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Hansen Training Systems, Inc.



Course Development Methodology

The development of a training solution is similar in many respects to the development of a large software system. In both cases, schedule, budget, and quality goals are best achieved by breaking the overall job into a number of smaller tasks. Hansen Training Systems uses a course development cycle consisting of the following steps:

The goal of the phased approach is to minimize cost and overall development effort. This is achieved by making major decisions early in the cycle, when it is possible to make changes easily and cheaply.

The end of each phase is marked by the completion of a set of deliverables. The deliverables for each phase are described in detail below. Notice how the deliverables evolve from each phase to the next, progressing from a general course description to the final product. The use of predefined deliverables eliminates the "90% complete" syndrome by associating a specific, physical product with the end of each phase. The deliverables also provide a medium of communication between our clients and the course developers. At each step, the deliverables represent our current understanding of your training needs. Your comments provide the feedback that we need to guarantee the success of the final product.

We recommend that each client identify one person as its project manager and liaison to HTS. His or her primary duty will be to review the deliverables and provide feedback to HTS. Your project manager is the person we will call when we have a question, need to arrange hands-on time at you office, or need to schedule a meeting. If the deliverables will be reviewed by additional people in your organization, the project manager is expected to integrate the comments and resolve disputes between the reviewers. The project manager should be familiar with the subject matter, both that covered in any current course and that to be covered by the new training program. This person need not be an expert, provided he or she can determine the answers to questions when then are encountered. This person should also be familiar with the various audience groups and applicable company policies. He or she should have the authority to decide audience and content issues, since the approval of the deliverables of one phase are considered to be an agreement of the work to be performed in the next phase.

The following sections describe the work to be performed and the deliverables to be created in each phase. They also estimate the amount of time it will take for your project manager to review the deliverables and provide feedback to HTS. Typically the project manager, the HTS course developers, and other interested parties will meet after each phase to review the deliverables and determine what actions should be taken next.

Preliminary Design

The fundamental goals of the preliminary design phase are to identify the target audience, to identify the desired training objectives, and to organize the training program into its major sections. It is possible that the design will identify a need for separate courses for different audience groups.

During the preliminary design phase, the course developers will review existing courses, attend applicable classes, review appropriate reference manuals and software specifications, and interview appropriate client personnel.

Deliverables

The preliminary design document is typically 10 to 20 pages long and consists of the following sections:

  • Course overview — This is a narrative description of the training program to be developed, similar to those found in course catalogs or program announcements.
  • Audience description — This is a brief description of each category of student that is expected to take the training program.
  • Prerequisites — These describe the skills, if any, that each student is expected to possess before beginning the training program. Different audience groups may have different prerequisite skills.
  • Training objectives — These describe, in general terms, the tasks each student should be able to perform after completing the training program. For each audience group, the training objectives minus the prerequisites become the skills that the training program must teach.
  • Course outline — The is a preliminary plan for structuring the training program into its major components.
  • Media plan — This plan identifies the delivery medium (lecture, text, video, CBT) to be used for each course component. Alternative plans will be included.
  • Topic/audience matrix — If multiple audience groups are identified, this chart identifies the portions of the training program to be taken by each audience group. Using a set of common lessons, we can then develop a separate course (or a separate path within a single course) for each audience group.
  • Source material cross reference — If the new training package replaces existing courses or documents, this chart identifies the relationships between the planned training program and the materials it will replace.

The preliminary design will be revised, as necessary, after your review. You should think of it as the formal specifications for subsequent development.

The alternative media plans will give you the opportunity to control the cost of the final product. The preliminary design will include prices for each alternative.

Your Participation

During our research phase, the client project manager will need to provide copies of relevant materials, training on the existing system, and access to appropriate personnel.

You should plan one half day to review the preliminary design and another half day to communicate your comments.

Detailed Design

The preliminary design will have divided the training program into major lessons and identified the delivery medium to be used for each. During the detailed design phase, the course developers expand upon this description. In particular, the detailed design document will describe each lesson in somewhat greater detail than the preliminary design described the training program as a whole. The total design document typically contains 30 to 40 pages for each day of training.

Deliverables

The deliverables of this phase consist of the following:

  • Course description — This is a revised version of the preliminary design. It includes the course overview, audience description, prerequisites, objectives, and course outline. A list of course materials and an estimate of course duration are included.
  • Lesson descriptions — This is a narrative description and a list of objectives for each lesson making up the training program. Also included are estimates of the size and duration of each lesson.
  • Lesson outlines — A two- or three-page outline of each lesson expands on the outline describing the training program as a whole.
  • Exercise descriptions — This section describes the exercises and testing methods to be used. This includes both computer-driven and paper-and-pencil exercises.
  • Implementation plan — This describes the development effort required for each lesson. It contains enough detail to use as a basis for the development schedule.

The detailed design is revised, if necessary, after your review.

Your Participation

The client project manager's major participation during the design phase is to answer questions over the phone. If possible, we would like access to a working system in order to develop sample screens and detail all procedures. (However, most of this can be postponed until the development phase if a working system is not yet available.) Ideally, we would like a copy of any software for installation on our own computers. You should plan a full day to review the detailed design and a half day to communicate your comments.

Development

Actual course development takes place during this phase. This includes writing, editing, programming, and review by HTS personnel. With an approved detailed design, the development effort can proceed independently for each major course component.

Deliverables

The deliverables for this phase depend on the medium selected for each component. Regardless of the medium, the development phase is divided into two separate steps.

Text Materials

Text materials include booklets, student handouts, administration guides, lecture notes, reference manuals, overhead projector foils, etc. While we plan for two drafts of text materials, as with other phases we will revise the deliverables as often as necessary.

For all drafts, pages will be printed to resemble the finished product as much as possible in layout and format. For the first draft, artwork will be hand drawn by the course developer. After your approval, the artwork will be given to a professional artist for inclusion in subsequent drafts.

Audio and Video

For audio and video components, the development deliverables consist of scripts that are ready to send to a production company. Audio components will be produced by our own in-house studio.

We prefer to produce rough versions of videotapes before validation. If no changes are required, all that is needed after validation is the addition of titles and music. However, because of the long lead time required to produce video and the cost, video production is often postponed until after validation.

Web-Based Training (WBT) and Computer-Based Training (CBT)

In the past, the course developer first documented computer-based components in storyboard form. The storyboards show each screen to be displayed, permissible student actions, and the program response for expected and unexpected student actions. After your review, the course developer produces a second draft of the storyboards, if required. The approved second-draft storyboards became the blueprint for programming.

Today, using HTSís EasyTutor authoring system, storyboards will still be provided for your review upon request. However, the files that an HTS author creates to produce storyboards are identical to the files created to produce the finished product. As a result, the first draft you will receive will be a working copy of the finished program! The storyboards are necessary only as a medium for you to communicate your comments.

Your Participation

As in the design phase, the client's major participation during development will be to answer questions over the phone. If not done during the design phase, we will need access to a working system to develop sample screens and detail all procedures.

For each day of training, you should plan two to three days to review each draft of the development deliverables and communicate your comments.

Package Design

Unless the training program will be delivered entirely in lecture format, it will contain miscellaneous elements that will require separate design, production, and handling. These include text covers, CD labels, videotape labels, and overall packaging. Although not an official part of the development phase, package design should be started at this point so that all decisions have been made before the rest of training program is ready for production.

Validation

Your review of the development deliverables guarantees that the training program is technically accurate. The purpose of the optional validation phase is to verify the educational effectiveness of the course materials. During validation, we try the training program on real students from each major audience group.

Some organizations like to perform their own validations in a controlled environment. Others use a procedure similar to software "beta" testing in which the training program is sent to selected customers for review and trial use. Still other organizations determine that the benefits to be derived from a formal validation are not worth the delay in getting the training program into the field.

Production

After you have approved the final revisions, the training program is ready for production. A detailed plan for the production phase will be developed after we identified the course components and can estimate the size of each. Depending on the media used, the production phase may include any of the following steps:

  • Selection and ordering of packaging materials such as binders and CD cases
  • Merging of artwork into text materials
  • Printing of text materials
  • Printing of covers and labels
  • Duplication of audio and video CDs
  • "Binding" of text materials (This could be as simple as collating text pages and putting them into 3-ring binders.)
  • Package integration: Merging all student materials into a single package ready for distribution

Delivery

For lecture-based training, delivery involves scheduling classes and the use of facilities in addition to the actual delivery of the classes at client locations. Both tasks may be performed by either the client or HTS personnel.

For self-study training, delivery involves distributing course materials to the students, scheduling their participation, and following up on their progress and results. Depending on the course, client or HTS personnel may be available via telephone or e-mail to answer questions.

Summary

However an organization justifies the cost of quality training, the cost of poor training should also be considered. Poor training can result in inaccurate or out-of-date information in the clientís database, missed opportunities, lost customers, and reduced revenues.

Quality training is not developed by accident. It takes a professional team of course developers, writers, editors, programmers, and artists to guarantee that the resulting training program will successfully meet its objectives. The HTS team has proven experience in every skill required to develop software training. Our depth of experience guarantees that your training project will be completed on schedule and within budget. Equally important, HTS courses for other clients have become the standard by which their subsequent courses are measured.

HTS is uniquely qualified to develop software training. Most training vendors specialize in sales or management training and have little computer-related experience. Computer consultants have little training experience. In contrast, our sole business is the development of computer-related training. Teaching nonprofessionals how to use sophisticated software is not an experiment for us, it's something we have done in hundreds of successful courses.



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