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How to Prioritize Content

Posted by Dawn Lang on 1/15/18 8:00 AM
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Photo by: Green Chameleon on Unsplash

One of the most frequently asked questions during our instructional design workshops is, “How do I pare down the content when there’s a lack of available time?” This can be a challenge, especially if you feel everything is important. 


Prioritizing can be an effective way to help navigate this issue and end up with valuable data to back up your decisions. 


Let’s start with the question, “What priority does each task have in the content of the course?”


Begin by listing all the tasks that fit within the scope of the training session. Then, use a 2-step Prioritize Tasks process to determine the “need to know” content for your target audience.


Step One:

Rate each of the tasks head-to-head for each of the four categories listed below, then score them using the corresponding values.



How frequently is the task performed on the job?

H+ = Extremely Frequent       M = Moderately Frequent

H   = Frequent                        L   = Infrequent


Learning Difficulty

How difficult is it to learn to perform each task?


H+ = Extremely Difficult         M = Moderately Difficult

H   = Difficult                          L   = Easy



How important is each task to overall job effectiveness?


H+ = Extremely Important     M = Moderately Important

H   = Important                      L   = Low Importance


Job Experience

What level of job experience do learners have with each task?


H+ = Extremely High              M = Moderate

H   = High                                L   = Low


H+ = 3

H = 2

M = 1

L = 0


If you’re not sure how to rate one of the tasks, find someone who can answer your questions, such as a subject-matter expert in the field, someone who does the job, or someone who supervises the tasks.


Step Two:

Use the prioritization formula below to calculate the level of priority each task holds.


Frequency + Learning Difficulty + Importance – (Job Experience x 3) = Priority


Once you have taken each task through the formula, order the tasks to reveal your top priorities. 


From this step, design your training sessions by focusing on the top priorities according to the prioritization formula. The higher priority tasks earn more time in training, an interactive presentation, practice, and feedback for the learner.


Instructional designers have options when determining the best way to address the lower priority tasks. Designers might decide to handle them with:

  • a post-course job aid for reference. This is an excellent strategy for those skills that are simple and done infrequently.
  • other resources such as videos or how-to guides participants can access to confirm information and skills on their own.


The prioritization formula allows you to stay focused on the “need to know” content and keep your course lean.


Now you have a valuable tool to help sort through material, prioritize it, and fit it into your training time allotment.


For step-by-step instructions, along with hands-on practice on this process, examples, and a template, enroll in Langevin’s 3-day Instructional Design for New Designers workshop!  You’ll be happy you made it one of your priorities!


Instructional Designer Starter Kit

Dawn has been a course leader with Langevin since 2015. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education at Kansas State University, followed by a Master’s in Information and Learning Technologies/Instructional Design from the University of Colorado Denver. Her passion for teaching started in third grade and she’s never looked back! As an educator, technology trainer, instructional designer, and facilitator of virtual training, she’s had the opportunity to work with a variety of stakeholders in all different contexts to support their learning and application of skills and knowledge. As a trainer, Dawn strives to inspire and empower people to reach their full potential. Consistently incorporating fun and laughter, building connections, and respecting others are important components she utilizes as a trainer. She enjoys spending time with her family, playing tennis, biking, being in the mountains, as well as reading at the pool or the beach!

Tags: instructional design

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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