Whether you just received an assignment from your boss to develop a training course, or you are a manager that wants to train your staff on specific skills, you may be wondering how to get started. Not all companies have a training staff. And, while most people have attended a training course at some point, few ever give thought to what it takes to develop and deliver a successful curriculum, until they are thrust into the spotlight. Don’t panic! There is a rational way to approach this.
First, you need to gather information. If the task was assigned to you, find out from your manager what she wants to accomplish with this training. What should the students know at the end of the class? If you were going to issue a certificate, what would it certify your class members to do? If you are the manager, sit down and think through what you want to accomplish with this training. Set goals. And develop an evaluation sheet for students to complete when they are finished with the course work. Ask questions that will give you feedback about whether you met your goals. Did they learn what you wanted them to learn? Did they find the course interesting? What would they want to see improved? What did they like the best?
Next, you need to find out about the people who will attend the class. Are their skills very diverse or are they all in the same profession with approximately the same knowledge base? Teach to the lowest level student in the class. If you have to spend an hour getting that one person up to speed, so as not to bore the others in the class, consider spending time with the student before the class, or giving them ‘pre-work’ to get them closer to the class average.
Depending on the class mix, and the type of people you are teaching, you might consider sending out an advance questionnaire. If you are teaching upper management staff, and you don’t want to waste their time, you can find out what your boss expects, and get her permission to poll the students. Find out what they want to get out of the class and what their hot buttons are, so you will be on target with your curriculum. But understand that you can’t be all things to all people. Try to hit 80% of the common factors defined in the questionnaire and you’ll be fine!
Before you send out announcements, decide how long this class will be. The length of the session(s) will depend on the planned curriculum, who will be in the audience, and what you want to accomplish. Be sure to include plenty of breaks so you don’t lose the attention of the class. And, if the training or seminar is confidential or sensitive, you may want to seriously consider an off site location.
When you have all your information together, you can start to develop the training class. Look at the time available; add in at least one 10-15 minute break for every 2 hours of teaching time. Consider a longer lunch if you have managers or critical employees in the class. They will need time to eat and make important phone calls before going back into the classroom. Once you have calculated the break time, you can calculate the total hours of teaching time. Subtract a small percentage for getting the class settled after each break, and for unexpected interruptions and questions.
Take your total available hours and break it down into components. Assign times to each component so that you can use the agenda to let the class know what you are doing and when. If there are segments that a particular member does not need to attend, they will know when they can leave without missing anything that is important to them.
Now, write your curriculum, including presentation slides, handouts and notes. Mix up the media to keep it interesting. Don’t just stand in front of a dark room and talk or you will hear a lot of snoring after the first hour. Typically, the slot after lunch is the most deadly. Serve a light lunch, and then keep the sessions interactive for at least the next hour, so that people do not fall asleep! Keep the training sequence logical. Don’t skip around. Start with background and foundation, and then build on that until you get to the final segment. Always test for understanding to be sure you aren’t leaving any student in the dust. Leave time for questions and answers at the end of each day. Use a mix of presentation/explanation, questions and answers, and interactive work. Get people up out of their chairs! Have them take notes on a flip chart, take a poll that requires voting, or break them up into small groups to come up with solutions to problems. In other words, keep them involved! If you are teaching a software course, you can give them individual exercises, followed by a group exercise using the software. That will keep the group interaction at the right level and the class members are more likely to call on each other after the sessions are complete if they want to ask a question, or see what someone else remembers. Building a class bond is a good thing!
You always want to offer support and be accessible after the sessions are over, in case students have questions. Be sure to provide handouts and exercises so that they can review them if they need a refresher, and give them a place to take notes in their class notebook. Provide all the supplies they need for the course, and meals and break snacks. And don’t forget proper ventilation (not too warm and not too cold) and comfortable chairs.
There you have it! That is, by no means, all there is to know, but it will get you started. Good luck on your teaching venture.