The look, feel and capabilities of training courses have changed drastically in the past few years, driven by advances in technology. In the run-up to this year's Training Solutions show Rob McLuhan outlines some of the ideas and techniques involved in designing a training course
Technology has brought big changes to training over the past three years, and course designers have more options than ever. Instructor-led classroom sessions can now be enriched by various multimedia applications, while e-learning enlarges the reach of training to greater numbers of staff.
One new trend is an emphasis on speed. Course designers are expected to come up with a finished product much faster than before. "It used to be like a production factory, with three months spent on the design followed by extensive updating," says Mark Dawson, partner in the client training group at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
This was on the basis that it would have a three- to four-year shelf life, but turnover is now more rapid. Where 20 days used to be the standard benchmark for preparing each day of instruction, the job now tends to be done in 10 or even five days, says Dawson.
And methods have changed too. Instead of locking themselves in a dark room for the duration, course designers meet for short brainstorming sessions and the rest of the time communicate their ideas via e-mail.
Another development is the growing demand for bespoke training, as companies seek courses tailored to specific requirements. Two years ago, 80 per cent of the courses provided by multimedia application service provider IMC were aimed at skilling up employees in office programs such as Word and Powerpoint. That has dwindled to only 20 per cent.
"Employees seldom use every part of these programs and clients now prefer to focus just on what is relevant," says applications director Mike Kennedy.
According to software training author Steve McConnell, getting a requirement right in the first place typically costs 50 to 200 times less than waiting until a problem emerges. So the first task is to identify what the training is intended to achieve.
But many companies embark on training with only a vague idea of the desired outcome. For instance, Imparta, a developer and licensor of technology-enabled products, says a company will often request strategy training because its employees "need to understand business better". And respondents