There are many limiting factors that can influence the structure of the training program. Some limiting factors include: amount of content, availability of participants, frequency content needs to be delivered or requirement for academic credit to be granted.
Amount of Training Content
If the content can be packaged to be covered in three hours or less blocks of time, then a workshop series or workshop menu may be the best option. Workshops can be offered on demand when there are enough participants to justify an offering or they can be scheduled in a regular rotation every few months.
The content is better suited to a course structure if the content fits one or more of the following criteria:
In-depth and complex
Requires many hours to deliver the full content
Is best delivered in smaller chunks weekly
Is content that requires learners to build an understanding from basic to advanced concepts
Availability of Participants for Training Events
Often, participant schedules can influence how a training program needs to be structured. If learners are working full-time and need training to work around other operational needs then they may prefer workshops that require less time away from work. If the amount of content fits the criteria for a course, then the course or courses will need to be scheduled with the schedule of participants in mind.
Frequency of Content Delivery
If the content is foundational training that needs to be offered on a regular basis, then the training program would need to either be structured as workshops or courses that are offered on a fixed schedule. If the content is an introduction to a new technique or skill that will not need to be offered frequently, then one time workshops or courses is a better model of delivery.
Academic Credit Required
If the content needs to transfer into a credit program in an academic institution, then the best model is a course with evaluative components.
Possible Workshop Formats
Workshop Series – workshops that are scheduled in a consecutive series
Catalogue of Workshops – workshop descriptions are posted in a print or online format. Workshops can be pre-scheduled or scheduled on demand.
Conference – conferences with workshops scheduled on a regular basis (annual, biannual, etc.)
Possible Course Formats
Stand alone courses – learners can register in individual courses
Course Catalogue – similar to a workshop catalogue, courses can be described in a print or online format. Courses can be scheduled or not.
Structured program with core and optional courses – this is a typical academic model.
Determining the best structure for content is dependent on many of the factors discussed. To choose the best training program framework or structure, determine which of the above factors are in play.
New Training Manager Tips
If you are new to training program design, completing the following processes in your initial planning phase will help you build a strategic business case for the training program’s framework and design.
Competency profiling or model provides the list of skills, behaviours and knowledge that employees require to succeed in their role. In addition, a competency profile includes definitions of high competence (or a matrix describing a range of competence e.g. expert, intermediate, beginner) for each competency as a tool to evaluate performance against. Note that depending on the role, a different level of competency may be required.
The competencies can reflect:
hard skills or technical competencies – the technical expertise that is required to perform the work within the specific role
soft skills or behavioural competencies – the people skills required to perform work within the specific role.
With luck, the human resources department has taken the time to complete a competency profile for each role and has integrated an evaluation of each competency in the performance management system. If so, then ask for the data from the performance reviews (or ideally from employee training plans) to determine topic areas for training development.
Training Needs Assessment
Performing a training needs assessment can be as simple as arranging meetings with managers to ask them a set of questions around training needs of their staff, to a set of focus groups, or survey of individual workers from management to front line. A confidential survey that gathers information from the entire workforce is ideal as often managers are not as in touch with training needs of the front line as the front line workers. Whatever tool you decide to use, use it consistently with different employee populations so you can compare results. If budget allows, hire an outsourced survey company, as they have the expertise to ensure that questions are unbiased, that respondents answers are kept confidential and that the data collected in analyzed statistically.
Before you begin developing new curriculum, ensure that you are aware of existing curriculum that may be able to be used off the shelf or adapted. A training audit is a research project where information is collected on training options. If a simple database is designed to store the information collected then it can be used as a searchable tool for managers. Collect information such as:
Name of training
Type of training – curriculum, training event (conference, workshop, course), training tool (manuals, workbooks, software etc.) or training resource (books, content expert etc.)
Developer – who developed the training
Distributor – who distributes the training (if applicable)
Deliverer – who delivers the training (if applicable)
Supplies or equipment required
Duration – applies to curriculum and training events only
Location – applies to training events only
Rating – if possible, include a rating determined by participants/users using a standard evaluation form
Additional info – this could include the next few dates an event is happening, parking information or directions, notes about the content
The findings from the completed competency profiles, needs assessment and training audit will inform the design and development of the training program. The competency profiles will identify key subject areas and/or common areas of weakness (if performance has been measured on competencies). The needs assessment will help flush out priorities of training needs as well as training barriers. The training audit will uncover potential curriculum, events, tools and resources that can be used (or adapted for use) in the training program design.
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