How much does it cost to design instructor-led training?

It’s an important question, but it’s not a simple question.

Costs can come in many forms. Financial costs are the traditional way in which this question is answered. “We were able to develop this training program for about $2,500.” But what’s the cost to you?

Just because you develop a training program in-house, doesn’t mean it was designed for “free”. Yes, your time is already budgeted and paid for, but it’s certainly not “free”.

If you didn’t have to spend so much time coming up with original activities and thinking of new ways to engage people, what else could you be doing with your time? Another way to think of it might be this: if you had an extra 4-8 hours of work time this week, how would you invest that time? Would you get one more project scratched off your to-do list? Would you shut down a bit early on Friday?

When someone (usually around budget season) asks: “How much does it cost to put together your training programs,” what do you tell them? Are you able to come up with a good answer?

Over the weekend, my colleague Tim Waxenfelter put this little calculator together to help determine the cost of training development.

As you can see, it’s based upon a few assumptions. It assumes that it takes about 8 hours of development time to put together a plan and materials for one hour of training (including background research, activity development, facilitator materials, participant materials, PowerPoint slides, etc). It also assumes your labor hours are the only costs involved in training. Costs go up even further if you’re using graphic designers, purchasing off-the-shelf content or videos, printing participant materials in full color, etc.

Yes, this particular training cost calculator brings Soapbox into the equation and offers an idea of how many labor hours you could save by automating some of your instructional design process, but there’s a bigger point to be made here.

The saying “time is money” is only partially true. Yes, when you’re at work, your time equates to labor hours, which have a cost to your business. Unlike money, however, your time cannot be saved. So the real question is: how do you want to spend it?

Stop Stressing About Virtual Training Activities

The United States went into lockdown mode as it responded to COVID-19 back around St. Patrick’s Day of this year. It’s been about 6 months since the world of learning and development has gone almost exclusively to virtual design and delivery, and there’s really no end in sight.

Are you still able to come up with original virtual training activities to keep people engaged?

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Are there instructional design lessons to be learned from Married At First Sight?

Perhaps I’ve been quarantined too long and have run out of “good” shows to watch, but when I recently stumbled across Married At First Sight (Season 9) on Netflix, I couldn’t resist.

As I began to watch it, I noticed something. I found myself rooting for certain people on the show. I wasn’t rooting against anyone on the show, but I definitely found myself rooting for a few of the people more than others. As I reflected on this more, I wondered if there was a lesson for us in the world of instructional design.

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Does that training need to be a full day? Does that elearning need to be a full hour?

My favorite teacher of all time was Mr. O’Laughlin, who showed the world what a 4th grade teacher should be. He was funny and always had us laughing. He was kind, smart, from where we stood he was effective, we seemed to learn things. He even had the patience to teach us chess. He was all of these things, that is, until someone broke a rule (which, as fourth graders, all us did at one point or another). Then he’d break out the dreaded punishment: a 500-word essay about what we did.

Legend had it that, several years before, there was a student named David Miller who, upon receiving his gazillionth 500-word essay assignment, sat down and wrote the following:

I was very, very, very, very (insert 493 more “verys”) bad.

In a way, he fulfilled the requirements of the assignment, although I’m not quite sure this was Mr. O’Laughlin’s intention. To some degree, the reminds me of how some training programs and metrics are still implemented.

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How do I show up to Virtual Training?

If you have been in training for more than a few years, it is likely you are familiar with the Ken Blanchard Companies. The Ken Blanchard Companies have more than 40 years of in-person training experience and are a power-house of instructor-led training. Like many other companies, this group of individuals is looking forward to a more agile approach to training development as our world shifts to new approaches to training.

In episode 31 of the Train Like You Listen podcast, we sit down with Britney Cole, Associate Vice President, Solution Architecture and Innovation Strategy at The Ken Blanchard Companies, to talk about how this company planned a new approach to training development even before the pandemic hit, knowing that things can change drastically from the start of a project to the end of one, or as an evergreen training needs to fit a new modality.  Britney takes some time to discuss how she and her team used their puzzle pieces to fit various modalities and how the companies look forward to new processes based on what they have learned in recent months.

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Virtual Training Design Lessons from a Weekend of Wine Tasting

Last weekend I had a chance to visit several wineries in Walla Walla, WA. A lot of people wondered why I was going to wineries if I don’t drink. Honestly, if I have an opportunity to sit outside on a gorgeous day, surrounded by beautiful scenery and amazing views while having fun conversations and learning about things I knew nothing about, then count me in.

As we sat in the final winery we were visiting over the weekend, I began to reflect on the experience and realized there might be some lessons to take away that can be applied to virtual training design.

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Survey Results: The Burden of Going All Virtual

In a post last week, I asked a series of questions to get a better idea of the effort that you’ve needed to apply as you bring training programs to a completely virtual/online environment. If you didn’t have a chance to respond, I invite you to check out the survey questions and add your own responses here.

I promised to share results, and after a week’s worth of data collection, there are some interesting findings, including the fact that one virtual meeting platform is being used FAR MORE than any other, and there is definitely more in-person training that is still happening than I would have hypothesized. Here is the way the survey results have come in to date:

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Virtual Training Session in 10 minutes

Virtual training delivery has always been tricky, but since COVID-19 basically eliminated business travel, just about everyone has made a push to convert existing training programs to virtual.

Sometimes converting programs to virtual can be fairly simple, but usually, the best results come from keeping your learning objectives the same, but starting from scratch when it comes to activities. Virtual training programs and in-person programs are simply two different experiences, and retrofitting in-person programs to fit into virtual delivery may have been appropriate when we were desperately looking for quick ways to continue offering professional development, it’s certainly not the best long-term solution.

Virtual programs and in-person programs are simply two different experiences, and retrofitting in-person programs to fit into virtual delivery may have been appropriate when we were desperately looking for quick ways to continue… Click To Tweet

Within the next week or two, Soapbox will be updated to allow users to choose whether they’d like to create an in-person or a virtual training program. Here’s a closer look at how you’ll be able to generate an entire training lesson plan, with activity instructions customized to your virtual delivery platform, in about 10 minutes.

Step 1: Define your presentation

Simply begin by entering the name of your presentation, the amount of time you have to deliver your presentation, whether your presentation is to be delivered in-person or online (this blog post focuses on online delivery), the approximate number of people who will attend, the type of presentation and your virtual platform.

Defining the basics of your presentation

The amount of time you have to deliver your presentation, the approximate number of people who will attend and the platform will all impact the actual activities that are generated for your presentation. You’ll be given different activities and instructions if you have 4 people attending than if you have 400 people attending. Similarly, you’ll be able to use different features of a virtual platform to engage your audience if you’re using a platform like Zoom that has breakout room capabilities compared to if you’re using a platform like Microsoft Teams which does not allow for breakout room discussions.

Step 2: Set Your Learning Objectives

There are about 30 different choices for your learning outcomes. The key question here is: given the amount of time of your presentation and the goals of your program, what is it that your learners will realistically be able to do by the end of your presentation?

Some people contend that they can cover 6-10 objectives during a 30 minute presentation. While those people may have 6-10 talking points they’d like to cover, those aren’t learner-focused objectives.

Soapbox will limit the number of learning outcomes you’ll be able to select based upon the amount of time you have available for your presentation. This will ensure a presentation that stays focused and offers participants an opportunity to find ways to practice using your content.

Once you’ve made it through steps 1 and 2, you’ll have a presentation with activity instructions that connect to your learning outcomes and that is customized for your delivery platform. Most users have suggested it takes less than 10 minutes to get to this point.

Step 3: Customize and refine the virtual training activities

There’s no need for you or your team to spend time thinking through the best combination of activities that align with your learning objectives and that will keep your learners engaged. In this final step, you can now invest your time in making sure you have the right activities and talking points for your presentation.

You can drag and drop activities to re-arrange the sequence and flow of the presentation that’s been generated.

Outline of a virtual training session

You can swap out a suggested activity for one that may better suit your facilitation style, your comfort level with the virtual platform and your learners’ needs.

Virtual training session activities

You can edit the activity instructions and add talking points that are important to cover during your session.

Step 4: Generate a Virtual Training Session

Some Soapbox users find the PowerPoint file generated to be a time saver, and they modify the slide deck with some specific talking points, diagrams, illustrations or other key visuals. Others find that they will use their own slide templates, but copy some of the content from the Soapbox-generated slides. Either way, you have a visual resource that can be downloaded and used as you see fit.

Many Soapbox users like to have a hard copy instruction guide at their fingertips, so they’ll download the Facilitator Guide that can be generated. This guide offers step by step activity instructions and reflects any edits and talking points you may have made to each activity.

Virtual training session facilitator guide

That’s it. If you think Soapbox could help you generate better virtual training sessions, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial here.

You can also sign up for a brief demo to have someone walk you through Soapbox by selecting a spot on the calendar below.

Making Virtual Training Feel Less Virtual

Are you tired of being 100% virtual yet? A lot of people are. And that’s ok.

Unfortunately, it also makes our jobs in the world of instructional design and training a bit more difficult. Virtual Meeting Fatigue and Virtual Training Fatigue are real. So what’s an instructional designer to do?

Stop operating in “Emergency Mode”

We’ve been 100% virtual since St. Patrick’s Day, so organizations need to stop thinking that using the tools we’ve always used to cobble something together in perpetuity is ok. It’s not ok. If you’re still trying to use Skype or Microsoft Teams or even GoToMeeting to actually train people because it’s the platform your company has used to connect virtually for the past five years, then continuing to upskill your people is clearly not a priority.

Sound adult learning practices are the first way to help your learners feel less like they’ve been shoved into training purgatory, sitting through sessions with little interaction. Virtual delivery actually presents a number of opportunities you may not even find in the classroom with breakout rooms and polling that are easy to set up.

Sound adult learning practices are the first way to help your learners feel less like they've been shoved into training purgatory, sitting through sessions with little interaction. Click To Tweet

Companies are saving a ton of money on travel these days. If you’re still feeling restricted in terms of the features of your current platform, asking to divert funds that have already been budgeted for (but will not be spent on) travel could be a way to finally upgrade to Zoom or GoToTraining or WebEx or Adobe Connect.

Keep your instructional design basics tight

As I alluded to in the first point, taking full advantage of online features such as polling, breakout rooms, on-screen annotation, chat and document sharing is key to good engagement.

If you need your staff to demonstrate that they know how to correctly input information into an online system, then don’t just talk at them and share your own screen, have them share their screens and talk you through what they understand about the system. If you need people to list the steps in a process, have them type in the correct steps in the chat.

This article can help you determine what features are available on your platform and how to connect your learning objectives with online activities.

Send physical training materials

A client we’ve helped transition from in-person delivery to virtual delivery is sending training materials to their participants. When I talk about training materials, I’m not just talking about a Participant Guide with job aids and handouts for them to physically use as they’re following along in virtual sessions. I’m also talking about green and pink note cards that they need to hold up to their webcam during an activity.

Yes, you could use the voting feature for this activity, but physically having participants hold up note cards to their webcam allows facilitators to see who is answering in which way, and doesn’t allow participants to wait and see how others are answering.

Taking advantage of the webcam and sending materials beyond just the Participant Guide can be a way for your participants to physically feel a part of the training program (as opposed to having to download and maybe print their own files).

As long as sending stuff is on the table…

Why not make it a true virtual happy hour and send margarita mix to your group? Is it a virtual coffee, send a Starbucks gift card (or perhaps even send some Dunkin Donuts coffee beans to each person).

Want to collect information about the session? Ask participants to write down their biggest take-away and return it in a postage-paid envelope.

We don't have to limit virtual delivery to solely what happens on the computer. Click To Tweet

Have you experienced a way to make virtual delivery feel less “virtual”? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section!

A great way to find new and interesting activities that match your learning outcomes is to try Soapbox.

10 questions to ask before you begin designing a training program

If you’re anything like me, anytime a training request comes your way, you’ll be tempted to jump right in. “Ok, what’s the topic? What should people be able to do? Great, leave it to me, I’ll come up with something amazing!”

There are, however, some additional questions we should be asking before we jump into the development of a training program. Depending on the answers to these questions, perhaps training isn’t going to be the best solution after all.

Here are ten questions you may want to ask the next time a training project comes your way:

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