The Value of Raw Content in Your Training Strategy

The raw materials of trainingYou’re a training professional in a SMB and you have few resources to achieve high expectations. The product team needs you to help train the sales channel, and the customer service team needs regular training sessions as well. There is new hire orientation to manage and annual compliance training requirements that need to be met. Not to mention the occasional random training session that is required due to an incident, or other issue within the business.

When you look at these expectations through the lens of a traditional instructional designer they seem impossible. But they’re all doable. And with the right mindset and a few technologies, like an LMS, you can manage them all with very few resources devoted to training full-time. The key to success is understanding that most employees have the motivation to learn on their own when they have a need, and are given access to content. And many employees already make a habit of creating content. Or are required to create documentation content for other purposes. You’re not in this alone.

What is Raw Content

My definition of raw content is any content that has not been filtered through an instructional design process. The content you get from Subject Matter Experts(SME) is often very raw. This doesn’t mean the content is bad or lacking in polish. We simply need to differentiate between course content that has been designed with an instructional purpose, and content that was created as reference material. Raw content might be Technical Specification Documents, marketing collateral, engineering drawings, flowcharts, or presentation slide decks. These are the classic instructional designers raw materials from which the training masterpiece is built.

The Truth About Raw Content

Raw content is valuable. In many cases it’s more valuable than the final course product you end up creating based on that content. And here’s why.

How many times have you lived the following story? You’ve spend weeks creating a course. You met with stakeholders. You met with SMEs. You learned the job and the work that needs to be done after the course is complete. You wrote precise and specific objectives. You either planned all of the logistics for face-to-face events, or spent a lot of time and money creating a self-paced eLearning module. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The story still ends the same. After all of that hard work and effort, you are quite proud of your final masterpiece. And some people praise you for your efforts and appreciate what you’ve done. But inevitably someone asks, “I don’t have time for the training. Can you just send me the materials?”

After living that story over and over again, it didn’t take me very long to understand the limited value of instructional design. Significant business value is in raw materials. And access to those raw materials. It’s all the stuff made by those who have the knowledge for those who will need the knowledge. It’s not uncommon for online courses to provide links to the reference material used to create the course. This has become fairly standard. But more often than not, the course was requested and created because most people couldn’t find or access the content on their own.

The Most Important Question to All Stakeholders

Is there any existing content? If you are inquiring because there has been a training request made, then you will most likely get different answers. The SMEs will tell you triumphantly that there are many documents on the subject. Those requesting the training, or have the need, will sadly tell you they can’t find anything on the subject. At this point we need to take into consideration employees’ ability and motivation to search for and find the content they need. Maybe the workers have limited access to a computer, or simply don’t understand how to search for digital content. Solve these problems first and you eliminate their reliance on others, including the training department.

Frictionless access to content provides major business value. Your LMS gives you the power to make this happen. You don’t need the IT department to solve the problem of access to content. And you don’t need a different system just for content. Besides, your company most likely has several digital storage systems including email, shared drives, social networks, etc., and yet you’re still in this mess. So, lean on your LMS and feed it with raw content as your first step.

Much of the raw content you find will be surprisingly good. Use it as is. Don’t worry about it so much. Use the LMS to create a course. Load the raw content into that course. Be sure to add a short disclaimer at the beginning to explain what content is in the course. And most importantly, ask questions at the end of the course and request feedback. Their feedback will drive how you refine and polish that content into something with instructional integrity. And it’s okay to involve your learners in the creation process.  As the previous story highlights, many employees already own their own learning.  Other employees just need to be given permission.