Instructional designer builds Web-based courses
Transformative Designs programs engage, instruct

12/09/2005
Source: Boulder County Business Report
Author: Elizabeth Gold

Instructional designer Kim Hansen creates effective Web-training programs that solve specific problems and instruct in a way that doesn't put users to sleep.

As sole owner of her company, Transformative Designs, Hansen transforms hard to understand, complex or abstract information into clear, useful and measurable training. For the past 10 years she's worked with clients that include University of Colorado Boulder, Peak Pilates and the Center for Authentic Leadership.

Like a detective looking for clues, Hansen, starts by asking questions. Then she gets to work, developing courses that address her client's particular needs. While many of Hansen's trainings are designed for Web-based delivery, she also creates courses for instructor-led delivery. She works both directly with companies, and with training consultants who want to turn their stand-up trainings into Web-based programs.

Either way, as an instructional designer, Hansen's specialty is creating curriculum that addresses a clearly defined need with a clearly defined goal. Providing a clear-cut return on investment for her clients is one of her top priorities.
With a background in designing instructional material for school-aged children, Hansen said she learned early on the importance of creating material that keeps users engaged. "I started with seventh graders. If I didn't keep them interested, they'd get distracted and start poking each other with sharp objects," she laughed.

Boulder County Business Report: When a company calls you in for instructional design where do you start?

Hansen: I start by asking what are their objectives, and then I ask how we will know there's been a change. The objective is based on that. To be a good training, you need to show a return on investment.

BCBR: Why would a stand-up trainer need your help?

Hansen: Most trainers have a lot of innovation in their delivery, and if you're in the room with them, you get it. But if you move the material into being Web based, it doesn't come across in the same way. Plus, training dollars are scarce these days - it's a competitive environment out there. They really need to show a return on investment - to show that they can make an impact. Otherwise it's just a waste of time.

BCBR: What are the more common trainings you write?

Hansen: Leadership, management and communication.

BCBR: What are some of the challenges you deal with?

Hansen: Sometimes it's just sitting with a pile of stuff from a client. Maybe they wrote a book, and they want it packaged as an ongoing training or Web-based training. They have a big mess of content, and they want me to turn it into curriculum. I actually enjoy that, really. Sometimes it's hard for people to be patient while we do an assessment and evaluation. That's something that's more challenging for clients, I guess.
I'm a stickler for not using jargon. Mission statements and objectives are notorious that way. I had one client ask me to do a training that would align people's behaviors with the corporate values. I asked what they were, and no one knew.
A problem is that people are falling asleep in front of PowerPoint presentations all over the country, and for good reason, they're often deadly boring bulleted text. In graduate school, our challenge was to do PowerPoint programs with no text - only images that would keep people interested.

BCBR: How can you make Web-based training interesting?

Hansen: Transformative training needs to be visceral. You need to get people up and moving. I create activities that are done off the computer. I work with graphic designers, tech writers and other instructional designers. It always has to be aesthetically pleasing. I write instruction in a way that makes it engaging and personalized. For example, if an HR person is looking at a strategic plan and realizes she has to lay off half of the work force, I address the questions she'd be asking to be able to do that. If a chief executive officer reads his forecast and goes to the ledge, I come up with the three questions he'd be asking himself. It'd be things like "How should I say this to the board?"

BCBR: Who are your clients?

Hansen: My clients range from large corporations, where the curriculum may eventually reach thousands of learners, via their trainers or Web-based training, to small businesses, or companies that are creating elearning ventures. I also work with individual training consultants who need input on how to revitalize or repackage their delivery methods to best target their content to potential learners or clients. The competitive trend toward getting the best Return on Investment is guiding many people to reevaluate and prove the worth of their training.