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Why a Task List is an Instructional Designer’s Best Friend

Posted by Lynne Koltookian on 7/11/16 8:00 AM
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Does this scenario sound familiar to you? A manager comes into your office and says, “I want you to design some leadership training for our managers.” You think to yourself, “Huh, now where do I start with that request?” Perhaps you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and confused at this point. Sound familiar?


This type of training request happens all the time to instructional designers. People ask us to design leadership training, communication skills training, customer service training and so on, without any details. What is it about these type of requests that makes an instructional designer go crazy? Simply put, when someone makes this type of request a designer does not know where to begin. The request is given as a vague, broad topic instead of specific skills and tasks people need to do in their current jobs.


When we teach our Langevin 12-step design model in our Instructional Design for New Designers workshop, one of the most important steps is creating the task list. I am a big fan of this step as it instantly brings clarity to chaos. We can ask the manager what specific tasks he/she wants the managers to do to become better leaders. 


In addition to bringing clarity to chaos in our minds, there are three reasons why completing a task list early in the design process is essential to our success as instructional designers:


1.  A task list will ensure our instructors do not over teach or under teach the content. Our courses need to be lean and relevant to someone’s job so we don’t waste an employee’s time. If we design our courses around the tasks from our list, our courses will be on point.

2.  A task list will ensure our courses have objectives and tests directly tied to job tasks, resulting in a course that is relevant to the job.

3.  A task list will ensure our courses are prioritized. We can analyze our tasks to decide which ones should be focused on the most and which ones can be minimized to use training time wisely. 


So, there you have it designers. The next time someone enters your office with a training request that is vague, don’t let them leave without sitting down with you to write a task list. 


How do you handle these types of training requests? What is your experience with task lists?


Instructional Designer Starter Kit

Lynne has been a course leader with Langevin since 2007. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in Education from Boston University. After working many years in human resources and sales, Lynne transitioned into training, her true passion, where she’s been facilitating since 1994. Her training philosophy is simple—learning should be fun! The essence of a good instructor is someone who can make complex things easy to understand and fun to learn. In her free time, you’ll find Lynne cycling, hiking, downhill skiing, and scuba diving.

Tags: task analysis, 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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