Training content needs to satisfy the needs of the client and objectives of the training WHILE retaining the attention of the learner at the same time.
When I introduce myself as a Content Developer to a new client or peer, this introduction is generally met with the same response: “What’s that?”
If I want to keep my job description brief and simple to understand, I’ll usually respond with, “I develop technical training which our clients then use to train their employees.” Simple enough, right? Yes, but that description only scratches the surface.
Writing content for training is an art form in itself. Unlike almost any other form of writing, training content needs to satisfy the needs of the client, objectives of the training, and retain the attention of the learner at the same time.
I still recall my experiences in school, and in the military, sitting in on courses where the primary means of training was slogging through dry and uninteresting slideshow presentations. Most of you reading this can likely relate to this experience: Dull presentation, “walls of text” broken up by bullet points (if you’re lucky), little-to-no graphic representations, and absent or lackluster narration. These methods are not an effective way to train or engage an audience. Here at Almon, we like to do things differently.
Recent studies indicate that the average adult has an attention span of 10-20 minutes when performing a task or activity. This number varies widely, depending on how enjoyable, motivating, and engaging an individual finds the task or activity. Modern distractions such as smartphones increase the difficulty in keeping a learner focused in a training environment.
As a content developer, how do I write to ensure the learner remains engaged in the courses we develop? While there’s no magical catch-all answer that will fully engage every learner, here are a few key principles and concepts I always keep in mind while writing a course:
By writing in a manner where the learner feels they are part of the training, we draw the learner into the material and retain their attention for much longer than traditional methods. Inclusion can be achieved in various ways, from simply changing pronouns like “I” and “you” to “we” and “us” to structuring content to draw on a learner’s personal experience. It may take additional effort on the part of a developer, but getting to know and relate to the audience is an excellent way to draw them into the learning.
One of the most effective ways to write a training course is to do so in a conversational style. The easiest way I’ve found to maintain this writing style is to imagine myself as an instructor teaching a class. Now, am I going to achieve better results by standing at the head of the classroom and relaying formal instruction, or by sitting with the class and engaging them in a conversation on the topic? Some may prefer the former method (everyone is different, after all). However, a more casual and conversational approach increases learner engagement and knowledge retention overall. It’s the difference between speaking to someone versus speaking with someone that produces positive results!
There’s beauty in simplicity. It’s the mark of a subject matter expert to be able to explain complex topics simply. It’s important to be concise and “to the point” when writing a training course. If a topic is overly complex, I do my best to explain it as simply as possible. Analogies can help simplify complex concepts, but be sure that the majority of learners can relate to them.
When I’ve finished with a first draft, I make a point to go over the material at least a few times to see what can be reduced and simplified to make the course as easy to understand as possible.
Remember, we have only 10-20 minutes of attention from our learners before distractions begin to take hold. If we’re doing our job right, we’re either maximizing that time or exceeding it. Still, it’s important to compose and organize the content into coherent topic sections that are easily digestible. Breaking up the training content lets learners take short breaks between sections, allowing them to refocus on the training when they resume.
Additionally, organizing our training into smaller sections allows our clients more flexibility in deciding how to conduct the training to best suit their learners and training environment. Whether all at once or split up across various sessions, the possibilities are endless!
Writing content for our clients is always a challenging and fulfilling experience for me. Together with our multimedia design, animation, and programming teams, we have the unique privilege of designing and creating world-class training and multimedia solutions. Every client is different, and their needs and objectives constantly change, but our adaptability and passion for what we do enables us to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations every time!
I hope I’ve been able to give you a glimpse into what a Content Developer here at Almon does, as well as the methods we employ to succeed in our projects. Drop us a line or pay us a visit sometime. Together, let’s see how we can redefine training for you!