In recent years, the definition of a “successful” training program has shifted. Instead of being a numbers game (how many people completed a course), more emphasis is being placed on how well learning is retained and applied. In response, the continuing education classroom has evolved from a place where learners passively consume information to a more interactive, collaborative, and hands-on learning environment.
This has changed the role of the instructor, for sure. But what about your printed training materials? Does the design of your course books, workbooks, and training manuals support an interactive approach to learning?
Printed training materials have the power to serve as more than just text on paper. We’ve compiled these industry-sourced ideas to transform your course materials and support a multi-dimensional approach to learning.
Consider User Experience for Print
Design plays an extremely important role in the usability of your training materials and coursebooks. White space, fonts, visuals, colors, and flow all play a role in how thoroughly and quickly learners not only consume but truly understand the information being presented.
- Present Content in Shorter Sections. In today’s digital world, most learners have difficulty focusing on longer pieces of text. Consider reducing the length of your chapters and sections, and providing more frequent breaks in the material so readers have a logical place to pause and digest.
- Turn Text into Graphics. Use supporting visuals and graphics wherever possible to accompany or replace text-only content. Iconography allows you to present complex visual cues quickly while minimizing the amount of text needed. If you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic to help increase retention.
- User-Friendly Production Specifications. How the book or material will be used dictates how it should be produced. If learners will need to write answers or take notes on the page, paper stocks and binding types matter. Use an uncoated stock for notes pages, as they are easier to write on. Additionally, ensure your piece lays flat. Coil binding works better than saddle-stitch for this purpose.
Incorporate Multiple Layers of Learning
Mastery of a topic is rarely achieved by one read-through of a single piece of content. Most of us retain information by having that same content presented multiple ways. Here are some ideas of how to do that within your training manual:
- Start each section or chapter with a quick overview of the topics to be discussed
- Use call-out boxes that provide additional context, such as a “Putting It Into Practice” example
- End each chapter with a chapter summary, highlighting the key takeaways
- Incorporate quizzes and reflection exercises throughout each section to foster immediate retention and application
- Create space for “brain breaks” or even doodling throughout your book to help learners refocus and refresh
Provide a Direct Connection to Supplemental Learning Materials
Extend the learning beyond your book. Incorporate multi-media tools to provide real-world examples and applications.
- Direct learners to supplemental online materials including videos, podcasts, and virtual renderings that can be accessed on a mobile device. Use easy-to-read vanity URLs or even QR codes—yes, they’re back!
- If you’re looking to make a more seamless transition from print to digital while still providing the tactile experience of print, consider adding a companion digital flipbook. These multi-media tools have become more relevant in recent years because it’s now easier than ever to incorporate dynamic content such as embedded audio, video, and hyperlinks within printed text.
As you evaluate the strategy and design of your training programs to facilitate better performance from your learners, it’s important to also examine your printed training materials. Be sure to incorporate a design that not only reflects the quality of your training content but supports your learning retention and application goals as well.