In our continuing series on designing training courses Kate Foreman explains how to structure the content and evaluate the outcome of a training session

To download a PDF of this article as it appears in the magazine click here If you have been following this series of training design articles you will have a good idea of what you want to teach and who it is aimed at.This week we will look at deciding what goes into a training/learning session and what format the training should take.Let's begin by checking what you should now have a clear idea of:

  • What you want to teach – the aims and objectives of your learning
  • The learners that you will be teaching – experience, styles
  • The time you have available – how long you will be given for the training
  • The resources you have available – a venue OHPs, flip charts etc.
  • You now need to consider the most appropriate methods for achieving your learning objectives. For example, we previously considered how language could best be taught and decided that trying to learn a foreign language simply by looking at pictures would be unlikely to achieve the objective.So, we will need to consider the type of learning and how accessible it is. Also, how there will need to be a mthod of evaluating the success (or otherwise) of the learning after the event.

    Statutory requirementLet us suppose that we want to get an existing group of employees to adopt a new method of gaining information from a proposer. We will imagine, for the sake of this exercise that this is a new statutory requirement and therefore has to be done.We can identify two elements that must be trained:1. Understanding why the new behaviour must be adopted (knowledge of the regulations)2. Changing the old behaviour (informal fact-finding) into a formalised new behaviour.Clearly, in our example, there is a combination of learning – knowledge and behaviour. So, on that basis let's consider first the type of learning.Is it something that must be taught individually, or might it be more effective in small groups? Is it knowledge that you want to increase, or is it a concept that you want people to understand? Do you want to change the behaviour of the learners, or introduce a totally new idea to them? Next, how accessible is it? Can all learners easily reach the proposed venue, or might you have to put them up overnight if it is too far from home? Do all learners have access to a computer terminal if you are proposing technology-based learning? Do all learners have the basic skills necessary (for example, can they type?) Are there any special needs that you might have to take into consideration? For example, if you are considering some kind of outdoor activity, would this be suitable for a learner in a wheelchair?

    Achieving outcomeFinally, how will you be able to tell if the objective has been achieved? Just because a learner completes a 'happy sheet' and tells you that they really enjoyed the training, it doesn't mean that the learning/behavioural objective was achieved. Think about how you are going to follow up the training after it has happened and how you are going to ensure that the desired outcome has been achieved. For example, in our proposed fact find training, you might want to sample fact finds and proposals for the next three weeks to see if they are being completed to the standard that you require. Or you might choose to sample them after one, three and six months to ensure that the learning has been embedded successfully.This might sound terribly complicated, but if no learning or change takes place then you will have wasted time and money. It is wise to remember this when you are using external training sources too, if no evaluation takes place, then the job is not completed. Always ask prospective training consultants how they propose evaluating the training, this is guaranteed to sort the chaff from the wheat.The best way to start is by writing down some headings of the subjects that have to be covered. I have added some sub-headings under each point. Let's take our example:1. Why we need to gather information:a. Regulatory requirementsb. Benefits to the customer2. The new fact find in detail:a. What it looks likeb. The purpose of each section3. How to complete it:a. What must be completedb. Who must complete itc. When it must be completed4. Possible difficulties with completion:a. Customer doesn't want to disclose information to youb. Explaining the implications of non- disclosurec. The choices that the customer has5. What's in it for us as a firm?a. Cross-selling for other sections of the companyb. More businessc. Better service for customersd. Fewer misunderstandings and less time wasted.These are just some examples that you might use as headings, but there are lots of others. You will also find that as you develop your training, other headings may occur to you, but at this point we just want to create a framework to get started.Hopefully by now you can see that you will be expending quite a bit of time in the creation of effective training. This should help you to plan out the time that you will need for development. This will also help you to identify the true costs associated with training design.Some areas of design may require skills that you do not have personally – for example, you might need someone to write a computer program for you if you choose the IT route. Even with the most basic of training programmes you will probably need to produce support materials for learners – a procedures guide perhaps, contained within a ring-binder. What about up-dating materials or manuals from time to time? These are genuine costs that need to be taken into account in order for you to be budget accurately.

    Prior agreementsEnsure that you have the agreement of those who matter for the budget to develop the training, as well as agreement to use particular equipment or premises. It is particularly important to agree this in advance as it will avoid the embarrassing scenario of turning up at the intended training location to find that someone else is having a sales meeting there, or there are no chairs in the room. (I promise you, it does happen).This week, using our example, and the headings that we established, I would like you to think about relevant training methods for each of those headings. We will look at the possibilities next week.

  • Kate Foreman is director of training at RW Group
  • Using this CPD pageFor the vast majority of practitioners and indeed support and supervisory staff in our industry, CPD is about regular learning and study that is planned, recorded, timed and evaluated. If you are a member of a professional body with a CPD requirement then there will be certain rules regarding the quality and nature of study material, and the way in which it is recorded.For staff of GISC members this means recording on your individual training file what the learning was, who provided it and when.It might be structured, such as a course, a learning programme or exam study. But it can be unstructured. This form of study encompasses reading the trade press, technical material or taking part in activities to support your professional body. Some CPD requirements are points related (a little antiquated) and others require a time value to be allocated. For example, it might take one hour to read Insurance Times each week. Most of that could be put as a time value but, in reality, perhaps only an half hour was devoted to learning something. The rule is to be honest with yourself and record the time that is relevant. Always take time to make a note of what you felt you gained from the activity. This is useful information for anyone else considering the same activity.In response to the popularity of our CPD programme each week's CPD page can now be downloaded from our website.