Training materials can make a big impact on participant engagement, whether they are being used in the classroom or outside of it. Within the classroom, materials should leave a “mental mark” on the participant, that is, he or she should be able to recall important information the next time the materials are open. Outside of the classroom, training materials must serve as a real-time reference that may help participants on the job.
One of the most obvious types of training materials are user and classroom manuals. For a long time, we felt like classroom participants had to have something to hang on to while they were in class. But if your classroom training has evolved into a series of job experiences, you may not need manuals or user guides. On the other hand, if you are providing education on technical or operational processes, you may want participants to follow along in a manual – and take the manual with them when they leave. If this is the case, manuals should be self-explanatory and at least contain an index where participants can quickly reference material. In addition, consider using outsets or removable pages with a condensed version of the process or operation for quick access. Keep text to a minimum and use bullets and numbering as much as possible – a “wall” of text in a printed user manual will probably keep in on the shelf or in the desk when the participant needs assistance.
If you’ve provided tutorials in both live and virtual classrooms, these materials make great references going forward. A tutorial should truly reflect the keys to engagement we discussed earlier in this series. The main keys for a tutorial are that it should be manageable and interchangeable. The manageable component ensures that each tutorial covers just the right amount of information without overpowering the learner. But the interchangeable component ensures that tutorials can be “mixed and matched” for appropriate audiences.
Along with tutorials, job aids are very important and need to engage participants after they leave the classroom. A job aid or quick reference guide can be a printed or online piece of collateral that instructs the participant in one or two technical or operational processes. To engage participants with a job aid, keep the processes within the job aid limited. In other words, use separate components or pages for each process. Also keep in mind that bold text, numbering, and bullets should be used on job aids to draw the user’s eye to the important pieces of information. When training is going on, consider teaching the process using the job aid. This way, participants will be able to better remember the process and remember the job aid that goes with it.
With tutorials or job aids, a best practice for engagement is to combine the overall process with a technical operation if it exists. For example, if you are teaching the sales force how to use the CRM system, place the sales process in the job aid along with the technical steps. This melding of process and technical operation serves to engage the participant through familiarity as well as through the presentation of the benefits of following the process as written.
Finally, you can use social media applications as materials, as well. For example, if a discussion thread on customer service has occurred and been closed, consider “editing” it for content and reusing it. Post the discussion to class participants as a great example of the customer service process. Alternatively, if learners are participating in a blog or discussion after training, have the moderator post the job aid or tutorial. Have participants discuss the job aid, come back with any suggestions, make revisions, and re-post it. This way, participants will be further engaged in the after-training social media as well as the accompanying job aid.
Again, the key to making materials engaging is to remember our keys of engagement: accessibility, relevance, applicability, manageability, and interchangeability. If your materials and job aids pass the “key” test, they will engage participants and continue to be used after training has ended.
Copyright 2010-2017 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.
Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management helping executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.
Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson