How to Build a Course: Instructional Design Made EasyPosted in Training Development on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
by Guila Muir
Have you been charged with developing either an on-site or online course for other employees? Do you feel like a deer in the headlights? What should you do first?
Instructional design means simply “the ability to develop a course that changes people’s behavior.” You’ll use the same basic rules to develop a course whether you are teaching in-person or online.
These three steps will help you build a strong, effective blueprint for your course.
1. Develop a purpose statement.
State in clear language who your audience is and what the topic is. The statement should be fairly broad. Here are examples:
"The purpose of this training session is to help front-line supervisors write e-mails more clearly and concisely."
"The purpose of this training session is to teach clients how to use to use Calypso effectively."
"The purpose of this training session is to improve the presentation skills of accounting professionals."
2. Ask yourself, “What will the learners be able to DO by the end of this session?”
Keep in mind the length of your session. As an example, let’s say that the first example above is a two-hour course. You might say:
By the end of this session, front-line supervisors will be able to:
1. Explain at least five etiquette rules for writing clear e-mails.
2. Correct basic punctuation in several e-mails, and be able to describe the rules used.
3. Compose and send an e-mail that integrates these etiquette and punctuation rules.
These statements are called learning objectives, or learning outcomes. They act as “buckets” for your content. By figuring these out early on, it becomes very clear what your content should be.
Brainstorm as many ideas, topics, and activities as you can to fit into each bucket. Then select ONLY the two to three most important topics and/or activities within each bucket.
This is your content—nothing more. (At this point, it’s important to remember the adage: Less is more!)
Flesh out what you will say and do for each of the topics and activities you identified. Don’t stray outside the buckets you have chosen!
3. Create a test for each bucket.
Creating simple tests allows you to check how well learners are absorbing the information. It also allows you to develop interesting and relevant learning activities.
To create a test, simply take your “buckets” and turn them into questions or activities. For the example we have been using, this might mean:
(For bucket #1 above:) Ask: “What are at least five etiquette rules for writing clear e-mails?” (Learners can work together to reflect on the answers, individually write them down and discuss with a neighbor, use the chat box if online…)
(For bucket #2 above:) Provide several e-mails with incorrect punctuation and instruct the learners to correct them, then call on various learners to describe the rules used (can be done both in classroom and on-line.)
(For bucket #3 above:) Request that the learners compose and send you an e-mail that integrates these rules, then provide quick reminders and feedback.
Instructional design isn’t difficult. However, it does demand that you create a clear blueprint…and think in terms of buckets!
For more information on course design, see our blog entries at http://www.guilamuir.com/category/blog/training-development/.
For a longer version of this article, see http://www.guilamuir.com/blog/the-seven-laws-of-training-what-managers-must-know/.
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