I am currently consulting into Airservices, the organisation that specifically looks after the training of Air Traffic Controllers and Aviation Rescue Fire Fighters here in Australia. It’s an interesting organisation to be a part of and aviation is certainly an exciting industry to be involved with. One of the challenges faced by this organisation, and others which deliver highly specialised training and qualifications, is how to design training so that it firstly covers all the technical and operational content requirements of the qualifications and the job, and still be interesting and engaging for learners.
One of the strategies that is working well is to engage learning designers who are trainers and facilitators themselves to design the learning sessions, and have Subject Matter Experts on hand to provide content expertise. Good trainers and facilitators for the most part see learning from the learners perspective, so when we design training materials it’s the learners who are at the forefront of our designs. This is a far more effective approach than engaging content experts to ‘write the manuals’.
So what are some of the strategies for learner centred training?
Firstly you need to remember there are 3 questions that learners will always ask when presented with new material:
- What is this?
- Why is this important for me?
- How will I use it (on the job)?
And the key to answering each of the questions is to keep it simple. Learners in workplaces don’t want to be impressed with our academic prowess and our ability to deliver a thesis on the content. They simply need it presented to them in the simplest, most easily understood and useful way. We need to include practical, on the job examples, rather than theoretical speculations, continuously relating the theory back to what they need for the jobs they do or will be doing. Assessments also need to be designed with this in mind.
Another successful strategy when designing learner centred training is to incorporate as many alternative presentation aids as possible. You can do this by:
- trawling sites like You Tube for video clips related to your topics
- finding people who speak on your topic or industry experts to visit the training room and give a live presentation
- recording interviews with experts to show during the workshop
- asking students to do all of the above and more!
Designing learner centred training is about thinking seriously about who your learners are, and walking around in their shoes for the day, to really try and understand what inspires them, motivates them, interests them and makes them want to learn. Yes, we could give them a very comprehensive training manual which they should read, but consider instead how to make the content come alive for them!