Engaging the LearnerInstructional Design

Building Effective E-learning that Helps Develop Manufacturing Skills

6 tips to deliver meaningful training by developing skills, not just “covering content”

A few weeks back a friend purchased a new car. It was a huge technological upgrade over the 12 year-old car she had been driving. The salesman assured her that when she picked up the car he would ‘teach’ her how to use them all!  The salesman then spent 20 minutes racing through all of the functions, handed my friend the keys, wished her luck and said to call with any questions.

My friends’ experience reminded me of something I have often seen, and a point underscored by Ruth Colvin Clark in her book, Evidence-Based Training Methods, “Content covered is not content learned”. The car salesmen had run through the features but he clearly hadn’t helped my friend develop the skills needed to perform the tasks to use her new car’s technology.

When trainers say that a lesson has “covered the content” they often mean that the content has been presented. Usually such instruction is in a lecture format and, at best, accompanied by slides, or graphics, or a video. And typically a learner is minimally involved. The thought that instruction offered through such an event, whether a lecture or online tutorial, is universally effective without the opportunity for overt engagement is most often case an illusion.

It’s fairly common to be tasked with delivering a lot of material without regard to the actual quality of the learning that takes place. It is easy to be trapped into focusing just on the content. However, there are some instructional elements you can incorporate into your learning to avoid similar mistakes:

  1. Explain the standards of performance

Do so early in the lesson. Cover what has to be achieved for the task to be considered completed satisfactorily.

  1. Train to the task

Present only those steps and decisions necessary to perform the task. This will keep the lesson shorter, allowing the learner to promptly return to his or her work area and apply the learning.

  1. Avoid presenting too much information

Stick to what is critical to successfully perform the task. Avoid required ‘nice to know’ material.

  1. Highlight task-specific safety or other hazard considerations

Cover safety issues as they would likely come up while completing the task and when they might be most commonly encountered.

  1. Add interactivity

Provide opportunities to practice or try what is covered.

  1. Offer frequent, instructive feedback

It’s best to give the learner opportunities to see how he or she is doing in developing the skills and knowledge being taught prior to getting back on the job.

You can avoid the trap of just covering content by: engaging your learners, pointing out what a successful performance looks like, and offering frequent feedback on how to successfully complete the job-task.

Ron Trilling
Author of Learning Lines | Founder and Partner, at Media Dynamics
Ron is a great source of information when it comes to eLearning. He has a background in instructional design and has worked with many companies to help develop their eLearning content and courses.
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2 Comments

  1. January 25, 2015 at 11:07 am — Reply

    Thanks for a very good article. I would add one more thing to your six instructional elements. I am learning quite often that I need to query the students (in a non competitive manner) to know if the training is progressing with value, early and often during a class.

    • Ron Trilling
      January 26, 2015 at 4:24 pm — Reply

      I think querying students to ensure they are perceiving value is another good suggestion to make sure they are learning from the content, not just ‘covering’ it. Thanks for the suggestion.

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