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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Creating an Instructor Kit

After you've tested the in-class exercises, polished the presentation
materials, printed the handouts and workbooks, and created the data files
for class, are you ready to hand over the course to an instructor? Not
yet. You have one more thing to do before calling your course finished:
Create the instructor kit.

An instructor kit often differentiates a good course from an exceptional
course. It is more than a pretty package or a finishing touch. It is an
integral part of any training course that you must hand off to an instructor.
The instructor kit's ultimate goal is to increase the quality of the students'
experience, by helping the instructor to assimilate, set up, and deliver
your course.

This article addresses creating an instructor kit for a software course.
However, 90% of this article is directly applicable to creating an instructor
kit for any technical course, and the other 10% is easily adaptable to
non-software courses.

What is in an Instructor Kit?

An instructor kit consists of information and tools.
Most of the information helps the instructor teach. Most of the tools
help the instructor set up, reset, and delete the course. The information
that you should include in an instructor kit is listed below. The software tools that you should include are described after that.

Types of Information in an Instructor Kit

Most instructor kits require the following types of information:

Prerequisites

Prerequisites include:

  • Proficiencies the instructor must have to teach the course.

  • Information the instructor must know about the subject.

  • Minimum equipment and software needed to teach the course.
Setup Directions

Setup directions include:

  • Required settings and configurations for the equipment and software before installing the course.
  • Directions for installing the course files.
  • Required settings and configurations for the equipment and software after installing the course.
  • Directions for testing the installation.
Delivery Information
Delivery information includes:
  • The location of any data or documents that the instructor or student will use in class.
  • The location of any data or documents, and a list of functions or menu items, that the instructor should steer students away from.
  • Key points that the instructor must address in class.
  • Directions for demonstrations.
  • Information to help the instructor coach students through workshops.
  • Directions for using the tools listed in the next section.
Reset Information

Reset information includes:

  • A description of the state of the data and documents used in class, after class.
  • Directions for returning data and documents to their pre-class state.
  • Directions for testing the reset procedure.
De-installation Directions

De-installation directions tell the instructor how to de-install all
software placed on the training computers, and how to reset the computers
to their original state.

Types of Tools in an Instructor Kit

For a software course, most tools consist of software designed to help
the instructor present the course, such as:

  • Installation Software.
  • Electronic Slide Shows.
  • Reset Software.

Tools may also include a printed instructor guide, and hardware needed
for the course. Most instructor kits require the following types of tools:

Instructor Guide

The Instructor Guide contains all of the information given above. It
is usually a printed document, but most instructor kits also include an
electronic version of the document.

Installation Software

The installation software may be simply files that the instructor copies
to the classroom PCs, or an application that performs the installation
when launched. The installation software can:

  • Install the data used during the course.
  • Install the documents and files used during the course.
  • Install the Electronic Slide Show.
  • Configure the settings on the computer(s) used during the course.

A course may require separate installation routines and files for the
instructor and students. A non-software course may instead have equipment
that is used during setup. This equipment may differ for the instructor
and student.

Electronic Slide Shows

Electronic slide shows are usually created with an application like PowerPoint
or Astound!. The slide shows may be installed by the same software as
the data and documents used during the course. Or, it may require its
own installation software.A tutorial on creating electronic slide shows
for technical training is beyond the scope of this article.

Training Applications

Training applicatioins consist of the applications that students and
the instructor need for the course. This may include the actual application
being taught, and also:

  • The application used to run the slide show.
  • Applications used to examine documents.
  • Applications used to examine, create, or modify data that is used in class.
Training Files

Training files consist of the data and documents used during class. The
instructor may receive more complete versions of the data, for demonstrating
the results of in-class exercises. If this is so, the instructor and students
will need separate installation routines.

Reset Software

Reset software returns the data and documents used during class to their
pre-class state. It also resets and software settings that the students
changed during class.

De-installation Software

De-installation software removes all training software from the computers
used during training. It also returns the computers to their original
settings.

Outline for the Instructor Kit Guide

Use the following outline as a starting point for writing your instructor guide. I've numbered the sections so that you can see the hierarchy.

1. Introduction to the Course

Explain why the course is taught, what the course covers, and to whom it is taught.

1.1Purpose

List the proficiencies the students will develop during the course.

1.2 Software Covered

States the software that the students will learn to use. Include the version numbers and platforms for the software.

1.3 Audience

Describe the audience and the audience’s situation. For example, "This course is designed for line managers at Company X who must create budgets for the groups they manage."

1.4 Agenda

State the high-level topics and estimates for the time to teach each topic.

2. Contents of this Instructor Kit

An instructor kit is often packaged into a binder that includes a written instructor guide and CD containing all software and files. Usually, the majority of this section lists and describes the files on the CD.

2.1 Documents

Describe the purpose and format of any documents used during this course. If a document must be printed for the course, state so in its description. State when each document is used in the course.

2.2 Data Files

List and describe the data files used in the course. Stating when each file is used helps the instructor trace any problems during the course to a faulty installation. For example, suppose an exercise in loading data does not produce the intended results. If the instructor knows that FileX is used in this exercise, the instructor can check the installation of that file while troubleshooting the workshop.

2.3 Applications

If the course requires the installation of any applications, include the installation files and instructions.

2.4 Hardware

If the course requires special hardware that is not available at the training site, include the hardware in the instructor kit.

3. Prerequisites

This section describes all prerequisites for the course. Prerequisites can include physical items, software, and knowledge.

3.1 Room Equipment

List and describe the non-computer equipment the instructor needs to teach the course. Some items that might appear on this list are:

  • A whiteboard.
  • A flip chart.
  • An overhead projector.
  • Give-aways for students.
  • Name cards for students and instructor.
  • Items used during training games or demonstrations.
3.2 PC Hardware

List the minimum requirements for the student computers, and the instructor computer. Some of the requirements:

  • The amount of memory. Does the instructor computer need more memory to run the training application and slide show concurrently?.
  • The amount of free hard disk space. Do the instructor files take up extra disk space?
  • Processor speed.
  • Display resolution.
  • Floppy, CD, and/or DVD drives.
  • A printer.
3.3 Software

The software on which you are training is an obvious choice for this list. Also consider any applications needed for opening files used during training. For example, if you load a graphics file into the training application during class, will you need a graphics application to examine or edit the file before loading it? If you supply documents in .pdf format, will the students need Adobe Acrobat to view them? If the training application exports data to a spreadsheet, will you need a spreadsheet application to examine the data?

3.4 Instructor Proficiencies

This can consist of a list of tasks the instructor is proficient in. Or, it can state that the instructor must have a certain amount of experience with the application.

Most in-class exercises begin with a list of the proficiencies developed during the exercise. One easy way to complete this section is copying those lists into this subsection.

3.5 Instructor Knowledge

An often-overlooked prerequisite for many technical training courses is instructor knowledge of the business processes that happen before and after training. The instructor should also know who supports the users after training.

Students often ask questions that go just beyond the scope of the application being taught, such as:

  • What is the source of the data that the training application accepts?
  • What happens to the data or files that the application outputs?
  • Who is responsible for supporting the users after training, as they begin to use the application?
3.6 Student Proficiencies

Many software courses list "Basic PC skills" as a student prerequisite. Be more specific. For example, many users who claim they have "Basic PC skills" do not know how to:

  • Navigate around a hard disk and find a file from within the Open File dialog box.
  • Turn on the display of file name extensions. With the file name extensions turned off, "file.txt" and "file.dat" are both listed as "file."
  • Right-click and use shortcut menus.

If you do not state exactly which "Basic PC skills" the student needs, the instructor may need to spend valuable class time teaching teaching remedial PC skills.

3.7 Access Rights

Many training courses are taught off-site, at a client’s offices or a rented training center. While developing the course, you have access to the application and your computer. Do not take for granted that the instructor and students will have this same access when off-site.

When writing this subsection consider whether:

  • The students can access the training application from the computers in the training room.
  • The instructor has administrative rights to install the training software on the training computers.
  • The students can access any network files they may need from the training room.
4. Setup Directions

This section includes setup directions for both the student and instructor computers. Refer to the section on software prerequisites and determine if the instructor needs to install the training application, and supporting applications used during class.

These directions do not always need to be detailed, step-by-step instructions. However, if you assume the instructor knows how to perform some parts of the installation without detailed directions, list this assumption in the Prerequisites section under Instructor Proficiencies.

4.1 Starting Point

Give a starting point for the installation. For example, before installation:

  • What software must be on the student and instructor computers?
  • What settings must be configured?
  • What hardware must be connected?
4.2 Installing and Testing the Student Files

This subsection gives directions for installing the applications and files used by the student.

4.3 Installing and Testing the Instructor Files

This subsection gives directions for installing the applications and files used by the instructor. Sometimes the instructor setup is a completely different process from the student setup. Other times it is an additional process.

4.4 Installing the Slide Show

This subsection gives directions for installing the slide show. The installation may be as simple as copying files to the instructor’s computer, or it may use an installation application.

5. About the Training Application

This section tells the instructor what is unique about the training application. It supplies the kind of information that an instructor will discover after hours of exploring the training application. Save your instructor some preparation time and include a section about the training application.

5.1 Limitations, Instabilities, and Non-functionality

The development of a training course often starts while the product is still in development. For software courses, this means that the training course is often developed using an application that is not completely functional. The instructor must know what parts of the training application are unstable or unusable. Discovering these while presenting the class will undermine the students’ confidence in the instructor and the application.

5.2 Login Information

The instructor and students may use different login information. If all students access the same networked application during class, each will need a separate login.

5.3 Where the Data Is

A training application rarely contains as much data as a fully-functional production application. The instructor must know which settings will show data during demonstrations. Few things are more embarrassing for an instructor than desperately trying random settings during a demonstration, in an attempt to show how the application processes data.

5.4 Differences Between Student and Instructor Applications

The instructor’s application might contain more data than the students’ application, to make demonstrations possible. Or, the instructor’s application may have the finished versions of in-class exercises. The instructor must know about these kinds of differences before class.

5.5 Installing Fail-safe Data

Most software courses require a student to complete a series of in-class exercises. The result of one exercise often provides the starting point for the next exercise. Therefore, if a student fails to produce the desired result from an exercise, the rest of the class exercises can become impossible to complete.

Fail-safe data is data that can be copied into the training application to simulate the successful completion of an exercise. This gives the student the correct starting point for the next exercise.

If you supply the instructor with fail-safe data, include instructions for copying that data into the student application.

6. Module Notes

Each module, or chapter, in a training course usually covers a specific task or group of related tasks. Most modules follow a lecture-demo-exercise sequence. The subsections described below are based on these assumptions. Repeat each of these subsections for each module, or unit, in the course.

6.1 Points to Emphasize

Is there any information that the client asked you to emphasize during the presentation? Are there any procedures or steps that, if omitted, will cause a loss of data or failure in later procedures? Hopefully, all of the information that you have included in the course is important. But this subsection is for information that is essential to the success of the students, in class or when they return to their work.

6.2 Demonstration Script

You don’t need to script the instructor demo click-by-click. Just tell the instructor enough to re-create the demo you have prepared. Of special importance is stating exactly which data to use during the demo, and where the data is located.

6.3 Pre-exercise Checklist

This is a checklist of the menu options and features that the instructor taught during this unit. Just before the instructor tells the students to start the in-class exercise, the instructor can scan this list and determine if (s)he covered all of the topics necessary for the students to succeed at the exercise.

6.4 Starting Point for Exercise

Most students follow along with the instructor during demonstrations. This means that their screens will usually not be as they left them after the last exercise.

Describe the starting point for the in-class exercise. State where in the software the students should be, and what data they should be viewing. A screen shot may be a good idea.

6.5 Fail-safe Files for Exercise

The exercises in most software courses build upon each other. For example, Exercise 2 usually uses the results of Exercise 1 as its starting point. If a student does not produce the correct result from an exercise, this can jeopardize the success of subsequent exercises.

If this is the case in your course, provide fail-safe data for each exercise. State where the data is located and how to activate, or populate, that data if the student does not succeed at the exercise.

6.6 Slide Show Printout and Instructor Notes

You may know exactly why you’ve included each bullet point on each slide, but the instructor to whom you turn over your course may be left guessing. Instructor notes give the instructor more detail about the slides.

The slides do not need to be printed out at full-page size. Two to three slides per page gives the instructor enough detail.

2 comments:

Yoel said...

Oh my thank you so very much for the beautifully explained instructor kit! I over read it and the pointers most definitely helped me out!
Heavy Equipment Parts

suman said...

The information about information kit was very good