Analyzing Needs to Select
the Best Delivery Method
Analyzing Needs to Select the Best Delivery Method. How do you determine the best delivery method to achieve optimum learning results? You must take information from other types of needs assessments and identify how, when, and where you will deliver training. The best time to do this is when you are assessing and analyzing needs. You can compare different delivery mediums, as well as address scheduling issues and other logistics, in the context of the organization and the learning objectives. This chapter provides tools for comparing delivery options by class size, and explores the issues surrounding delivery in both physical and virtual classrooms.
How Will the Training Be Delivered?
Once you have identified the target population and the learning objectives, select the best medium or setting to deliver training to reach the objectives based on class size. Training can be delivered to a group of learners or one individual; it can be self-paced or on the job. For example, the learning objectives in interpersonal or supervisory skills training often require practice with other participants to achieve mastery. In this instance, group training in a physical classroom is more appropriate than self-paced training delivered over the Internet.
Group training can be delivered in a physical or virtual classroom. Individual or self-paced training can be delivered using a variety of high-tech (computer-based training) and low-tech (complete a workbook) options in a physical or virtual classroom. On-the-job training is usually delivered in the workplace and is often delivered by a supervisor to one learner or a small group of learners.
Determining Class Size
The table below shows five factors to consider when choosing the best class size for training: cost, consistency, delivery time, expertise of the trainer, and other considerations.
Delivery cost is highest among the three options for on-the-job training since the time of the trainer or supervisor is repeated each time one person or a small group receives training.
Consistency is maintained best when the entire group hears the same message and experiences the same training together. The more often training is repeated, the greater the opportunity for a variety of messages to be given and received. Consistency can diminish when several trainers deliver the same information, especially when a lesson plan is vague or unscripted. In self-paced training, consistency depends on the quality of the materials.
Delivery time looks at how many people can be trained in a short period. If 200 people are trained in one group or eight smaller groups, the training can be accomplished quickly. Conversely, if 200 employees are required to take self-paced training, there are likely to be compliance issues. It will take the longest time to train 200 employees individually or in small groups.
Expertise of the trainer must be high when the content expert meets with the group. The expertise of the trainer for self-paced training must be imbedded in the materials, since the individual reading the self-paced material usually does not have the opportunity to clarify understanding with the trainer. Expertise of the trainer for on-the-job delivery is rated medium, since most on-the-job trainers have subject matter expertise but little adult learning knowledge and skill.
Other considerations include added travel costs if the target population needs to travel to join the group session. Self-paced training experiences a larger dropout rate than classroom training. Learners need to provide internal motivation to finish a self-paced course. On-the-job training consumes real materials and delays regular production work while the training occurs.
Comparison of Three Delivery Options by Class Size
Physical and Virtual Classrooms
After you have determined the most appropriate class size, decide whether a physical or virtual classroom is most beneficial to achieve learning objectives. Consider the physical location of the target population and whether the time away from the job to travel is excessive or more expensive than the virtual classroom option. There are two options for virtual training delivery: instructor-led or synchronous training (instructor and learners meet at the same time in different locations) and asynchronous training (the learner receives a one-way communication from a trainer through a recording). Here is an example: A U.S. federal government agency conducted a four-hour workshop via satellite for over 200 employees at 80 downlinks. This choice was more cost-effective than paying travel expenses for 200 employees to reach the same location.
The Table below shows a comparison of physical and virtual delivery options. Consider these five factors when deciding whether a physical or virtual classroom is best to achieve learning objectives: location cost, travel cost, timely delivery, expertise of the trainer, and other considerations.
Once a physical classroom is built, the only cost is the cost per square foot to use and maintain that space. Once a learning management system is purchased, the only cost is to use and maintain the system.
Travel cost for a widely dispersed population, like the one in the previous example, can be high for physical classroom delivery. However, if the target population is not widely dispersed, travel cost is not a factor when comparing physical and virtual classrooms.
Timely delivery of training depends on the availability of the physical classroom. The more training programs presented at a given facility, the greater the competition for that space. It is often easier to schedule virtual training than physical space.
The requirement for trainer expertise is often higher when the trainer can physically see the participants. The virtual trainer must actively work to overcome the barrier of loss of sight to be effective.
Distractions can plague both the physical and virtual classrooms. In the physical classroom, disruptive participants can start side conversations, enter and leave the classroom, use cell phones, and engage in all manner of other distractions. In the virtual classroom, the greatest distraction is multitasking by bored participants or dropping out before the conclusion of training.
Comparison of Physical and Virtual Delivery Options
Considerations for Physical Classrooms
If you will conduct group training in a physical classroom, decide whether the space available at the organization’s location is appropriate for use as a classroom. Other physical classroom locations might include rented space at a hotel, conference center, or learning laboratory. Some workshops, like strategic planning and team building, are best held off-site to avoid interruptions and distractions of corporate classrooms. Table below compares four factors when conducting training on-site and off-site: location cost, ease of scheduling, quality of food and service, and other considerations.
The cost of using existing training space is lower compared with that of a hotel or conference center.
The ease of scheduling an internal facility is simpler when compared with external facilities where competition for space can be greater. However, if there is great competition for internal space, these ratings would change.
Generally, the quality of catered food and service increases when using high-end facilities like conference centers. Obviously, there are exceptions to this statement.
Other considerations for selecting a training site include fewer interruptions of participants at an external site. Weigh that against the travel time for participants to reach the external site. At conference centers and resort properties, sports, shopping, and other interests often compete with attending training.
Comparison of Three Delivery Options by Location
Considerations for Virtual Classrooms
There are several options for virtual classroom delivery, including instructor-led (synchronous) training delivered via satellite, video or telephone conferencing, the Internet, or intranet via a local area network (LAN). The software program used to deliver training over the LAN is called a learning management system (LMS).
Asynchronous training (learners attend training alone at different times) is self-paced training delivered via the Internet, CD or DVD, or LAN. Also, asynchronous training can be attended by a group of individuals who learn the same material at different times. How asynchronous training is delivered often depends on the resources available in a given organization. For example,
consider whether the target population has access to a desktop or laptop computer with a DVD drive, or Internet access with a high-speed connection via a tablet, iPad, or other mobile device. If the training has streaming video or complex graphics as part of the session, using a DVD or high-speed connection will allow smoother delivery than using a dial-up modem. If the target population is attending training in a virtual classroom that uses the Internet, consult with your organization’s IT department about firewall and other access issues.
The table below compares virtual delivery options using six factors: cost of purchase, cost of delivery, consistency, timely delivery, expertise of the trainer, and class size. The first shows that the more sophisticated the technology, the higher the initial cost of purchase.
Again, the cost of delivery for an individual training event decreases with the sophistication of the technology.
The consistency of the training content is high in all delivery mediums for the virtual classroom. Everyone sees the same message.
The timeliness of delivery depends on the availability of the technology and the schedules of the individuals who are to attend the training. Looking at the availability of the technology alone, it usually takes longer to schedule satellite delivery than video or telephone conferencing. Intranet (such as Skype or Google Hangout) and CD or DVD delivery is controlled internally, so it is usually easier to schedule delivery. Internet-delivered training often depends on an external provider and is subject to the provider’s schedule as well as internal schedules.
As for the expertise of the trainer, the synchronous delivery methods depend on the content and technical expertise of the trainer. The more a skilled physical classroom trainer practices with the virtual delivery medium, the greater the transference of the trainer’s skills from the physical to the virtual classroom. Even the most expert physical classroom trainer requires technical help in getting the most from the virtual delivery medium. With the CD or DVD option, direct communication with the trainer is a greater challenge.
Optimum class size for each virtual delivery option is only limited by the technology. Including more than five video or telephone conference sites makes participation difficult.
Comparison of Five Virtual Delivery Options
Finally, consider if a blended learning option is appropriate to meet the learning objectives. Blended learning uses more than one delivery medium. For example, interpersonal skills like mentoring can be taught by starting with a self-paced component that requires learners to read background information about essential elements of mentoring programs or to complete a personal assessment (either hard copy or online). Next, a group discussion around mentoring issues and problems can be conducted in a physical classroom or synchronous session using the Internet. The target population can complete specific assignments to begin mentoring a protégé and report back to the group at the next meeting.
After deciding on the delivery medium, consider when to schedule the training.
When Will the Training Be Presented?
To schedule a training session, first consider the size of the target population and whether attendance is mandatory or voluntary. Decide whether a specific training session is a part of several sessions or independent of other training. Can individual sessions of a series be taken in random or sequential order?
What is the availability of skilled trainers to present the training? Are trainers internal employees or external contractors? What is the optimum size group to meet the learning objective and not exceed the physical space available? For example, an information briefing or update is easily conducted for a large number of participants. However, if skill development is part of the objective, practice and feedback are needed to develop a skill, and a class size of 12 to 20 will bring better learning results.
Finally, consider other restrictions that can affect training. Many organizations do not conduct voluntary training on Monday or Friday, since other work and personal issues compete for the learners’ attention on those days. Often the beginning or end of a month is a difficult time to conduct training due to business needs and reporting requirements. Avoid holidays and peak vacation times.
Decide if training is conducted during work hours and employees are released from regular work to attend training. Some organizations conduct training before or after normal work hours and compensate employees by paying overtime or providing equivalent time off. Discuss workload considerations with supervisors to determine how many employees can be away from work to attend training as a group. Sometimes, it is difficult for employees to be away from work for more than a few hours, so a one-day workshop might need to be scheduled as two half-day sessions, or even four two-hour sessions. If employees must be replaced while attending training, you must also consider the availability of replacement personnel.
What Are the Other Requirements to Deliver the Training?
Some training requires that employees complete prework before attending training. Consider how this requirement can be met by the employees attending training. Will employees be given time away from their regular duties to complete prework, or are they to complete prework on their own time?
Some training requires practice between sessions. When and where will employees complete these practice sessions or homework assignments? If practice sessions include applying what is learned in the classroom to the job, what tools are provided for the practice? How will the employee’s supervisor be involved in practice sessions? Will the learner use a checklist or skills observation sheet to report practice and progress between class sessions?
Consider if there are other requirements to deliver training. For example, if employees are union workers, some provisions in the labor contract might affect training. What type of record keeping for attendance at training is required? Be sure to consider these and other requirements when scheduling training sessions.
Let’s consider an example of how, when, and where to present “Customer Call Training” for 120 customer service representatives (CSRs). Half of the 120 CSRs work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and the other half work from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The learning objectives for this training include practice to develop interpersonal skills through discussions and role plays. Since all 120 employees work in the same place, group training in a physical (not virtual) classroom is most cost-effective and addresses the learning objectives for this mandatory training.
Supervisors request that the training sessions be delivered in two four-hour modules with no more than 20 CSRs attending training at a time. No training for this group is held on Mondays, since that is a peak call day. Conducting training before or after a shift would incur overtime expenses that the company is not willing to pay. Therefore, a schedule of six classes of 20 people each (three for the first shift and three for the second shift) for the first module and another six classes for the second module of training seems to meet this organization’s needs. This organization has two classrooms that are shared with other departments that conduct training. The schedule for the next two months shows one classroom is available on each shift every Friday. For consistency, only two trainers will teach all the classes. One trainer is assigned to the first shift, and the other trainer is assigned to the second shift. The supervisors and the trainers will listen to live calls between the presentations of the modules to find out whether what was learned in the classroom transferred to the job.
Finally, the checklist is a tool that can remind you of all the requirements to consider when selecting the best delivery method for optimum results.