Adapting for flexible delivery; the team

For many years, the trainer or lecturer was seen as a largely autonomous person who was responsible for all aspects of training delivery. Within their job specification was:
- Identifying the training needs
- Setting the goals/objectives for training
- Providing the expertise needed for the subject
- Developing the resources to be used
- Delivering the training
- Evaluating and adapting materials

Many organisations strive to include new technologies and systems in their training, but don't pay adequate attention to the implications for those charged with incorporating them. Moving to in-house online/Intranet solutions for example often means big changes to the way training takes place:
- The role of the presenter changes significantly, as do the skills they need
- The expertise in the head of the presenter often needs to be incorporated in new resources
- The tools that are used demand new skills
- Contact between learners is reduced
- The scale of training changes, from small groups to asynchronous large groups
- The learning resources are more complex and time consuming to develop

What this often means is that it is no longer possible for 'the trainer' to do all things, no matter how competent they are. If a strategic decision is made to develop flexible/online training systems, it needs to be accompanied by a decision to put in place development and support roles that ensure the training will work. This usually necessitates the introduction of a team.

Critics of such a move often point to soaring overheads as being prohibitive. However these additional development costs need to be balanced against the following sorts of financial savings and qualitative outcomes:
- Less travel/accommodation/'unproductive' time spent by learners
- The ability of learners to blend training into their work days
- Economies of scale inherent in one set of resources being used across whole organisations
- The potential to generate a revenue stream from the training materials developed by capitalising on the intellectual capital of the organisation

Successful teams will often incorporate the following skillsets:
- Project manager
- Subject expertise
- Educational designer
- Resource developers including
-- Print (Desktop publishing)
-- Web (HTML/flash/ASP)
-- Multimedia (authoring in Director or Authorware)
-- Graphic Design

Not all skillsets will necessarily be needed for all projects. Note that these are particular skillsets, not individuals. One person may take on more than one role, though one person should never do both educational design work and act as a subject expert. May of theses skillsets can also be contracted in for particular projects, there doesn't have to be a permanent team. What's critical is that all of the relevant skillsets are available to the project. Many projects have floundered because of an assumption that someone can pick up the skills along the way. Possibly a useful staff development exercise, but unlikely to result in quality materials being developed on time.

What's clear is that a mindshift from a cost-driven mentality to an investment mentality is needed. Where the development of training materials is seen as a cost to be minimised, it's unlikely that the potential of the technologies will be utilised. Where training materials development is seen as an investment in the intellectual capital of the organisation, it will pay dividends in terms of real learning, changed work practices and learner capabilities.

About the Author

Phil has worked in Australia and New Zealand as an instructional designer and project manager. He has been involved in a number of projects in the field of flexible delivery, both research based and product-based. He also works as a staff development consultant.