Methodology diagramAt CABI, we have created a seven stage approach to ensure that the training we and our partners provide is high-quality, consistent and solves the problems it’s designed to solve.

  1. Understand the problem you're trying to solve
  2. Define how you will know when the problem is solved
  3. Explore whether a course is the right solution to the problem
  4. Write clear, unambiguous, measurable learning objectives
  5. Identify where people have problems in doing the things you've defined in the learning objectives
  6. Design activities that will help people to practice the learning objectives, and be able to make mistakes safely
  7. Identify the knowledge that people will need in order to do the activities

These ideas are based heavily on the thinking and resources provided by:

1. Understand the problem

  • Who does the problem affect?
  • How big is the problem?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • What are the root causes? Keep asking “why?” until you get to the root.

Useful resources

How to write a problem statement

2. Know when the problem is solved

Next, you need to consider how you will know when the problem is solved:

  • What measurements will you use?
  • Which of these are “proxy” measurements? (eg. course completions) which may or may not indicate whether the problem is really solved
  • How will you capture the data to measure whether the problem is solved?

3. Explore whether a course is the right solution

Having identified the problem and established how you will know when it is solved, you next need to consider whether the course is in fact the right solution to the problem. Consider: 

  • Is the problem caused by lack of information? Can we create job aids?
  • Is the problem caused by inconsistent, poor or ambiguous processes? Can these be changed?
  • Is the problem caused by lack of motivation? How can that be improved?
  • Is the problem caused by lack of skills? A course may be the answer.

Useful resources

Is training really the answer? Ask the flowchart

4. Write learning objectives

If a course is the right solution, you next need to prepare clear, unambiguous and measurable learning objectives. Here are some points to get you started:

  • Start with “By the end of this course, the learner should be able to…”
  • Each learning objective should contain a verb taken from Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Avoid vague verbs like “understand” or “know”. They are vague and almost impossible to measure.

Useful resources

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Effective Learning Objectives

5. Identify where/why people have problems

Use your learning objectives to next identify where people have problems in doing the things you've defined in the learning objectives

  • What does “good” look like?
  • What do people tend to find difficult?
  • Why do they find it difficult?

Useful resources

Action mapping - a visual approach to training design

6. Design activities

Activities will help people to practice the learning objectives, and be able to make mistakes safely. Consider the following questions to help you design useful activities:

  • How much time/money do you have to develop the course?
  • How much time/money do you have to operate the course?
  • Will the activities be self-study? Individual or with a cohort? Tutor-supported?
  • Consider who will provide feedback on those activities
  • Can the feedback be automatic? Provided by their peers? Or provided by a tutor?

Principles

  1. However much we might think that we’re transferring knowledge to students via our lectures, the likelihood that any of that knowledge will be remembered is very low. Memory is primarily related to an emotional stimulus - we remember the things that are important to us. Anything else is cleared out by the brain and forgotten.
  2. If knowledge is not directly related to an activity and therefore to a learning objective, then it should be left out, or we just signpost students to where they might find that information in the future.

Useful resources

Active Learning for Your Online Classroom (Columbia University) 

7. Create resources

Lastly, you should identify the knowledge that people will need in order to do the activities. Here are some points to help you create resources for your course:

  • This comes last to avoid the problem of “dumping” knowledge that will rarely be used
  • Use the concept of the “Flow Channel” – providing just the right amount of support to help people meet gradually increasing challenges
  • If you think more resources may be useful, then create reference materials
If you want to practice these ideas in a safe place, then ask us about joining the Digital Learning 101 course.