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Designing Training Backwards

My curriculum design process for clients typically begins by meeting with a subject matter expert (SME). We work together to identify the goals and the learning objectives. I may take the lead in proposing the learning activities, but the SME provides the focus and context.

I then organize everything into a lesson plan that is sufficiently detailed so that both the SME and I know what content is necessary for both the reference pages and learner activities.

It is a logical step-by-step collaborative process that usually operates very smoothly. I may have to refocus some content and ask for clarification on occasion, but the SME actually does the heavy lifting.

I tell the SME what I need (a questionnaire, a case study, etc.) and the SME provides the raw material I can use to design the activities. The SME also provides multiple choice questions for any quizzes as well as the answer keys for all activities, including the quiz.

That is my typical curriculum design process when I am creating client-specific technical learning programs.

But not this time. This time it is essentially a paper process. The SMEs have provided written lesson information sheets with proposed learning goals, objectives and key content that are broad and all encompassing. They have also sent me various documents (including previous training materials) containing both relevant and non-relevant content. I do have access to SMEs if I have questions and they will provide case studies upon request.

However, it has been essentially left to me to do most of the work- of sifting through content, paring it down to a manageable amount of information, identifying a logical flow, and creating the reference materials, learning activities, quizzes and answer keys.

To do all this, I have found that I need to work backwards.

This is my process right now as I am designing the participant manuals:

1. I identify and define acronyms.

2. I identify and define terms as accurately but simply as possible.

3. I look through all of the content and distill it down.

4. I think about how it can be logically organized.

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