Information is Not Instruction

| July 1, 2009

I was recently asked to review the safety issues related to a particular task that necessitated the handling of a flammable liquid.  This is not the first such operation I have reviewed.  In fact, the proper handling of flammable liquids is a topic that has come up over and over again during my career as a occupational health and safety professional.  In conjunction with this evaluation, I reviewed the safety training currently being used for training the operators who perform this task.

In this case, like many, many others, the training being provided was an on-line generic training video developed by an outside safety training company that had been turned into “web-based” training.  What struck me in reviewing this training was the complete and total disconnect between the operation being performed at the facility and the safety training being provided to the employees performing the work. 

They had almost nothing in common. 

For example –

  • The facility using the flammable liquid was a clean room / laboratory operation; the training film was set in a “heavy industry” machine shop.
  • The task involved handling of relatively small quantities of flammable liquids in glass beakers; the training video showed the handling of large quantities of flammable liquids in 55-gallon drums.
  • No bonding and grounding is used during dispensing operations; the training video emphasized the importance of bonding and grounding.
  • Employees used little PPE; the training video showed employees using respirators and face shields for protection.

Because I am currently in the process of developing several e-learning programs, I have been reviewing information on instructional design as it relates to creating web-based training programs.  One of the experts in this area is M. David Merrill, a professor of instructional technology at Utah State University.  One of the points he emphasizes is – simply providing information is NOT instruction.  Instead, when developing training, he suggests that you start by developing a task-centered instructional design strategy. 

Start with one of the tasks being performed and build training that is appropriate to performing that task.  Eliminate information that is irrelevant or misleading.  Focus on what is important and useful to the specific task.  Apply the information to case study situations that are consistent with the content being taught.  Ask students to apply the knowledge being taught to a scenario that is similar to their real-world experience.  Build your training by repeating each of these steps for any other relevant tasks.

Want more information? 

Go to M. David Merrill’s web site and download his paper that discusses using the use of these principles in developing an on-line first aid course in Australia.  It is really cool.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)



Category: Training & Communication

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