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Michael Wood - Design Narrative - From acquisition to participation

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Michael Wood
30 March 2017


I was the course designer and the trainer/teacher



I was required to teach a class of experienced professionals the basics of project management in a face to face classroom setting.  I only had one day with them, and there was a lot of information to get across.  The delegates/students were work colleagues and had varying degrees of experience and capabilities with regards to project management.

The delegates were very committed to the learning experience, but had serious reservations that the course would be overwhelming, given the amount of information I had to get across in a day.



The objective was to get the delegates to understand the basic concepts related to project management, and allow them to ask the ‘right’ questions as they move forward in their careers as leaders of change.  This was judged initially by feedback forms that the delegates filled in at the end of the day.



Originally I designed the course in a lecture format using PowerPoint with a large interactive exercise at the end of the day.  The presentation ended up being 120 slides!

I found that when I presented this the delegates very quickly lost energy and focus, and we had to incorporate regular breaks to give them a rest from the information, which compressed the training and created a vicious circle of less time and more to teach.  I also found that the exercise at the end of the day was far too challenging for the delegates given their lack of experience, and level of exhaustion from the training experience.

On a review of the course and learning outcomes, the main client contact and I came to some important conclusions;

  1. That the course had to be much more interactive
  2. That the exercise at the end of the day was pitched at a much more experienced audience
  3. That the coverage of material was correct however


I then rewrote the course with some major changes

  1. There was a pre-course activity where the delegates had to use a basic excel spreadsheet to record their thoughts and carry out some exercises that they then brought to the class on the day for discussion and review
  2. The pre-course reading also included some very basic concepts that were originally be covered in the classroom.  These were then quickly covered by a quiz at the beginning of the day, and any difficulties discussed.
  3. The slide deck was dramatically reduced (to 20 slides!) with a focus on small working groups where concepts were investigated and discussed and then presented back to the group
  4. Feedback forms were kept, however there was a second survey completed 3 months after the course to see if the knowledge was being applied.


All of these changes had a dramatic effect on the experience of the delegates and their level of learning, application, and enjoyment.



The survey results showed that the attendees were making a much more practical use of the knowledge they had acquired, and thanks to the interaction with colleagues, this knowledge was also tailored better to their unique working practices.



The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is that you can trust individuals to discover knowledge on their own, without being spoon fed by a lecturer.

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James Fanning
8:27am 1 April 2017

Hello Michael, a couple of questions. 1) Did you collect any formal feedback from the participants at the end of the day by way of course evaluation. 2) To what extent do you think we end up doing 'things' in a certain way because that's the way we have always done it? And if we do, what is it that jolts the system into doing 'things' in a different/better way?

Michael Wood
9:04am 2 April 2017

Hi James,

1) We did collect formal feedback on the day at the end of the course.  It was significantly better when I made it more interactive, but I was very concerned about the long-term application.

2) I think in the corporate training culture there can be a very risk-averse attitude to training.  They want their staff trained, sometimes they just want to get rid of training budget and don't take it seriouslty.  On the other hand, so long as we can guarantee the learning outcomes/exam results, I think they are happy for us to do whatever we like.  Trouble is, we as an organisation can be reticent due to the risk of delivering an unsellable product.  It's a tricky balance.

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