Let’s face it, developing technical training is not easy. It’s much easier to design a course about Sexual Harassment than about a new software that has just been released. However, many companies want to train their employees on using new tools or applications, and those who understand the importance of high quality training, hire professional designers to create the most effective and instructionally sound training solutions.
Unfortunately, many instructional designers create technical training the same way they design all other training courses. The problem, however, is that the goal of any technical training is not to “show and tell” (even in the interactive manner), but to “practice and do.” Teaching learners how to use a new tool or application is not enough as doing so will not help you achieve the ultimate goal of a training program, which is to help learners obtain new knowledge and skills. In fact, if you teach your learners how to use the tool, they will most likely leave the class not knowing a thing. So, if you should not be teaching learners how to use a software, then what is your role as an instructional designer? Well, when designing a highly technical training, you need to focus on the reason why your learners need to know that piece of software and design your training around your learners’ goals, not around the software and what it can and cannot do. Communication is key in attaining that goal. By working with Subject Matter Experts, asking the right questions, and conducting very thorough audience analysis, instructional designers can design highly effective technical training solutions.
When most people hear that they need to take another technical training course, they automatically expect to have another boring day. Nevertheless, technical training does not need to be boring. In fact, it can be interactive and offer as much hands on practice as possible. Technical training should be very engaging and personalized. If this is an eLearning course, consider offering different levels of interaction, so that learners can choose the most challenging level for themselves and practice their newly acquired skills. Also, be sure that all steps in the theoretical part of your course are clear, accurate and easy to follow. The worst thing that you can do is confuse your learners because you missed an important step in your presentation.
Of course, as an instructional designer, it is not your job to know the tool well. However, it is your responsibility to know how to communicate effectively with your Subject Matter Experts, so that you can obtain the most accurate information for your training materials.
Lastly, never assume that your learners will remember everything presented in the course and always include concise and complete job aids and desk reference guides that learners can use when they need a quick refresher.