I talked about this a very long time ago (has it already been over a YEAR?!?!) in Educators vs. Subject Matter Experts. Reading Cammy's post and staring at the beginnings of a new training project have started to crystalize my thinking. Even better - the training that we will be converting is a soft-skills training.
We're going to call this - the Legal training for staff (not it's real name or topic).
The Legal Training for Staff (let's call it LTFS - the University LOOOOVES acronyms) is an instructor-led classroom training taught by the Legal Department (also not the real department). The Legal Department wants to convert the training to an e-learning tutorial. To start - they sent us their current PowerPoint and script that they use when delivering the training.
41 slides and notes.
Now, I have not attended this training, nor do I have any idea about how long delivery takes or how some of the topics are handled in the classroom. I do know that if I was handed the PowerPoint cold (like I was), I would not have a clue about what was taught. And I have a real funny feeling that the students aren't getting much out of the training as it stands.
The regular trainer for this course is a mid level mucky muck for their department. A subject matter expert who has been with the university for almost as long as I have walked the earth. He has eaten,slept, and breathed this topic and all things surrounding this topic for a very long time. He obviously knows what he is talking about.
But I have a feeling that this doesn't translate to the student - someone like me who DOESN'T eat/sleep/breathe this stuff and only has to know it to stay out of trouble.
Why did I get this impression?
- What are the objectives really? - There are some objectives - but why is one of them "communicating the existence of the department?"
A better objective, in my mind, would be to focus on why the department exists in the first place and what they do to help YOU. To evaluate - the students should know why they would contact that department.
All of the objectives in this training really should be reconsidered and rewritten so that the student has a better idea of what he or she is going to accomplish in the course.
- Organization - just reading the PowerPoint, I suspect that if the notes for the slides were read cold, the students would not understand WHY they were talking about a particular topic or how they got there or where they are going and how it relates to the objectives. I had to go back and re-read slides after slide 4. Not a good sign....
- How many examples do you really need? Now, I don't know how these examples are addressed in the classroom. It appears from the script that there is at least some cursory attempt at discussion. But when I hear the instructor say...
Now I would like to show you 15 typical daily transactions that have occured and I would like to talk about some of the [legal] difficulties....
my first reaction is to run out of the classroom screaming. Of course, that wouldn't be professional. Instead, I would probably do my best to stifle a groan.
BTW - that quote is directly from the PowerPoint notes (with the topic changed, of course).
Oh yeah, and did I tell you that the examples are in the middle of the training before discussion of resources to help solve the issue? Or which resource I should use for each circumstance I may encounter? Or how to make that determination?
Maybe we could use one of them as a pre-evaluation at that point?
Those examples would make fantastic practice fodder. The students can then learn what resources are available, how to use the resources appropriately, when to contact the department for further assistance, etc.
I seriously doubt that all students will run into all 15 situations during the course of their career, but going through a randomized selection (of maybe 5?) - they can at least practice.
Remember: this is just my cold evaluation of this particular course using just some PowerPoint slides.
There is obviously a lot of solid information in the course. The subject-matter expert knows his stuff. But this example made clear to me why Instructional Designers are so important, and why I am not worried that Subject Matter Experts are going to take these cool Rapid Development tools and shove me out of a job. First, most Subject Matter experts (at least the ones I have met) don't have time to play with the cool rapid development tools.
Second, and maybe more importantly, Instructional Designers can advocate for the student. They can help order the material so that it is easier for someone not as knowledgeable as the subject-matter expert to get one step closer to the expert's level of expertise. And isn't that why we train people in the first place?
I am meeting these people next week with another training group who is more experienced in soft-skills training. I hope to get a better feel for what actually happens in the classroom during this training, their perceived success, any gaps they have noticed and what the department is really trying to accomplish.