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How to Write Training Modules - 8 Easy Steps

TeamOJT Tip of the Month for October, 2003

Once you have a list of job tasks that can be taught and learned in 1/2 hour (see the September Tip of the Month), you are ready to develop the content for the training modules. Training modules are the heart and soul of a structured on-the-job training (OJT) program. Without them, even the best trainers flounder. Training modules have several purposes:

  • serve as a guide for the trainer
  • serve as a guide and later reference for trainees
  • document procedures and best practices
  • provide ready-made checklists for performance evaluation
  • shorten the time to competency
  • standardize task accomplishment
  • represent employee input and ownership
  • provide content for e-learning applications

The content for training modules should be developed by a team of employees who do the job on a regular basis. Having teams create the material speeds up the process dramatically and ensures buy-in from the people who will be most affected. Ideally, the team should consist of employees who are subject matter experts, those workers who are knowledgeable in the job but not experts yet, as well as trainees or newcomers who do not know the job. Trainees play the vital role of "devil's advocate" by asking questions - the meaning of acronyms that are unfamiliar, names and location of equipment or tools, etc. With this diverse group, you will be sure to develop the training at just the right level for trainees. When subject matter experts alone develop the training material, it may be "over the heads" of most trainees or may leave out important information that the trainee might not feel comfortable questioning in a training situation.

A simple two-column format like the sample worksheet at the end of this document works very well for most job tasks. Once you get the team organized, schedule a meeting and get started. Meeting times of one to two hours are recommended. Once up and running, teams can produce 2 to 4 modules per hour.

Before You Start Writing!

At the beginning of the meeting define for the team the following four terms:

Action verb

A word that identifies the specific behavior or action to be accomplished.

Examples of action verbs: "drill"; "load"; "calculate"; "remove".

Object

A word that is the recipient of the specific behavior or action.

Examples of objects: "hole"; "cart"; "account totals"; "plate".

Explain that objects follow action verbs: Action verb + object

Examples of action verbs + objects (using the action verbs and objects above): "drill hole"; "load cart"; "calculate account totals"; "remove plate".

Action step

Short statement consisting of an action verb plus an object that tells the trainee what to do; it is written in column 1 of the training module.

Examples of action steps (using the above action verbs + objects): "Drill the hole"; "Load the cart"; " Calculate the account totals"; "Remove the plate".

Action substep

A clarifying statement used to provide specific details for performing the action step. It includes why, when, where, how, safety, and quality, or any other explanatory information; it is written in column 2 of the training module.

Examples of action substeps: "in the space provided" (tells where); "after weighing each item" (tells when); "by adding the top two numbers and subtracting the previous balance" (tells how); "WARNING - the plate may be very hot" (safety issue).

Now You're Ready To Write A Training Module!

Simply follow the steps below:

STEP 1 - Draw a two-column format on a flipchart or whiteboard so that everyone can see. (Use the worksheet below as a model.)

STEP 2 - Select a job task. The team should be able to readily identify a task that needs training (even if you haven't conducted a job task analysis). Make sure that you select a task that can be taught and learned in 1/2 hour; otherwise, the training module will be too long and cumbersome.

Make sure to state the job task as an action verb + object.

Example: "Complete Claim Forms"

STEP 3 - Write module number and title. For now, just enter number 1. The title is easy. Simply add "How to" to the job task.

Example: Title: How to Complete Claim Forms

STEP 4 - Write the first action step in column 1.

Ask the team, "What is the first action you want a trainee to take?" Check for consensus and write the answer. Remember to write the action step as action verb + object.

STEP 5 - Write the corresponding action substep in column 2. Recall that action substeps may include why, when, where, how, safety, and quality, or any other explanatory information - whatever is appropriate.

  1. Ask the team, "Do you want to tell the trainee why the action step is necessary?"
    • If yes, check for consensus and write the answer in column 2.
    • If no, skip.
  2. Ask, "Do you need to tell the trainee when to perform the action?"
    • If yes, check for consensus and write the answer in column 2.
    • If no, skip.
  3. Ask, "Do you need to tell the trainee where or how to perform the action?"
    • If yes, check for consensus and write the answer(s) in column 2.
    • If no, skip.
  4. Ask, "Are there safety or quality concerns that the trainee should know?"
    • If yes, check for consensus and write the answer(s) in column 2.
    • If no, skip.
  5. Ask the team for any other explanatory information about the action step; check for consensus and write the information in column 2.
  6. Number action substeps a., b., c., and so on.

STEP 6 - Write the next action step.

  1. Ask, "What is the next action you want a trainee to take?" Check for consensus and write the answer in column 1 (number 2); use action verb + object.
  2. Ask the team to consider why, when, where, how, safety, quality, and any other explanatory information.
  3. Continue same process until all action steps and substeps are documented in columns 1 and 2.

STEP 7 - Place graphics where appropriate.

Ask, "Would the addition of graphics clarify steps or substeps?" If yes, note that in the appropriate space(s) in the module and, later, arrange for obtaining the graphic(s). Graphics may be placed in either column, but should be inserted adjacent to the appropriate step and in the same page as the written part of the step, if possible.

STEP 8 - Reorder the steps and modify - if necessary.

NOTE: Try out the module a couple of times before using for training.

If you have any questions, please call (206) 447-0860 or e-mail me at diane@teamojt.com

PDF Worksheet

 

 

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