estonian proverb, The work will teach you how to do it. So, the more you do, the more you learn. It does not take much time in the design process to create two days worth of training if the two days are spent practicing. Repetition is good. Bring an experienced CSR into class for the practice and let that person answer the tough questions and give feedback to the learners. Have that person act as a customer in these practice exercises to make it seem as real as possible. Then, have the learners talk to live customers while in training. Do.

Remember, you do not need to sacrifice quality for speed; you just have to change the premise of what you design and deliver. Your job is not to create training, it is to serve customers, just like the people in customer service. The only difference is that customer service answers the phone to talk to customers, and you prepare customer service with the knowledge to help customers.

More about employee training on the Mindflash blog.

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