Training Design Support Tool
Joy Barrett, RCAP - Robin Collins, UNH

Research Approach

Effective training design must incorporate well-defined training objectives and include adult education techniques that focus on the participant. A Training Design Support Tool will be developed to facilitate the creation of effective training packages and events, and assure that the trainings incorporate critical elements. Effective training maximizes the retention of material and brings about desired behavior change. The Support Tool will be used to create training materials for each of the innovative technologies proposed in this application, with special emphasis on the two cases described in activities 5 and 6 of Project 1.

The Training Design Support Tool will guide training developers using planning tools, hints for managing group dynamics, and suggestions for improving retention of materials and motivating participants. Planning tools include techniques for developing measureable learning objectives; suggested timing for presentations, breaks, and participation; and guidelines for assigning levels of importance to topics. The most important topics are covered in presentations and activities, topics of moderate importance are made available in handouts or workbooks that are given to the participant, and topics of lesser importance are covered by references. The hints for managing group dynamics will include activities that break the preoccupations of participants and allow networking opportunities that are relevant to the content of the training. These activities can also provide physical breaks from lectures and sitting in class. Retention and motivation of participants will be addressed by assisting the training designer in including activities that will help the participant understand “what’s in it for me?” and attempt to “make me feel important about myself.” The Tool will encourage participation, hands-on activities, review & revisit techniques, games, tests, and transfer strategies including goal-setting. Technology-specific components of a training design are described below.

The first step in designing training is to know who the audience is. For these trainings the targeted audiences for trainings will be managers and community leaders, operators, design engineers, and regulators.

The next step is to determine topics for the training. A list of typical information that is needed by stakeholders to evaluate any new (proposed) drinking water technology will be compiled utilizing the field-based Technical Assistance Providers (TAPs) from across the RCAP network. TAPs will collect specific information from each category of stakeholder through phone calls, e-mails, and newsletter questionnaires. From a compilation of resulting information, RCAP will develop a draft Training Decision Support Tool. The Tool will guide training developers with aspects of a given technology that must be presented, plus participant-centered training strategies described above. The level of technical detail will be appropriate for the target audience.

Face-to-face training will be conducted in each community chosen for pilot implementation of the technologies in the other research projects proposed in this application. Training events will last eight hours per community, with four hours targeting treatment plant operators and other technically trained stakeholders, and four hours targeting managers, community leaders, and other decision-makers. Regulators and design engineers will be invited and encouraged to attend.  In addition to face-to-face training, RCAP will conduct two interactive, web-based training events during the third year of the project. The first training will cover the list of information needed by all the categories of stakeholders - utility managers, operators, engineers, regulators, and community leaders, on any new (proposed) drinking water technology. This training will also describe the resulting Training Design Support Tool. The second training will describe the case study where this approach and training led to the successful application of an innovative technology at a small drinking water system.

Knowledge assessments associated with these trainings will be conducted using pre-tests and post-tests with participants. These tests will be specific to the technology, and ask detailed questions about treatment concepts, operation and maintenance, etc. The questions will be tailored to the target audience of stakeholders. A survey will be used to follow up well after the training and after the installation/implementation, to determine whether the training adequately prepared stakeholders for choosing and operating the new treatment system. The results of testing and surveys will be used to improve future training.

To complement the synchronous on-line and face-to-face training described above, an asynchronous training option will be offered for design and regulatory engineers. The principal objective of the asynchronous regulatory and design engineer training is to develop web-based engineering training modules on innovative technologies evaluated by the Center. As a result of these trainings, small systems will be able to make better and more-informed decisions on treatment alternatives to improve public health protection and insure regulatory compliance.

The webinars and the Training Design Support Tool will be disseminated via RCAP’s web site and electronic newsletter, and by making it available for distribution by the National Center for Innovation in Small Drinking Water Systems, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), American Water Works Association (AWWA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publications, and electronic resources of In addition, training materials will be added to the existing website geared for small water system engineer training (