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Under Construction: Tips for Building Terrific Training Courses

By Will Schexnayder   |   

Here at Alchemy, we’ve been helping companies create effective training courses for more than a decade. It can be difficult to transform an initial idea into a fully-formed training course, and people often ask us where to start. Here are some guidelines to help you build terrific training courses that will engage your learners.

Know Your Audience

 First, determine who your learner is. Consider the type of employee, experience level, age, first language, education level, and what type of learner they are. One of the best ways to capture this information is by creating a learner profile. You can do this with a survey, which can be as simple or as detailed as you want to make it.

Once you know your learning audience, ask yourself these questions:


The WHAT: Curriculum Analysis
What is the learning need?
What is the business driver behind the need?
What topics must be covered to support the learning need?
What does the learner already know about the topic?
The HOW: Instructional Design
How will we teach the materials?

How do we design the training to promote maximum retention and engagement?

How does the topic fit into the learner’s overall training needs?



Set Your Objective

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can refine your learning objective. A learning objective is simply the gap between what your learners currently know and understand, and what they need to know and understand. Make sure the learning objective aligns with the business driver.

Next, fill out the content details that support your learning objective. If multiple topics must be covered to support a complex learning objective, separate them into different courses. Avoid trying to stuff too much information into one course; research shows that our attention spans have become shorter, and it’s difficult for people to focus on more than one topic at a time.* Separating topics will ensure that the information you’re dishing out is more easily digestible.

As a rule of thumb, aim to keep your courses no more than fifteen minutes in length – we find that after about fifteen minutes, people stop paying attention. Fifteen minutes generally equates to about 2,000 words of content, so shoot for that many words or fewer. When in doubt, remember that shorter is usually better. Recently, companies have been requesting short, 3- to 5-minute “bite sized” courses. However, remember that the length of time needed to cover a learning objective will depend on its complexity.


Accommodate Learner Differences

One challenge that is especially prevalent in the food industry is the wide range of age and education levels that our employees represent. Ideally, for training purposes, divide employees into groups of similar age and education levels, and then tailor training content accordingly. However, we don’t always have the time or resources to do that.

So how do we appeal to different age and education levels in the same course? First, offer supplementary resources, so someone wanting more information can easily access it. Additionally, consider having an “opt out” option in your courses, whereby your learner can go into a course, take a quiz at the beginning that assesses what knowledge they have, and if they pass the quiz, the option enables them to skip that section. That way, employees who already have certain types of knowledge do not waste time repeating the same material, while those who lack that knowledge will take the course.

Building a training course can seem like a daunting task, but by clearly identifying who your learner is, what you need to teach, and how you’re going to deliver the training, you’ll be well on your way to creating a training course that suits your needs.

*National Center for Biotechnology Information, April 2015

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