Human errors account for 9 out of 10 incidents in the workplace. To prevent errors, most organizations go to great lengths to train their employees. But training materials are not always as effective as they should be. In this article, we will cover practical instructional design examples that will help you ace your training materials.
Before we jump in, let’s cover the basics behind instructional design.
Instructional design explained.
Instructional design is the process of methodically designing, creating, and sharing instructional materials. The goal of instructional design is to offer user-friendly and effective knowledge acquisition to the end-user. There are some key principles behind instructional design. But luckily today, you don’t need to be a specialist to make use of them. Platforms like SwipeGuide come with these principles already built-in.
Here are some examples of instructional design in practice.
1. Create minimalist instructions focused on the learner.
As a rule, instructional design tells us to avoid non-relevant information and complex language that will only serve as a distraction. Your training materials and instructions need to facilitate immediate and meaningful action. They need to be easy to grasp and as concrete as possible.
- Example: an operator needs to learn how to replace a part in a bottling machine.
- Best practice: provide only the necessary information for the user to complete their work and move on to the next step. Do they need to be warned about a common mistake or potential issue? Give them a warning in the particular step of the process. Not before and not after.
2. Make learning synonymous with doing.
Avoid training for training’s sake. Most of us learn by doing. That’s why the best training materials are task-oriented.
- Example: an operator needs to learn how to clean a machine.
- Best practice: divide the instructions in a way that reflects the task structure. Use clear headings to define each of the steps that need to be completed.
3. Use visuals in a smart way.
Visuals are very important in instructional design. That’s because the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when using visuals. Videos, for example, are a very rich visual medium. They deliver a lot of information in one go. It’s precisely this richness that can make them less effective in training materials. Videos determine the pace of learning for the user. This can be problematic. It’s best to let the user decide the pace of their own learning and move through steps in a way that allows them to learn best. Using images or short gifs might be better.
- Example: an employee on the shop floor needs to learn how to stack and safely store potentially hazardous materials.
- Best practice: use a single image to show them how to stack them, and a single image showing how to lock the storage container.
4. Make training materials easily accessible and always available.
Until recently, most training materials were published as word documents or PDFs. Paper-based manuals are somewhat less common, but they’re not entirely extinct. The problem with these means of delivery is that they are hard to locate, difficult to work with, and nearly impossible to sift through. Make it easy for frontline teams to access work instructions and training materials with mobile or wearable devices (like Realwear) through for example QR codes or NFC.
- Example: an employee is covering for a colleague and needs to understand how to perform a certain task.
- Best practice: Instead of having these shelved somewhere or stored on a computer, use a digital work instruction platform that allows employees to access your guides, standard operating procedures and one-point-lessons on mobile or wearable devices. This allows you to provide the right information at the right time.
5. Collect Feedback.
Evaluating the performance of your training materials is a key principle in instructional design. This principle also supports kaizen, lean manufacturing, and other continuous improvement practices. Successful instructional design is often built and improved based on user feedback. This feedback is best collected when your users are performing a specific task.
- Example: an employee finds a step in one of your training materials confusing.
- Best practice: allow them to submit feedback on the very process or step they are struggling with. This is when the issue is “top of mind” so you will be able to collect insights on how to improve your instructions.
Tip! Also read our blog post on "How to Choose the Best Instructional Design Tool".