ATD Blog

Lessons From Technical Training

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Relatively little information exists about technical training. Although defining technical training can be done rather simply (technical training can be defined as training based on a technical product or task), truly explaining technical training is a different story. Technical training has so many oddities, and a lot of times, the course you develop will be the first of its kind.

Still, there are some lessons that everyone can take away from technical training.

Don’t be afraid to get specific

Technical training is specialized. That is, it is often very specifically tailored to a particular job task for a single organization. Non-technical training can also benefit from this specificity. Soft-skills classes that utilize industry-specific examples are generally more useful than soft skills courses that use generic out-of-the-box examples.

Use demonstrations, labs, and simulations


With technical training, demonstrations, labs, and simulations—whether showing the key strokes required for a software, or going out into the shop to assemble a tool—are very useful and almost come naturally to the subject. But demonstrations, labs, and simulations are also incredibly valuable to nontechnical training, even though they can be more challenging to create. But think about it: The really good management, communication, or conflict management courses that you have taken often utilize some sort of useful demonstration, lab, or, most importantly, simulation.

Define terms

Defining your terms is important, regardless of what the subject is. The same goes for acronyms and buzz words. Defining the language you use allows you to send a clear message, and it helps you make sure that all your learners are on the same page.


Utilize internal information

Internal sources play a key role in most in-house technical training courses. Internal sources of information can also be extremely useful to in-house nontechnical training courses. For example, employee message boards, handbooks, or collections of HR policies/best practices can serve as useful material for some nontechnical training courses.

Harness the power of the case study

Case studies are a mainstay for technical courses, but audiences of nontechnical courses can also benefit from learning about the real-world application of their topics. Sound like another way to say “be specific” with your content? It is. Regardless of your subject, relating your content to the intricacies of the workplace of your learners is important and will move your courses to a new level of value. Case studies and real-world application does wonders for a course.

While technical training can be a murky topic, there are some very real lessons to learn. The list in this post is not meant to be exhaustive. There are many more lessons that can be taken from technical training, just as there are other lessons that can be taken from nontechnical training. Still, implementing the items above can help make your courses, be they technical or nontechnical, more effective.

About the Author

Sarah Wakefield is a technical training supervisor for Schlumberger Limited in Houston. Her primary responsibility is managing the design and development of technical training courses for audiences in locations such as the United States, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Russia, China, and North Africa. Before this, Sarah worked as a curriculum designer for various organizations. Sarah also was an instructor of communication, writing, and life success courses at Ivy Tech State College and at Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Sarah holds a master's degree in communication from Purdue, as well as a bachelor's degree from Purdue with a double major in professional writing and psychology.

1 Comment
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Thanks for this list of lessons learned! Technical training can be a tough nut to crack, but each of these practices can make its creation seem much less daunting. I see this is from 2012 -- anything that you'd add based on your experience over the last 5 years?
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