Jul 5, 2022

As learning and Design (L&D) professionals, we have all experienced the feeling of achievement following the release of a training course that we’ve designed and developed over weeks or months.  We smile with a sense of accomplishment and close the project. Now, it’s time to move on to the next project, right? Or is it?      

If the training course is a one-and-done, sure, move to the next project.  However, if the expected shelf-life of the training course is months or years, then a review and maintenance cycle must be established. Otherwise, the expected value of the training course can fall short. When a training course is first released on a learning management system (LMS) and assigned to end users, high usage is typically recorded.  However, if the course remains on the LMS for years without content updates, graphic refreshes, or version changes, completion numbers steadily drop. There is a need for a systematic approach to managing content.

This article describes how to use the same Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate (ADDIE) model typically used for the initial design and development of the course to ensure that courses remain relevant over time. This is the model followed at UL ComplianceWire to ensure our catalog continues to meet current regulatory requirements and remains relevant for our life science clients.   

As a brief refresher, the ADDIE Model is a well-known instructional design model. In the 1970s, Florida State University developed this model for the military. In present times, the ADDIE model is the trusted instructional design model used by many L&D professionals for providing efficient, high-quality training courses for corporate e-learning and training. Now let’s explore how this model can support the maintenance of your training courses.

Step One: Analysis

During initial course development, the need for training is determined, the audience is defined, the instructional goals are set and needed resources are identified. As part of the analysis maintenance cycle, these items should be reconfirmed. Ask the question: Does the need for this training still exist for the defined audience? If the answer is no, then retire the training course. However, if the answer is yes, it is time to maintain the training course. If available, the original subject matter expert resource for the courses should complete the review to determine if changes are necessary. The changes should also consider learner feedback, updates to policies, procedures, and regulations, and a refresh to examples, case studies and quiz questions. 

At UL, each of our 400 eLearning courses has a subject matter expert (SME) assigned. Our internal SMEs as well as US Food and Drug Administration SMEs[1] complete either an annual or biannual review. During the analysis maintenance step, the instructional goals, importance of the course to industry, and the defined audience are re-affirmed by the SMEs from an industry perspective and by UL’s Content Solutions department from a usage standpoint. Additionally, the course content is reviewed against the current regulations to ensure accurate and timely content. 

Step Two: Design

The next step in the ADDIE model is design.  In this step, the L&D professional builds the course framework or structure by defining the specific learning objectives, writing the content to support the objectives as well as creating a layout for the user interface and navigations and possibly identifying specific images. This is all documented in the course script or storyboard. 

During the design maintenance cycle, the L&D professional updates the course script or storyboard to reflect the identified changes from the analysis maintenance step. Ask the following questions to ensure all aspects of the course are considered.

  • Do the learning objectives need to be adjusted?
  • Have relevant policies, procedures or regulations changed that might affect the course content?
  • What new engagement strategies can be incorporated into the course content?
  • Can a more current case study be included?   
  • Can new images or graphics be identified and included?
  • What learner feedback should be incorporated?
  • What quiz questions need to be revised due to content changes?
  • Can the theme be changed to keep the course aesthetically fresh in appearance?

These changes should be documented in a tracked changes version of the course storyboard or script, so they are accurately incorporated into the training course, and to maintain the design history of the course.

At UL our SMEs edit the course script, if necessary, to reflect regulatory updates that impact the course content and to refresh dates, case studies or examples. After the SMEs are done, UL’s instructional designers incorporate the SMEs edits into the instructional flow of the course content, interactive elements, learning activities, and the embedded assessments.  As the instructional designers work with the content, they do so with a focus on ensuring that the course objectives either remain intact or are updated as necessary to reflect changes in the content.  Once the content script is finalized, it is provided to the course developers. 

Step Three: Development

In the development step, the course developers construct the training course. They incorporate media elements, text content, and established learning strategies from the design step. Stakeholders and SMEs review and confirm the accuracy and completeness of the resulting training course.    

In the development maintenance cycle, course developers follow the updated course script or storyboard for efficient and accurate incorporation of the changes into the training course. Additionally, the changes are cascaded to any translated versions of the course. Once the changes are completed, stakeholders/SMEs verify the accuracy of the incorporated updates. Finally, versioning decisions must be made. Ask the question: Do the changes necessitate a major, minor, or revision change to the current version of the training? 

At UL, depending upon the nature of the changes a version change may occur. 

  • Major version—changes to the regulation on which  the course content is based.
  • Minor version—changes to text content or quiz questions for clarification purposes and/or the incorporation of more current examples or case studies. 
  • Revision—changes to images, course theme or typos. 

Following the incorporation of changes into the training course, the SMEs as well as the Quality Assurance department verify course changes prior to a new release.

Step 4: Implementation

In this step, the training course is assigned to the defined audience typically via an LMS. This is a critical step as the audience will not be able to complete the training unless they are assigned, or their awareness is raised that the training course is available. Some of the best designed and developed training courses fall short because they are not implemented with the level of awareness that drives success across the audience base. 

In the implementation maintenance cycle, ask the question: When does the audience need to be made aware of the updated training content? If the changes have an immediate impact to their job or are regulatory in nature, the updated course should be implemented as soon as possible. Likewise, if the changes are not mission-critical, the training can be completed at the next training cycle. 

At UL, how the course is versioned determines when the course is placed on the audience’s to-do List in the LMS. If the course is versioned as a major course, immediate retraining is strongly advised due to a change in regulatory information. If the course is versioned as a minor or revision, the training can be completed at the next annual training cycle. 

Step 5: Evaluation

The final step in the ADDIE model is evaluation. The audience’s satisfaction with the training course is assessed, as well as the knowledge and skills they gain and their ability to transfer this knowledge to their work environment. 

In the evaluation maintenance cycle, ask the question: Is the training course having the desired effect?  By following the ADDIE model for the course maintenance process, the resulting training course should achieve the desired outcome. However, if the answer is no, the reason for falling short must be determined. The ADDIE steps must be reviewed, and corrections made. 

At UL evaluation is derived based on two key metrics for our training courses: (1) individual course completions, and: (2) the number of companies that are taking a training course reviewed both annually and over three years. It can be inferred that courses with high usage year-over-year used by an increasing number of companies are achieving their desired effect in our clients’ organizations.

Conclusion

If a training course is expected to last for several years, it is critical that a maintenance cycle be established. The same ADDIE model used for the initial design and development can be applied as a framework for the maintenance updates. By considering each of the steps in the ADDIE model, the training course can remain relevant and support the audience for many years. 

Carrie McKeague, Ph.D. is Manager, Content Solutions at UL ComplianceWire.

Additional resources to support life sciences LMS professionals:

 

[1] UL has a unique Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the FDA.  Under this agreement, the FDA acts as SMEs for UL’s regulatory courses, which the FDA then uses to train their own inspectors. UL can then offer those courses to industry.

 

Author

  • Carrie McKeague

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