WARNING: Coming in hot with an opinionated blog this week.

In an age where learning and engagement are increasingly interlinked, the practice of handing out printed presentation slides as participant guides seems archaic, if not outright ineffective. This method, still surprisingly common among trainers and instructional designers, undermines the essence of interactive learning and shortchanges participants who are eager for a more engaging and enriching experience.


Understanding the Disconnect

At the heart of this issue is a fundamental disconnect between the delivery of content and the facilitation of learning. Slides, by their very design, are meant to support a presentation, serving as visual aids that complement the speaker’s narrative. When these slides are repurposed as standalone learning materials, they lose much of their context and effectiveness. Without the accompanying verbal explanations, stories, and examples, participants are left with a skeletal framework of the subject matter, which does little to promote understanding or retention.


The Case for Interactive Participant Guides

Interactive participant guides are not a new concept. I first started using them in my master’s program in 2000 (that is right, I am aging myself, but it is worth it to make the point).

However, I am still shocked at how many trainers don’t create them for their courses. Participant Guides should identify key takeaways from the training, contain just-in-time information that learners can reference after the training, and provide a space for taking notes and making notes (there is a difference). They should incorporate elements that actively engage learners and encourage them to take part in their own learning journey. Unlike static printed slides, interactive guides can include exercises, quizzes, discussion points, and multimedia resources, all of which cater to different learning preferences.


Promoting Engagement

Interactive materials compel participants to engage with the content actively, rather than passively absorbing information. This engagement is crucial for deep learning, as it encourages learners to reflect on the material, apply it to real-world situations, and engage in critical thinking.


Enhancing Retention

The active learning strategies facilitated by interactive guides are proven to enhance retention. When learners are actively involved in the learning process, they are more likely to remember and apply what they have learned.


Facilitating Immediate Feedback

One of the most significant advantages of interactive participant guides is the opportunity for immediate feedback. Whether through self-assessments or interactive exercises, participants can gauge their understanding and mastery of the content in real-time, allowing for adjustments and focused learning.


Moving Forward

The shift from printed slides to interactive participant guides is not merely a matter of adopting new technologies; it’s about embracing a more effective and learner-centered approach to training. Trainers and instructional designers must recognize the immense potential of interactive materials to transform the learning experience. By investing in the development of comprehensive, engaging, and interactive participant guides, we can ensure that our training efforts are both effective and impactful.

PLEASE…I beg of all trainers and instructional designers…do more, do better. Create interactive participant guides; don’t just print your slides 3 to a page.

As we look towards the future of training and development, it’s clear that interactive participant guides are not just a “nice to have”, but a “must have”. The reliance on printed slides as participant guides is a practice that belongs to the 1990’s, one that fails to meet the needs of today’s learners. It’s time for trainers and instructional designers to step up and create materials that not only convey information but also inspire, engage, and empower participants. The shift towards interactive learning is not just beneficial; it’s essential for fostering a culture of active learning and continuous improvement.