Category: Training Content

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PowerPoint – Three Areas To Keep You Looking Professional

PowerPoint for the Classroom

You know the phrase, “Death by PowerPoint”. Today we’re talking about what can be done to make our presentations more effective so we don’t subject our audience to this slow form of torture.

One of the many tools available to the training Instructor is presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. When used effectively, PowerPoint can help reinforce the message, build instructor credibility, and increase the students’ retention of the topics. As with all forms of media used in the classroom, PowerPoint is there to guide the instructor, not distract from them. A well-made PowerPoint will give a professional feel to the overall classroom environment. I see people spend a lot of valuable time trying to make flashy PowerPoints with lots of animations and sound effects. What ends up happening is the students become focused on the screen and not on the instructor. If the students are distracted by the PowerPoint because they’re waiting to see what exciting thing will dance around the screen next, they’re not paying attention to the instructor. In this article we will identify some key aspects of creating a PowerPoint that will enhance the message and not distract from it.

PowerPoint – Making a Professional Standard

PowerPoint design can be part of your personal brand so take some time and make them your own. I like all my PowerPoints to look and feel the same. If there is a sudden change in the look of the PowerPoint, the students will notice and their attention can be lost.

PowerPoint Template

Microsoft offers thousands of free templates to choose from. I personally like to make my own and that process is covered here. Simple is better when choosing a template. Keep the background light so writing can be easily viewed. Feel free to add your brand or logo but keep is small and out of the way. Use the template to set up a standardized outline format and default text animations.

PowerPoint – Using Bullets

Bullet points should be viewed as a guide to remind the instructor what to talk about. There are many things the instructor needs to manage in the classroom and good bullet points are an easy way to keep lessons on track. Bullet points only need to be a short, succinct summary of what the students will see in their training material or student workbook. If the bullet points are too long, both the instructor and the students have the tendency to read them word for word. The information needs to come from the instructor, the bullet points serve only as a guide. Can you imagine four hours or longer, sitting in a classroom while someone reads long winded bullet points word for word? Bullet points should have a simple, consistent animation. “Appear” and “Wipe” are appropriate. A good instructor will advance to the next bullet, glance at it to make sure they’re on track, and then fill in the details verbally from there. The teaching comes from the instructor, not from the PowerPoint. When the topic has been discussed fully, the next bullet is brought up and the lesson continues. The image below shows how this paragraph can be summarized by bullet points. Notice the “>” symbol after the final bullet. This symbol indicates that we are on the last bullet of the slide.

PowerPoint Bullet Points

PowerPoint Images

Images that are relevant to the topic can help make the PowerPoint more interesting and reinforce the topic. Remember our rule of keeping media from being a distraction. Silly images and cartoons can be perceived as unprofessional and should rarely be used. Be prepared to get student questions regarding ANYTHING you put on the screen. If you don’t want to talk about something, don’t put it on display. Crop images and highlight areas to keep student focus where you want it.

Closing

Keeping your PowerPoints clean, consistent and concise will help project a professional image of yourself. We want the students focused on us and not staring at the screen. These basic guidelines will serve as our PowerPoint foundation. Don’t spend hours trying to make fancy PowerPoints, spend your time polishing your delivery.

What are the ways you customize your presentations to enhance the learning environment? Have you made mistakes in the past that made it difficult in the classroom? What lessons have you learned? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Training Content

Those Are Some Lousy Learning Objectives

I’ll admit, I read people’s learning objectives and sometimes do a little bit of judging. Too often, I see some pretty lousy learning objectives out there. Learning objectives deserve some serious attention because they can do so much for us.

What’s So Good About Learning Objectives?

As a training provider, learning objectives provide the scope of my training sessions. If I’m unable to talk a student off the edge of the abyss that is an endless downward questioning spree, I can always refer to the learning objectives to bring them back to the scope of the training. The learning objectives are also the measurement of my instructional success. Did we accomplish what we set out to do?

As an instructional designer, learning objectives define what needs to go into the training materials. Training should never be about one person trying to prove to another person just how amazing their knowledge is. The objectives will tell me whether I need to include a chapter on ‘coaching for low performers’ or not. Learning objectives also tell me what kind of training needs to take place. Will this be classroom based or is a hands-on portion needed? Do the students need to bring any personal protective equipment? How long does the class need to be?

As someone who is selling training, learning objectives describe my product. Here is exactly what your employees will be able to do upon completion of this course. The learning objectives define the contract and help keep me accountable to my customers.

As someone who is purchasing training, learning objectives tell me exactly what I’m buying. I’m essentially buying some knowledge and/or skills for my team. I want to know what these knowledge and/or skills are so I can determine if they’re adequate for my needs. I can also use the training objectives to ensure the facilitator held up their end of the bargain.

As a student, learning objectives tell me what to expect during a training session. Adult learners like to have some control of the learning process and an understanding of what will take place can enable students to be comfortable enough to engage with the learning process.

Why So Lousy Then?

If training objectives are so important and such a good tool for everyone involved, why are there so many lousy learning objectives out there? Well, in typical Planet Speaking℠ fashion we will say, sounds like an opportunity for some training.

What Makes Effective Learning Objectives?

At its most basic level, learning objectives will begin with an action word. They should answer the question, “What will the student be able to DO after this training?” Good action words for effective learning objectives are words such as: List, Define, Install, Diagnose, Perform, etc. Notice these are all things I can have the student do to show me the objectives have been met. Let’s use these action words to create some effective learning objectives. We can start by saying, “By the end of this session, the student should be able to….”

  • List the monthly reporting requirements of the front-line supervisor
  • Define the main terms in the annual performance appraisal worksheet categories
  • Install the appropriate anchor mountings for XYZ type fall restraint system
  • Diagnose ABC system fault codes
  • Perform audit of XYZ accounting document

Notice these are all things the student can do and the facilitator can observe them doing so. When the student successfully does these things, I’m confident the learning objective has been met. Effective learning objectives like this can be used to meet all the needs described at the beginning of this article.

What About Those Lousy Learning Objectives?

Lousy learning objectives are ambiguous. Lousy words to avoid are words such as; understand, relate, and show. You’re going to be faced with lousy learning objectives and it’s up to you to recognize the fact that they’re lousy and fix them. When I see a learning objective that begins with “understand”, I first think LOUSY! How is the student supposed to do or demonstrate understanding? Understanding can be demonstrated by Listing, Defining, Installing, Diagnosing, Performing, etc. If these are the things the student will be doing to demonstrate an understanding then use these action words instead.

Keep the learning objectives succinct. If an objective is very broad or begins to creep in scope, it’s best to break it down into a couple of objectives that are more concise.

Closing

Learning objectives are such an important tool, and we will talk about them many times here at Planet Speaking℠. Take the time to look your objectives over and make sure they are effective in stating what the learner will be able to do. Unfortunately, you are going to be ruined about learning objectives now. You’re going to see lousy ones all over the place. At least you’ll be able to offer some quality feedback to those willing to listen.

What experiences have you had with learning objectives? Have you come across lousy ones? What challenges have you had? Have you used quality learning objectives and experienced how valuable a tool they can be? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor

There are no shortages of mnemonics in the training industry and we here at Planet Speaking℠ are no exception. The reason mnemonics are so popular is they work. My post on Key Takeaways describes how and why valuable morsels like this are so important to the learning environment. Planet Speaking’s “Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor”, Credibility, Content, and Classroom, focus on student engagement and serve as the foundation of our train the trainer methodology. In this article I will give an overview of these topics, and our website’s continued articles will typically relate to one or more of these three categories.

The Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor relate to each other in a way similar to the Buddhist philosophy of non-self or interdependence. Each of the three cannot exist on their own and require the other two in order to be effective. Without credibility, the content and classroom environment suffer. Without the right content, establishing credibility is very difficult and the classroom environment suffers. Without the right classroom environment, instructor credibility and course content are affected. One aspect cannot effectively exist without the other two having been established.

There are so many factors that make up each of our Three C’s, it would be ineffective to list them all in one article. We will define them at a high level here and expand on each of them in subsequent posts.

Credibility

Instructor credibility makes successful completion of the course objectives possible. A colleague of mine, and fellow teacher of an older train the trainer program, always says, “Without instructor credibility, it’s hard to get much accomplished in the classroom”. It’s up to the effective instructor to first establish and then maintain their credibility. Adult learners need to believe the instructor is credible or they will find it difficult to participate.

The way we dress, the words we use, the tone we take, and student perceptions are some of the more direct aspects of instructor credibility. There are many other, sometimes nuanced, factors that also contribute to the credibility equation.

Content

Course content needs to meet the needs of the enterprise, any regulatory organization, and the student. The foundation for creating course content is the learning objective. Learning objectives are so important as they describe not only the expected outcome of the training but also define the training scope. It is the instructors job to make sure the learning objectives have been successfully met.

The enterprise must first identify what training is required and ensure it is aligned with the goals of the business/organization. It’s the responsibility of upper management to put support in place by providing communication and ensuring adequate budget is in place.

Guidelines or rules established by applicable regulatory agencies will need to be reviewed by the instructional designer/s to ensure the training is adequate. Some agencies, such as IEEE, have very detailed and clearly defined guidelines. Other certification bodies, like ISO, can cover topics that are much more broad.

Let’s not forget the student! The course content needs to meet the actual needs of the training recipients. If the objective of the training is for the student to demonstrate the proper way to extinguish a fire utilizing a handheld fire extinguisher….. We’re going to need a fire!

Classroom

Classroom requirements will also be defined after the creation of good learning objectives. As a professional training instructor, I’m quite particular about the capabilities and amenities of the classroom. This isn’t meant to imply that my particulars are always met. Quite the opposite is true in many cases! Many times the instructor has little to no control over the classroom location or setup and must improvise while minimizing any impact on credibility and content.

As with the course content, the learning objectives should be the key in identifying the classroom requirements. Can the objectives be met in a conference room or is some form of training laboratory required?

Other topics that need addressing with regards to the classroom are; class size, seating arrangements, access to electrical power, lighting, and many more. The classroom atmosphere is a combination of many aspects and will need to be managed by the instructor.

Closing

Each aspect of Planet Speaking’s℠ “Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor” is equally as important as, and dependent upon, the other. It is the intent of this site to dive deep into each of them in a sort of modular “train the trainer” format that can be consumed as required by our readers. Whether your role is as an instructor, instructional designer, public speaker, manager, or human resources professional, we hope to provide valuable content to help you meet your training needs. As is true with our instruction, your feedback is a critical part of this endeavor and is always greatly appreciated.

CredibilityTraining Content

Building Key Takeaways into Training

Student engagement is one of the main focal points of our train the trainer methodology at Planet Speaking℠. Content that meets the needs of the learner will include valuable takeaways that help to increase retention of topics and strengthen instructor credibility. These morsels of information are what adds real value to the adult learner’s training experience.

Key takeaways can be reinforced through various instructional techniques that help us to remember certain topics. These can be repetition, mnemonics, summarizing, application, and many more. Ensuring students understand why certain topics are important will provide many key takeaways in the classroom. “Teaching to the why” is really hammered hard in my Train the Trainer sessions. It is so important in adult learning that it’s covered in a separate posting.

The Door Code Example

The “door code” example is a quick way of demonstrating key takeaways. If I simply told you that the code to access the office supply cabinet is 1519, I’d be expecting you to memorize or record that information. If I’m a citizen of Planet Speaking℠ and decide to TEACH you the code, I’d explain differently. I would teach that the office supply cabinet code represents O – the 15th and S – the 19th letters of the alphabet. Therefore, 1519 represents OS for office supplies. Need to create a new pin code? Use this method and the code can be recalled quite easily. This is a very satisfying experience for the learner because they can recognize an immediate application of the topic being presented.

Mnemonics and Rhyming

Mnemonics and rhyming are effective tools for memory when used properly. These can be tricky as they can quickly grow in length and get out of hand. The biggest thing to avoid here is making the training seem childish or corny. One or two of these learning devices is good but don’t go overboard. Our own Train the Trainer methodology at Planet Speaking℠ centers around our Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor: Credibility, Content, Classroom. I will admit here that even our own mnemonic is borderline. The training world is littered with these and it can be confusing as to which C’s we’re even talking about. (Here’s where repetition comes into play) There are even some content providers with their own versions of three C’s. So why did I keep it? First, it’s hard not to appreciate a mnemonic that also has some alliteration. Second, I mainly use it to categorize topics to make things easy to navigate.

Teaching Beyond the Obvious

Key takeaways come after a topic is introduced and are used to fill in the gaps. Let’s look at an example of conducting safety training on ‘how to properly inspect rigging and lifting equipment’. Your average trainer might point out that The Crosby Group® has provided markings on their lifting equipment that can be measured to see if they’ve been misused or distorted and leave it at that. The Planet Speaking℠ effective instructor would go on to teach that the Quic-Check® markings are designed to measure at the inch or half inch mark. So, markings that measure 3 or 3.5 inches, depending on device, are in good condition, where measurements of 3.75 inches would be an indicator of distortion. This additional information is the real take away, the actual value, and is the point where you start to see student’s heads nodding in understanding. You can also see that Crosby® has some well thought out designs that should be highlighted by a good instructor.

Crosby Quic-Check

Closing

Building key takeaways into your instructional design will enhance the learning experience and give real value to the learner. Do it with intention. Put the takeaways right into the training material. Using takeaways effectively requires a thorough knowledge of the subject matter and can really increase instructor credibility. The students will be thinking, “this instructor really knows their stuff”.

Do you build key takeaways into your training lessons? Have you had instructors make good use of them? What are some of your favorite examples of good key takeaways in the learning environment. Use the comments below and share some highlights with us.