To design a training program with scientific content, competencies development, and confidence-building that truly delivers, collaboration is vital throughout the entire process. Working closely with your clients, your clients’ learners, and internally within your team will enable you to deliver programs that drive enhanced learner performance whilst meeting client strategy.
Previously we shared some of the key features of great training programs, including how to distinguish the good scientific content from the really good. Here, we cover how successful collaboration can enable us to create bespoke content to meet the needs of learners and clients throughout the delivery of the training program.
Frameworks for collaboration
Collaboration with clients goes more smoothly if everyone shares an approach to working together. Using a design framework can help get you and your clients on the same page. We use ADDIE, an instructional design framework, which facilitates navigating the complexities of intentional learning environments. It organises the work that goes into developing a training program into 5 stages, which are carried out in a specific order, but with a focus on reflection and feedback. So, why and how to go about using ADDIE to help you collaborate with clients to deliver a bespoke training program for your clients and their learners?
Before any content is created, it is essential to develop an understanding of the current learning environment and resources, and to identify the probable causes for any performance gaps. Discussion with clients to understand who their learners are, and what they should be able to do with the knowledge and/or skills gained from training, will ensure clients’ teams have everything they need to perform to their maximum potential. Discussion with learners is equally as important, not only because they have direct insights into their own performance and training needs, but also because it encourages them to be invested in the training as they know it's targeted at their needs.
Defining the learner baseline is an extremely valuable exercise to this end. A team never starts from scratch, even if it is a new therapy area they will come with varying backgrounds, knowledge, and skill sets. If we can understand this, for example through carrying out a benchmark survey or content gap analysis, we can ensure the program responds to their specific needs.
Use the analysis phase to inform the next stage of your training program’s evolution, following the principles of backwards design to create the intended learning outcomes (ILOs), assessments, and appropriate learning activities. Developing meaningful ILOs and adapting these to different audiences relies on close collaboration with clients to understand how the different audiences work and what the different roles & responsibilities (R&Rs) are. To demonstrate that learners have achieved everything your training was designed to enable them to achieve, assessments testing each of the ILOs should be developed. To read further on what distinguishes good assessments from great assessments, stay tuned for our upcoming article.
If your training program is intended for multiple audiences within a wider medical affairs team, such as medical science liaisons and sales, you may well find you need different ILOs and assessments for each to maximise the relevance and application of the training to their different R&Rs, even though much of the scientific content and competencies enhancement may be shared.
You’ll also need to draft your syllabus content during this phase. As well as selecting the right scientific and learning theory specialists from within your own team, make sure you are clear on who within your client’s team you will be working with. Healthcare clients often have their own scientific content specialists, and may also have a training lead, with whom you will need to liaise during the development stages. Get these groups introduced and clear on the approach they will take to communicating on program drafts.
Collaboration within the delivery team, between account managers, L&D specialists, and medical writers, is also extremely important at this stage in order to ensure you are designing the best program possible within your client’s timelines and available budget.
Now that the analysis and design stages are complete, it is important to be ready to start developing the content and deliverables. The development phase is usually the longest when producing a new training program, which means it’s tempting to jump straight into it – both for clients and training providers. Save time in this phase by doing the groundwork first by fully analysing the training needs and creating a draft curriculum using the Analysis and Design phases above. This can reduce some of back-and-forth with your clients created by not clarifying outcomes, assessment measures, and curriculum drafts up front. The pay-offs include less exhausting email traffic and more time to concentrate on critical conversations, such as refining content to make it as robust, up-to-date, and clinically relevant as possible, meeting compliance and regulatory requirements, and exploring suitable innovate and engaging methods of delivery.
You can also experiment here with audience-specific pathways through content. For example, content for commercial teams may need to be direct and to the point, with options for deep dives if needed, whereas medical teams may benefit from more detailed content. A pilot should be carried out before implementation, to check the accuracy of the content and test the functionality of the navigation and interactivity.
Once your program is the best it can possibly be, it’s time to share it with the learners. During the design phase, you should also collaborate with your clients to understand the learning environment, for example, which digital platforms will be used, what devices learners can use to access training, where they will be based for learning activities, and the balance of remote and face-to-face activities required for successful engagement and completion. During implementation, you will work closely with your client’s technical team to make sure you’ve designed your training program in a way that can be fully integrated and launched. Running tests and pilots is again recommended at this stage, to ensure a smooth launch and to increase uptake.
Another consideration here is accessibility. Throughout the ADDIE process, you should be considering accessibility for your learners – a topic we’ll tackle in an upcoming article. The implementation phase is the moment to check that your program can be accessed by your learners and works seamlessly in all the relevant locations, on all appropriate devices. You’ll also want to review all your materials to ensure they are appearing in accessible formats and are user-friendly for different audiences and learner demographics. This is the very last chance to make any amends, before your program is launched for your learners to experience.
The work doesn’t stop here, though! While your program is running, you’ll need to have a few people on hand to solve any challenges that unexpectedly crop up. Make sure you have clear lines of responsibility set out with your client, so everyone knows who handles technical, program, and learner support issues and that they can be tackled quickly and efficiently.
Your program has run its course. Whether it’s for the first time, or the fifty-first time, the next stage in the journey is to evaluate its success in enhancing learner knowledge, competencies and confidence. Asking learners to complete surveys at the end of the training will allow you to identify any gaps or additional learner needs, in order to inform decisions in the development of future trainings. Further, assessment questions added throughout and/or at the end of programs can provide a benchmark upon which future trainings in this area can build, as well as gathering valuable metrics to evaluate the success of the program. Collaboration with clients to understand the results from assessments, and with learners to gain feedback, allows you to continually adapt and update your training program.
Learner needs and scientific data change are constantly evolving and changing, and so content needs to change with it, to ensure programs continue to meet learner needs. Collaboration with the client is therefore important even beyond the training program, in order to discuss how updates will work and plan how to address future training needs.