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Training Development: Seven Instructional Methods
Today’s trainer has many more tools at his or her disposal than just the traditional classroom lecture model. Dave Gallup, president of GMPTraining.com, summarizes the pros and cons of 7 instructional methods.
- Printed materials, such as SOPs, work instructions and operating manuals, may be old school but they are classics for a reason. They are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and don’t require a technological interface. They can be time-consuming to create, however, and require the trainee to be able to read and comprehend the material. And updating these static materials sometimes means redoing the whole document.
- Flip charts may also seem old fashioned, but they are an inexpensive interactive tool. A trainer can use them to deliver information and record audience participation in real time. Disadvantages may outweigh benefits, however. They can be difficult to read if the trainer’s handwriting is not clear or if viewed from a distance in a large audience. And because they often are created “on the fly,” there is no opportunity for review or organization of material. They also can be unwieldy to transport. And although an experienced trainer can use them to create dynamic, interactive learning, some viewers may see them as unpolished and unprofessional.
- Slide presentations, such as those created using Power Point or other presentation software, are inexpensive to create, easy to use and graphically versatile. However, they require equipment to present (e.g., computer, projector, display screen) and the knowledge to use it. And their graphic capability can be overused, making it difficult for the trainee to comprehend.
- Video presentations are becoming increasingly popular and sophisticated. This method gives trainees the opportunity to see a process in action, either in a simulated environment or real-life operation. However, they can be time-consuming and difficult for inexperienced trainers to create. Also, “home grown” presentations too often can be seen as unprofessional. And professionally produced video training can be expensive to purchase.
- Computer-based instruction, or eLearning, has several unique advantages. Its one-on-one approach allows trainees to learn at their own pace, in their own time. Trainers no longer need to schedule large training sessions, just direct trainees to the eLearning courses they must complete. These courses typically include testing, which can be automatically scored, recorded in a learning management system and reported to trainers. They also can provide ready-made training documentation to show FDA investigators.
On the flip side, eLearning courses can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive to create, requiring special software and production skills. Off-the-shelf eLearning courses are becoming more widely available but also can be pricey. Trainers also must anticipate what questions trainees may have to make up for the lack of a “live” trainer. And trainees must have basic computer skills and an adequate reading level to complete them.
- Simulation programs can be effective for complex processes and equipment, and can be available for use at any time without disrupting actual operations. But the programming can be difficult and expensive and must be without errors. And as with eLearning, trainees must have basic computer skills to run the simulations.
- Realia, defined as objects and material from everyday life used as teaching aids, relies on use of actual equipment for hands-on training. It is inexpensive since it uses tools and machinery already on site, but it requires an instructor and may be available only when the equipment is not in regular use. It can be very expensive, however, if trainees damage costly or vital equipment.