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You Want a Participant’s Guide with That?

Let’s say that you are designing training in a ridiculously short timeline (say, 3 days to get ready for a 1/2-day course or 3 weeks to put together a 3-week course). There are many ways to save time and still have respectable, professional-looking course materials.

Of course you’ll do a great (but quick) job with analysis and design. Everything will go a lot faster if you have templates you can use (or modify slightly).

Consider having templates for the following:

  • Scope Document Template. A brief description of what you will be creating, for what audience, and a statement about the overall result you want.For the shortest timelines, you may be describing the scope of your project on a napkin, but when there is a little more time, you may write a few pages. Figure out what headings to use and what kind of information to provide with each heading before there’s a rush.
  • Design Document Template. An outline of the training program, listing the lessons, topics, chances and consequences of error, materials and tools needed, and describing how to present information, how participants will practice, and how you’ll know if they learned the material.

    We use a table for this, with one row per lesson. For quick design, whenever possible, organize the lessons in the same order that the skills will be performed. If you are not a subject-matter expert, then work with a trainer and/or SME to sketch out instructionally sound lessons in a way that will be instructionally sound as well as sensible to those who will teach the class.

    Lesson Topics Time & C/C* Tools


    * Chances of Error & Consequences of Error: High, Medium, Low

  • Participant’s Guide. Depending on the timeline, this might be a printed PG in a binder or loosely bound, or it could be handouts copied from existing materials. They can be provided in print form or electronically.If you have a template with a logo, cover page, headers, footers, page numbers, consistent headings, fonts, and spacing, you can cobble together helpful materials from multiple sources and make them look (reasonably) great.For courses that have to go together almost instantly, use parts of slide decks, copies of regulatory materials, screen shots used by IT to describe new software, pages from sales materials, or anything else that will help your learners.Straighten out crooked fax pages, paste slides two-to-a-page (one-to-a-page if they have a lot of detail).
  • Slide Template. If you will show slides (assuming you cannot avoid them), then have a template ready to go. Simple is best for slides: some respected research suggests that extraneous visuals and graphic elements are distracting. Use big, easy-to-read fonts. Don’t put too many words on a slide. Make illustrations or screen captures as easy to see as possible. Crop out unnecessary details.
  • Level 1 Template. This will be your “smile sheet” that asks learners for their reaction to the course. I use a combination of every-course questions and specific questions related to a course. The specific questions are based on the objectives or on a design strategy that we are using with a particular course. For example, we might ask questions about a specific checklist, the use of multiple presenters, or an emphasis on hands-on practice.
  • Level 2 Template. This can be a Word doc or electronic survey tool that includes the various kinds of questions you might use to measure learning.Formatting matching items for “paper and pencil” tests or rating scale items for performance tests can take some time. When you want to make a test quickly, it’s easier if you have the basic question-type formats ready to copy and paste, to use as needed.

Creating materials doesn’t have to take forever. For tight timelines, reuse existing information, and create as few new pages as possible. Your templates will provide a professional look.

Think of your quickly-created course as a pilot. You’ll probably wish you had more time. When you don’t, learn to say, “We love this the way it is, and we’ll fix it for next time.”


Article | Seriously, There Is No Time for Design (pdf)

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