Worst-Case Scenarios Create Effective Learning
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Knowing The Worst-Case Scenario From Your SME Can Create Effective Learning

When an Instructional Designer meets with their Subject Matter Expert, they typically ask about objectives, content, and deadlines. Typically, the focus is on what the learner needs to learn as the Instructional Designer and the Subject Matter Expert discuss the project. This is typically a very positive, forward-thinking meeting and focuses on what goes right and what positive things you want to occur. During analysis, understanding that project and the needs of the project are critical but be sure to ask what the worst-case scenario is during the conversation. Knowing the worst-case situation can, oftentimes, be more impactful than knowing the positive. As an Instructional Designer, you can leverage the worst-case information to develop effective, sticky learning for your learners.

There are 4 reasons that you should leverage the worst-case scenario from your Subject Matter Expert when developing training during the analysis phase of a project:

1. When You Create Training, Knowing The Worst-Case Scenario Can Help Drive The Creation Of Key Objectives For Training

Not everything is of equal importance when training is involved. Knowing what has gone wrong in the system or process can help an Instructional Designer identify and prioritize objectives and the time spent on them in class or in an online course. List all the objectives, and identify what can or has gone wrong with each one of them. Correlate the objective to the impact or potential impact on the business and prioritize the objectives that will make the biggest impact on the bottom line or processes that occur. The objectives that have the biggest impact should be given the most time during training. The objectives with the least impact should receive minimal time during training or can potentially be eliminated altogether. After training is complete, make sure to come back during the evaluation phase and see what kind of impact training actually made on the worst-case situations. Adjust future training based on the evaluation.

2. Telling A Story In Training Always Helps Learners Retain Information

If an Instructional Designer leverages a worst-case scenario to develop an effective story that reinforces the positive, this can be a win for the learners as it will assist in the recall of information. Use extreme caution when developing a story that you reinforce the right way, not the wrong way to do something. A story that recalls the wrong way defeats the purpose of telling an effective story by having learners recall the incorrect way to do the process. Creating re-callable information is key to long-term process change and stories help lock information in the brain where they can be accessed in the future.

3. With So Many Things Competing For A Learner’s Attention, Creating Sticky Learning Is Imperative For Key Objectives

Understanding the worst-case scenario allows a trainer and an Instructional Designer to leverage that knowledge to focus learning on examples where the process has gone right and where it has gone wrong. By identifying the worst-cases up front, the trainer and the Instructional Designer know if more time needs to be spent on explaining a particular question, problem or situation during a training session. Conversely, knowing what always goes right allows the same decision to be made about spending time in class or an eLearning course. Be deliberate in how time is spent during training, and then measure its effectiveness.

4. Understanding The Worst-Case Scenario Allows The Instructional Designer To Focus

Precisely, the ID can focus on understanding and training on the tool, system or situation that needs to change and apply that knowledge when developing training.

Depending on the severity of the worst-case situation, the Instructional Designer may need to consider change management techniques along with training to create lasting improvement so that the new training is adopted and implemented by everyone affected.

Once training is delivered either in a classroom or in an eLearning course, evaluate the effectiveness by going back to your objectives and determining if you met them and how successfully. Have you improved the worst-case scenario that occurred prior to training? How can you continue to improve the situation so that the worst-case does not occur?

Often times, understanding of the worst-case scenario can make the best case for effective learning.