Setting Up Your ECA Content Templates for Development of Sound Instructional Content

There is some controversy over having “just anyone” create “Instructional Content” now that authoring tools are so abundant and easy to learn and use.

I personally think it is fine and appropriate IF the system has been set up that way, from the git-go. And that requires that a few things are done in advance…a few somewhat complex things…

  • Setting Up your ECA
  • Defining your Deployment Platforms and Media
  • Developing Instructional Content Templates
  • Orienting all Content Authors to the big picture of ISD and your ECA
  • Orienting the learners/Performers

Setting Up your ECA
My “PACT Processes for T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management” employ a 5-Tier Enterprise Content Architecture – ECA. To set this up you’ll need an Enterprise Process Performance Architecture to help you define and inventory all of the non- “orientation” content AND all of the non- “enabling K/S” content. That part might be tricky. More on that later.

  • Tier 1 includes content that “orients” the learners/Performers to the Enterprise and its Divisions/Business Units, etc. Everything above a functional level (e.g.: HR, Marketing, Sales, etc.).
  • Tier 2 includes content that “orients” the learners/Performers to the Areas of Performance for their job, as defined in the analysis efforts for the targeted PULL Target Audiences.
  • Tier 3 includes content that “builds” awareness/knowledge/skills of the learners/Performers in the “enabling K/S” as derived in the analysis of Areas of Performance – AoPs.
  • Tier 4 includes content that instructs the learners/Performers on “how to” for shared process performance
  • Tier 5 includes content that instructs the learners/Performers on “how to” regarding unique process performance

In our approach to Performance-enabling T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management…projects are only undertaken to serve the needs of PUSH Target Audiences, and not PULL Target Audiences.

PUSH Target Audiences have content developed for their priority needs, as determined by the “T&D Governance & Advisory System” or similar mechanism to engage and get aligned to the Enterprise Leadership. Or risk being seen as not in alignment with Leadership.

PUSH audiences will have Tier 2 and 4/5 content developed/acquired for their priority needs addressing the Areas of Performance as determined in the analysis efforts preceding design and then development/acquisition. PULL audiences will not. However, IF there is an Enterprise Process Architecture, then it may serve as a proxy by linking existing data/content to these areas of the ECA. In our approach, all target audiences live in the Departments of the Enterprise where they perform in that Department’s owned processes and/or they work in Another Department’s processes. All Departments “roll up” into functions that roll up into Business Units and/or Divisions or right up into the Enterprise.

Enterprise Leadership cares, or should, if the PUSH audiences finish their modules per the plan, whether or not something was actually learned that has or is having a positive impact on their capability to perform, and they care about the feedback regarding the content’s accuracy, completeness and appropriateness.

PULL audiences can access all content – unless restricted for business security reasons. No one really cares if they finished their modules or not. Their participation may or may not be tracked given the risk/rewards of having that data for “discovery” in any legal proceedings.

Feedback from PULL learners/Performers is not scrutinized, as by definition the content was not built/bought for them in the first place. We hope it works as best it can for them. But that’s the end of it.

All target audiences are not equal.

Defining your Deployment Platforms and Media
Once you have your “targets sighted” you can determine how to best reach them…the PUSH Target Audiences…and not the PULL Target Audiences.

Imagine the types of Instructional Content that they’ll need…and therefore what Deployment Means will suffice given the cost-effectiveness trade-offs in the decision making in this step.

Will “Self-paced” Instructional Content be sufficient? With or without timely, corrective/reinforcing feedback? Will it be non-interactive content, perhaps on a PDF? Or will it need interactivity for enough “learning” to occur? Or is the cost of that interactivity, and the population sizes (for PUSH not PULL audiences) suggest one of the other routes?

Will “Coached” Instructional Content be sufficient? With S-OJT…structured on-the-job training…and its timely, focused (1:1 or 1: few) corrective/reinforcing feedback from a local Coach? Will any local Coach selected by the learner/Performer’s management do? Or do they need to be designated and perhaps certified first? What about Coach re certification? How will they be made available? Will accessibility be an issue for the learners/Performers? Is this really feasible?

Will “Group-paced” Instructional Content be sufficient? With structured in-the-hotel banquet room/ classroom/ lab training…and its corrective/reinforcing feedback from a local Facilitator? Will any local Facilitator selected by the learner/Performer’s management do? Or do they need to be designated and perhaps certified first? What about Facilitator re certification? How will they and the sessions be made available/scheduled? Will timely accessibility be an issue for the learners/Performers? Is this really the best alternative?

And of course there is blending of 2 or 3 in a myriad of ways.

Developing Instructional Content Templates
Now that that has been decided you can define the media to be used, paper and electronic means to convey content, in the 3 approaches defined above.

For-once-and-for-all, or until there is evidence of the need for “continuous improvement and/or discontinuous improvement” build and quickly test templates with all the branding/imagery built right in.

What are the “style guide” rules to be used by authors? How can the Enterprise logos and imagery be used? What are the restrictions? Build templates and examples of them used – and it would be best to show both examples and non-examples…the good and bad…and describe why they are good and or bad examples!

Templates for:

  • Self-paced paper readings (printed off the ECA from off the Enterprise Intranet/ LMS/ LCMS/ etc.)…these are the PDFs…the non-interactive versions of E-Learning
  • Self-paced E-learning that is interactive
  • Coached/S-OJT templates for both the Coach’s materials and for the learner/Performer’s materials
  • Group-paced/Facilitator-led materials, including the Facilitator Guides, the Participant Guides, and the Administrative Guides, plus LCD-presentations, handouts, exercise materials, wall charts, etc.

Templates make it easier for the developers/authors of content AND for the learners/Performers IF they are well designed and consistent.

For more on this topic see both…Ruth Clarks‘ book on: “Building Expertise”… and… Foshay/Silber/Stelnicki’s book: “Writing Training Materials That Work.”

Build your templates into your authoring tools and/or LCMS.

Orienting all Content Authors to the big picture of ISD and your ECA
Once all of your structure and templates/tools are in place you can orient and train (where necessary) your developers…regardless of what Department THEY report to.

And soon you’ll find it’s quicker to both create content and perform any necessary QA on that content before it is released into the ECA of your LMS/LCMS, etc. There are other benefits as well for the “Developers” IF they have the data/designs necessary, to work along with their new templates.

Where will those Learning Objectives, both terminal and enabling, come from? The ones that should drive and guide the development of focused content. The goal is to provide just enough content to enable terminal performance. Anything more is by definition, unnecessary, nice-to-know, and un-sustainable in the long run from a cost/benefit view point.

Orienting the learners/Performers
Lastly, the learner/Performers need to be oriented to this, in terms of how will they access Instructional Content. Don’t point out who is PUSH or PULL.

PUSH targets will know who they are. Just like today…where certain target audiences in the Enterprise know they have Instructional Content just for them…and others know that they’ve been left to that universal devise…Informal Learning…or what I call U-OJT…Unstructured OJT…named or not.

The PACT Processes for T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management
The PACT Processes offer 3 levels of performance-based ISD.

  • CAD for large scale, performance-based Training Needs Analysis (TNA)
  • MCD for performance-based ADDIE-type development of Instructional Products
  • IAD for performance-based ADDIE-type development Instructional Products Components that may or may not stand-on-their-own
  • Common Analysis philosophies, methods, tools and templates
  • Common Project Management philosophies, methods, tools and templatesFor more about PACT see my web site at: and my book:


…which is available as a free PDF (404 pages). plus…

Blogs, Podcasts, Presentations, Articles and Newsletter content on PACT and ISD.


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