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How Green is Your Training?

Updated: May 22, 2023

Apply the concept of the 3 R's (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) to your training projects. We'll explore how to whittle down the content in your next training project while minimizing your training waste.

It seems like everyone is interested in going green these days. Of course, we are, too...however, today we're going to take a slightly offbeat, unconventional look at this concept and consider how it might translate to the world of instructional design. So let's rethink "go green", the training way!

The Three R's

What's the first thing you think of when you hear "go green"? Of course! It's Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. The goal of the 3 R's is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste. You probably know how to use the 4 R's at home, but let's think about applying the concept of the 3 R's to your training projects:


In a few easy steps, you can reduce your workload for your next training project by taking what you have, organizing the content and paring things down to just the key elements. Reducing your material helps you extract the maximum practical benefit from the available information.


It's simple to identify the training content "keepers" to reuse in your next training development cycle. Determine which portions are current, repurpose existing development templates and take advantage of tried-and-true techniques. Reusing your material and processes is another great way to extract the maximum practical benefit from the available information. It reduces costs, and that has to improve your standing in the corporate budget process.


Post-training, use the lessons learned process to figure out what worked. Then recycle the winning ideas and techniques to incorporate in your next training project. Recycling your best practices helps you generate the minimum amount of waste in your training.

How Green is Your Training, Really?

Before you begin the greening process on your training, get a feel for where you're at right now. How much effort do you currently invest in applying the 3 R's to your existing content, ideas and techniques prior to starting a new project? If you're already on track, chances are your training development projects are similarly streamlined and ultra-effective. If your training is unkempt and could use a little greening up, consider these ideas and what you can do right now to go green!

1. Reduce Your Information Overload

In the world of training (and the world in general, too) information overload tends to stress people out. When you go green by weeding out excess content, you're simultaneously creating environmentally friendly training! The most effective way to reduce content is to pare down the pile of extraneous facts to the golden nuggets of essential information.

How can you implement this strategy most effectively? First, perform an in-depth needs analysis to assess what is relevant and current. Next, roll up your sleeves and get to work tossing out anything that seems outdated and unnecessary based on the analysis. Some other tips for your cleaning up your training include:

Reduce content by "chunking" information into digestible bits that learners can easily take in. You can do this by concentrating on small chunks of information that contain only the pertinent data.

Reduce the amount of onscreen and printed text, and look for pictures that paint a thousand words. This easy step aids visual learners as well as kinesthetic and intellectual learners; these learners both tend to be more engaged in graphics, illustrations or charts.

Reduce boredom by decreasing audio or lecture and increasing interactivity. This makes your training more engaging and draws learners into the learning process.

Reduce restrictions on how the training is approached. Allowing more user-generated content (such as blogs, wikis and forums) and self-exploration (such as online scavenger hunts and case studies to solve) is one way to achieve this goal. Assist participants to develop peer or mentor relationships on the pathway toward more informal learning, too.

2. Reuse Your Information "Gems"

Once you've reduced the quantity of information, think about how you can reuse the good stuff. When you go green with your training, you'll probably be able to reuse a sizable portion of your existing materials. Skim off the "best of the best" from prior projects and consider different presentation approaches. What you don't want is a small project that "grows" on you.

Some workable reuse techniques involve performing a detailed task analysis to keep training goals on track and tapping into the skills of your coworkers. By enlisting the help of a coworker to perform quick "sizing" checkups along the way, you'll ensure your material isn't growing out of proportion. Here are some other tips and tricks:

Reuse shared objects from a content management system. Even if your system is informal, you can probably find some content to draw from.

Reuse user-generated content. This information may be locked in someone's head, but it's very important to pick these experts' brains and pull out the good stuff. After sifting through what you find, identify what's pertinent and distribute it through mentorships and forums. Then, to beef up the instructional side even further, add links in the training that point back to new content found on internal forums, wikis, blogs, discussion boards and other company forums for information exchange.

Reuse the available templates. Not sure whether templates exist? Ask around. Some of your industrious employees and coworkers may have already created something that suits your needs.

Reuse any formal reporting generated by previous training through the "lessons learned" process to help refine the next training project. You may find that an entire topic can be restructured as a job aid or self-paced activity.

Reuse facilitators and SMEs as high-performance experts that can boost participant learning experiences by delivering advanced training topics. If you're developing facilitator-led training for these types of topics, you may be able to skip the basics by teaching them online or via job aids, freeing up valuable class time to focus on the advanced subjects.

Reuse icons and other graphics from similar training projects for your new project. There's no use reinventing (or redrawing, in this case) the wheel if you have perfectly good graphics to choose from. To make this reuse possible, consider building an online graphic library with thumbnails of the graphics.

3. Recycle Your Ideas and Techniques

When your project is complete, it's time for the acid test: Did the training pass its intended purpose? Evaluating training is a great way to find out what worked and what didn't. Recycle the ideas and techniques that worked well in your next green training project! Here are some other techniques for recycling your training:

Recycle by repackaging. It's fun and easy to put together a cleverly wrapped gift for a friend using recycled paper and packaging, but did you know it's just as easy to repackage your training? Consider taking the original content and recreating it with new formats or new training techniques to generate enthusiasm and spark new ideas. For example, in just a few hours, you can take a PowerPoint presentation from a facilitator-led course and turn it into e-learning using Captivate or Articulate. Training delivery methods are evolving, so don't be scared to try something new as part of your repackaging effort. There's always a new media around the corner that may catch and hold your learners' interest.

Recycle the role of the learner by allowing them to become more actively involved in the training experience. For example, survey learners for overall training goals and ask what they really want out of the training. Engage learners in the process of generating assessment techniques, and have them participate in peer reviews as well. Then, when training is over, allow the learners to evaluate the course and provide feedback on how it can be improved for other learners.

Recycle ILT as a recorded webinar or podcast. This recycling technique works particularly well for auditory learners. It also results in portable content. You can extract some of the gold nuggets from the recording and post them on company forums.

Recycle your static corporate websites or Learning Management System (LMS) to become more community-based. For example:

  • Use document sharing and community building tools to strengthen and reinforce training.

  • Create website portals for informal learning that can be incorporated in training exercises.

  • Use forums, wikis, blogs or FAQs where learners can turn for help.

Recycle employee ideas and interests. Your company's next innovative idea for training development and delivery may be sitting in the cubicle next door! Along the same lines, solutions to your next training challenge could come from a hobby or interest outside of work. Relating tasks to your learners' fields of interest results in learners who readily tune in to your training.

Recycle knowledge by asking learners to contribute to class blogs, discussion boards or other communication forums. Learners in the future can benefit from this knowledge and continue building up the knowledge bank once it's established.

Remember the Three R's

Reduce: Some courses are packed with more content than they really need, and learners may be overwhelmed with too much knowledge. Weed out the excess content and text to make your training short, sweet and interactive and you'll create a charged learning environment with genuinely engaged learners.

Reuse: Creating new training does not imply that everything needs to be done from scratch. You may have terrific, high-quality content right under your nose! Sometimes, you can actually eliminate the need to recreate or redesign your training by repurposing content wisely. Identify what's appropriate for your needs and then reuse as much as possible. Include shared content, user-generated content, templates and your SMEs as part of your effort to go green.

Recycle: It's one of the fastest and easiest ways to green your training, and it doesn't have to be time-consuming or costly, either. Repackaging is one method to consider, but look at recycling learner roles as well. Make sure that you use company websites, wikis, blogs and other forums for information exchange to augment and reinforce your training.

These content reduction techniques seem simplistic, but they work. Try them in your next training session, and you may see that you really can have too much of a good thing!

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