Monday, May 6, 2013

Three Steps to Better Content

Good content for training is always important, but sometimes hard to find.  And yet, we often try to dress up the content using nice graphics, flash or some animation.  But regardless of how nice the content looks, if the content itself is bad, your end product will be bad.

Case in point.  The IRS spent $60,000 on a video  for their leadership training conference in 2010.  The video was made public last week and many are upset for two primary reasons.  First, this video was made with $60,000 of tax payer dollars and secondly, doesn't teach anything.  Take a look.


Good content for training (either online or face to face) needs to be well organized.  What could have been done to make this video better?  What makes good content?

Three Steps to Better Content

Making content easy to understand isn't always easy.  Here are three steps that anyone can apply to their course content to make it better. 

Step 1: Ask yourself what you want them to do.

The bottom line is that you want your learners to do something.  What is it?  How will you know when they have done it correctly?  In other words, have some measurable objectives.  Sometimes this is easier said than done.  Avoid the pitfall of "I want my students to understand (fill in the blank here)".  This is sometimes difficult but not impossible to overcome. 

Once you have a measurable objective, keep in mind your audience.  Ask yourself if the objectives are attainable for your students.  If they are not, then you can revise your objectives, or plan out some activities that will help get your students up to speed.  This should be the start of your presentation content.

Step 2: Ask yourself what you want them to "know" in order to "do".

When you have your measurable objective(what you want them to do), ask yourself: "what do my students need to know in order to accomplish the objective?" One way to do this is to list your objectives, and then list knowledge acquisition activities that relate to those objectives. Knowledge acquisition activities usually consist of the following:
  1. textbook reading
  2. your lecture

  Most instructors and trainers believe that they can easily map the course readings and lectures to the objectives.   That may be true, but the key is to do it ahead of time, and plan it out. Writing down your objectives and mapping the your content to it is vital. Those who don't do this end up with something like the Star Trek video as seen above.


Step 3: Chunk Your Presentation into Palatable Pieces.

In a previous post, my colleague Lydia Mong wrote about creating memorable content.  I consider Lydia a master when it comes to online message design. One thing I have learned from her is about the process of "chunking".

Chunking refers to breaking down your message into bite size pieces that enable the user to "digest" what you are giving them without information overload.   This is important because our working memory can only hold so much information.

Using pull quotes and headings also are great for letting your students scan the content.  Scanning is an important activity that can and should be promoted by chunking.

Overall, there are a variety of ways to present your content. What is important is that your content isn't like the Star Trek spoof above.  That doesn't mean that a video is off limits.  Videos can be very helpful if they are done right. If you create a video make sure it has direction and purpose. Hopefully the steps above will help. 

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