With the influx of more blended programs for the learners in our organizations, Learning & Development is challenged to design training programs that are more complex and could possibly take more time to develop. With a variety of deliverables in play, those who manage L&D teams and efforts are wise to keep their eyes on the horizon to strategically design programs that service their client’s needs while also taking advantage of efficient ways to develop those comprehensive programs. Repurposing elements—or objects—from and within existing learning deliverables is one way to work toward this efficiency.
Continuing with this method, instructional designers also better serve their learners when they design deliverables and training programs with this in mind. Although elements of specified training programs may have a defined shelf-life, especially when the subject matter is dated, this doesn’t mean that the objects within that training program can’t be pulled out and reused in different ways, within different training programs.
Designers should look at learning objects within the overall scope of the training program, and beyond the assumed shelf life. Sometimes reviewing the learning object helps to identify opportunities for it to be repurposed into other and future training events.
Learning objects are everywhere
Your stakeholders may not know of the plethora of items that may already exist on the topic within their organization, within the varying departments. The subject matter experts probably are your best bet for identifying what exists and where it may be located. You may need to guide the subject matter expert in this investigation as you continue to question what potential objects are out there. Your goal is to identify assets that exist, then assess if and how those assets can be repurposed in other ways in the new training program.
Potential learning objects may include (or reside within):
- other training programs that touch on similar content
- manuals, job aids, other process-type resources
- corporate videos
- discussion board threads within the company’s intranet
- any informal learning items used (ad-hoc step-by-step guides created by those who are doing the job/task regularly)
Using existing materials in new programs
As instructional designers begin the analysis of a new training program, the following questions should be addressed:
- Are there other items, or learning objects, focused on this content available for learners, such as job aids or ad hoc training materials created by workers?
- How can these items be repurposed, reused in a different way, in a different program?
- Can this learning object be used in whole or is it better to pull it apart, segment it, or dissect it for use in another way?
Creating a program that contains reusable elements
When leveraging existing materials to design an entire program or one specified asset, always keep the bigger picture in mind. You want to avoid slicing and dicing existing materials in a Frankenstein way. Simply cutting out a segment of a training program and dropping it into another may not provide true value to your learner. Think about the big picture for the learning and then think through how the pieces should come together to satisfy that end goal. As you would do with any blended program, connect the pieces for your learner and create a path for them to follow. Developing a learning map and a communications plan to support the learner will reinforce your overall end goal and allow your learner to make the most of this program.
Let’s review some examples of how objects of existing training programs can be repurposed for future use in new programs.
ILT programs often have a handful of deliverables that can be used in other capacities—by the learner and in future programs. Participant guides can easily be transformed into workbooks for future reinforcement sessions post-training. Note: This type of guide is not a version of the PowerPoint slide deck printed out as slide thumbnails. This is truly a guide for the participants to work through and complete as they engage and participate in an instructor-led training session. This robust deliverable can be used in its entirety to help refresh and reinforce recent past trainings, or used in pieces as worksheets.
Activities built into ILT and even VILT programs can be pulled and enhanced to be used as follow-up asynchronous activities for learners. Managers, with help and guidance from L&D, can leverage the documentation for the activities in a participant guide as a tool to help learners continue to practice and reinforce skills as they progress in their role post-training. This could be specifically beneficial for onboarding-type training where many different elements are in front of the learner at the start. This can help learners continue to get acclimated in their role and to the organization with periodic reinforcement exercises.
Often content elements in an ILT and VILT participant guide can be easily transformed into a job aid. Checklists, process graphics, and other step-by-step details can be designed into effective just-in-time training pieces and aids for the learner to use on the job and in the moment. When doing this, be a good steward of the instructional design process to create a useful aid or just-in-time reference tool, ensuring the tool is easy to follow, understand, and use.
A well-crafted ILT facilitator guide should contain instructions for how to guide learners through the training. With this in mind, this same guide can readily be enhanced into a train-the-trainer (TTT) guide for preparing instructors who may be new to the organization or even the specific content. A facilitator guide can quickly transform into a TTT resource by simply adding specific details related to delivering the content and managing the group, as well as a high-level perspective for the entire training program that is connected to this ILT. Fully fleshed out facilitator guides may only need a few tweaks and enhancements to move into a TTT tool, while others need more definition and guidance around the delivery aspect.
Pictures of flip chart pages or whiteboards from an ILT
Those of us who have delivered an instructor-led training, or even attended an ILT session, probably recall the facilitator (or even learners at times) documenting information on a flip chart or whiteboard. Often these elements of knowledge sharing contain fruitful details pertaining to a specific segment of that training session. Those images can be used as reference in a TTT guide for future facilitators who may deliver the content. And those images can also be used as enhancements for VILT sessions that may cover elements of the same content. They can be used post-activity to show learners additional options or even be placed in front of the learners at the start of the activity to help spur ideas quickly.
Recorded segments of a VILT session
We in L&D are often charged to take an ILT session and “convert” it to a VILT session. You can read more about the dos and don’ts in that arena here. But it’s not often that we think about taking an element from a VILT session and using it in an ILT program. VILT programs can be leveraged in many ways, outside of the one-time delivery. It’s recommended that VILT sessions are always recorded for future use. Segments of those recorded sessions can be pulled out from the recording and used as enhancements within specified areas of an ILT. This added VILT recording can add variety as well as validation for certain elements of content based on who is involved in the specified recording. These segmented VILT recordings are also ideal to use as bridges between content elements in a training program. Short, recorded VILT segments can be made available to learners via a central location. Learners are instructed, through a documented learning map, to access and review the VILT recording prior to attending the next ILT session. Using recorded segments from VILT sessions works well when the content is a demonstration or covers step-by-step processes. You can use these recordings in eLearning modules as well.
Don’t forget about leveraging audio clips as another form of enhancement for your training programs. When VILT sessions are regularly recorded, you have a wealth of audio material to work with. You can easily pull audio from a VILT recording that covers a step-by-step process. You can place that audio into an eLearning module, or use it in conjunction with an animation or process graphic to reinforce the visual representation. It could even be coupled with a standalone animation to operate like a just-in-time, on-the-job resource for your learners.
And, when you conduct traditional ILT sessions, consider recording the segment when you have a special guest visiting your training group. That recording can be used to help deliver influential messages to future trainings and in different delivery outlets.
eLearning modules can be used as training tools outside the organization’s LMS. Yes, eLearning modules are typically designed and developed for learners to complete asynchronously. But if an eLearning object is designed and developed in a way that allows them to be accessed in smaller chunks, such as microlearning, those same pieces of eLearning can be pulled into other training programs as needed to help reinforce content and learning. It’s possible that an eLearning module can be taken as homework after completing a VILT session, or as pre-work for an upcoming ILT. eLearning could also be completed as group activities by learners while in an ILT session.
One helpful repurposed use of eLearning modules is the step-by-step demonstration or “show-me” segments outlining a process, use of a system, etc. Those demos can easily be pulled from the eLearning and placed as a standalone piece that is easily accessible for the learner as a just-in-time opportunity or reinforcement reference. These same demos and show-me activities can be pulled up as needed in VILT sessions to further explain details to learners.
You can see there are many options available to L&D when looking at current deliverables and the learning objects contained within. This creates a long, valuable list of items to use for enhancing future programs for learners. As you move forward to design and develop new programs, keep this in mind. The more you see your deliverables as objects that can be reused and repurposed, the more efficient you will be in your design strategies and the more value you will bring to your organization overall.
Joelyne "Joie" Marshall is a learning solutions manager with Caveo Learning. She combines an MBA from Roosevelt University and a bachelor’s degree in electronic media from Northern Illinois University to design and implement learning solutions that are innovative, engaging, and deliver maximum business value to organizations. A former executive board member with the Association for Talent Development, Chicagoland Chapter, Marshall has presented at the Chicagoland eLearning & Technology Conference, the ATD Hawkeye Conference, and the Bank Trainers Conference.