• Nicole Papaioannou, PhD

Cooking Up Some Training

Updated: Oct 23, 2018


This paella looks pretty good, doesn't it? It took me hours to make. The ingredients were expensive. I wanted to impress my guests (my lovely parents and partner).


I didn't start to defrost the calamari until I got started. I used a pan that was too thick. I used chicken stock instead of seafood stock. And I also lost the recipe, so I decided to wing it-- even though I'd only cooked it twice before.


The dish came out an hour late, and the calamari was rubbery because it was overcooked-- details you can't see if you're just focused on the image. As pretty as the dish looks, it tasted mediocre at best (and that's probably kind).


After the first bite, no one was excited to eat it anymore. That's the cost of going in unprepared.

The same is true for developing training. Preparation is the key to a great end product. Picking the "fanciest" recipe and then just winging it might get you a product that looks nice, but it's not going to engage your learners or satisfy their needs.


So, let's talk about what you do need to get the recipe right.


Start with a recipe: There are lots of different recipes, and you sure can add a little more or a little less pepper and whatnot, but generally, you want to start with a blueprint that suits your needs. It should be enticing, have ingredients everyone can eat (look out for allergens), and be appropriate for the occasion. In training, this translates to:

  • Relevant/engaging content

  • Accessible for all of your learners

  • Context-appropriate (tone, time to take, style, etc.)

Make sure your recipe is approved by stakeholders. No one likes throwing out an entire pizza because they find out someone has a gluten sensitivity after they've already spent the time to cook it.


Have the right tools ready: In the kitchen, this could mean pans made of certain metals or hand mixers or cheesecloth. For learning designers, this looks more like:

  • Instructional technologies

  • IT capabilities

  • Security

  • Subject matter experts

  • Development team skills

Do you have what it takes to make the project successful during creation and post-implementation? If not, can you get that, or do you need to pick another recipe?


Prep the ingredients appropriately: Maybe you need to chop peppers, or maybe you need to chop lessons into an outline of microlearning modules. Maybe you need to whip up some characters for a simulation. Whatever it is you need to do to be prepared to move into full development, do it. It will help you manage the project timeline and spot any gaps in the learning ahead of time. Remember, minor content changes are simple. Massive curricular overhauls and design changes are not.


Follow the recipe: Again, while you may add a little more salt or leave the raisins out, you want to follow the plan you laid out at the beginning. If a recipe needs to marinate overnight, but you only have 5 minutes, you aren't going to get what you set out after. You've made a big time and cost investment; you need to make sure you get the final product you want.


Being prepared won't just get you a better product, it will get you a better process, too. Since you're planning with the end in mind, you won't find that you've suddenly run out of resources or don't have that stalk of celery in your fridge like you thought. Things will move faster, information will be exchanged more easily, and you can keep track of your inventory. You'll be able to spot problems in the pipeline before they become unresolvable because you'll know where you're supposed to be in the process at any given point. You can make conscious decisions about how to work and what should be included in your design, rather than throwing things together in a panic.


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