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Is your training obsolete?

A pop culture reference to the TV show "Lost" may have been helpful in 2008, but if it's still in your training program, you may want to update it.

One of the little things that I enjoy about traveling for work is the opportunity to use the hotel gym. Last week at the Hilton Garden Inn in, I headed to the gym bright and early and I wasn’t in the mood to listen to music on my iPhone. I noticed that each workout machine had a docking station that could both charge my phone and allow me to play a movie from my phone on the monitor of the treadmill.

The only problem is that the docking station looked like this:


It would have worked well if I traveled with my old iPhone 4, but it wasn’t going to work with any iPhone manufactured after 2011. Unless the hotel was planning to replace all of their exercise equipment, these docking stations offered zero value to hotel guests.

It got me wondering: how often do I produce training programs – lesson plans or elearning modules –  that have a “shelf life” and which have long-since expired?  

Here are some of the topics that we, as instructional designers, need to be mindful of when it comes to the potential for content that will grow as outdated as an iPhone 4 docking station:

  • Standard Operating Procedures. For a variety of reasons these are updated from time to time. When they are updated, training needs to be updated immediately, or else your organization is at risk for introducing people to the wrong way of doing things.
  • Organizational Charts. Staff come and go, titles change and companies are restructured with new departments. Forgetting to update your new employee orientation files with the most recent org chart just looks sloppy.
  • Staff Featured in Videos. This is an extension of the comment above: staff come and go. If your training features video commentary by someone no longer at your organization (especially an executive or other staff member who was involuntarily separated), there is a chance that it could impact the credibility of your content.
  • Old Studies or Videos. One of the best videos I’ve seen on the topic of white privilege is a segment from the television show Primetime Live in which two guys, similar in most ways (both attended Big 10 schools, both from similar socio-economic backgrounds, both with similar resumes) try to take on a series of every-day activities (buying a car, buying shoes in a department store, applying to rent an apartment). The biggest overt difference between the two men is that one is black and the other is white. It’s a powerful video, but I noticed that too many participants dismissed it because it was filmed in 1991. Older video, statistics and studies that may be embedded in your training will need refreshment, or at the very least reinforcement with more up-to-date information.
  • Organizational Logos and Colors. Want to get under the skin of your marketing department? Keep using elearning programs, PowerPoint templates or other materials that have your organization’s old logos, colors and/or fonts.

The point here is simple: even though you’ve released, rolled out and/or published a training program, there will always be a shelf life. Don’t forget to give your older training programs a little TLC from time to time.

What other type of content or assets may grow outdated in your lesson plans or elearning programs? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section!

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