Updated IS-100 Course: Missing the Target

Earlier this week, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) released course materials, including student manual, handouts, instructor guide, and visuals, for the updated IS-100/ICS-100: An Introduction to the Incident Command System.  Note that this update (IS-100.c) has been available online since the summer.  The release of materials, however, included no errata, so absent comparing the previous version to this, I can’t speak specifically to what the changes include, though I’m aware from their release of the online course several months ago that there were adjustments to account for some of the revised content of the third edition of the NIMS doctrine, released in October of last year.

Those familiar with my running commentary for the past few years of ‘ICS Training Sucks’ are aware that much of my wrath was focused on the ICS-300 and ICS-400 courses.  That said, with the release of the third edition of NIMS (my review of the document can be found here), there were some needed additions to incident management fundamentals and my realization that the ICS-100 and ICS-200 courses are ignoring a significant population of professionals in their content.  While ICS itself was largely built for field personnel working within a command (vice coordination) structure, over the years, the prevalence of various forms and types of emergency operations centers (EOCs) has grown significantly.  One of the biggest additions in the most recent version of the NIMS document was, in fact, the inclusion of much more meaningful content on EOCs and their potential organizational models.  While still a minority compared to first responders, there is a significant audience of people taking ICS-100 because of their assignment to a local, county, state, or organizational EOC.  Yet, the ICS-100 materials have scantly more than ONE SLIDE talking about EOCs.

Yes, we do have courses such as the ICS/EOC Interface course and others that dive deeper into EOC operations and how they coordinate with each other and with command structures, but the introduction to all of this is often the ICS-100 course, which all but ignores EOCs and the audiences who primarily serve in them.  In fact, there are many jurisdictions that require EOC personnel to have ICS training (smartly), which starts with the ICS-100 course (why?  Because it’s the best/only thing generally available to them), but I’m sure many people taking the course are a bit confused, as it doesn’t speak at all to their role.  While I feel that ICS training for EOC personnel is important, an introductory course like this should include a bit more on EOCs.

As with my original writing on ICS Training Sucks, I bring this back to the fundamentals of instructional design, which is focused on the AUDIENCE and what THEY NEED TO LEARN.  It’s evident that these fundamentals are being ignored in favor of a quick update, which might change some content but does not improve quality.  Let’s actually look at who are audience groups are and either incorporate them all into the course, or develop another course and curriculum to meet their specific needs (aka EOC-100).  Otherwise, they are simply ignoring the fact that what is currently available is like fitting a square peg into a round hole.  Sure it fills a lot of space, but there are also some significant gaps.

While a number of jurisdictions have identified this need and developed their own EOC training, there are a lot of standards and fundamentals that could be addressed by FEMA in a national curriculum.  This is certainly a missed opportunity, and one that makes many of our responses less than what they should be.

© 2018 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

Grading Preparedness Training

While there is an abundance of training available in public safety, emergency management, and homeland security, do we have enough training available on the foundational preparedness activities?  By which, I mean Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercising – or POETE.  There is a wide variety of training available on tactics and application of skills, which is certainly important to our preparedness, but what is available (in the United States, by necessity of focusing this article) to help bolster our foundational preparedness skills?  Let’s look at each.


For purposes of making comparisons throughout each of these preparedness elements, I actually want to start at the end of the POETE acronym, with Exercises.  At a glance, there seems to be a significant number of courses available to teach people how to design, conduct, and evaluate exercises.  To begin, there are a variety of exercise training courses available from FEMA’s Independent Study program, both foundational as well as hazard or function specific, such as those for radiological exercises or continuity of operations.  Independent Study courses provide an excellent overview of topics, but, by nature of the medium, generally don’t allow for an in depth analysis of the information or interaction with an instructor or other students.  So if you’ve taken the Independent Study courses and you need more information, what’s next?

Basic-level classroom-based training in exercises have all but disappeared.  Most of these programs, such as Exercise Design or the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) course were historically offered by the state emergency management offices, but are no longer listed by FEMA as available state-sponsored training, which is quite a shame since this is generally how the greatest needs are often met.  FEMA offers the new Exercise Design course, which is part of the Basic Emergency Management Academy, but is only offered directly through FEMA, either as a field delivered course or at the Emergency Management Institute.  FEMA also offers the HSEEP course as a ‘local delivery’, meaning that the course can be delivered at locations around the country, but this typically happens with much less frequency and volume than state-sponsored training, especially for a program that is so necessary to our preparedness efforts.  FEMA also offers the HSEEP course as an instructor-led webinar, which does help address some issues of accessibility and volume, but I feel misses the need for this being a classroom based course.  Some states are still conducting classroom versions of Exercise Design and HSEEP, along their own customized exercise-related training to meet needs which continue to exist in their states.  Technically they can, although FEMA isn’t supporting those courses with updated content.  There is also an issue with FEMA only permitting their own local or webinar-based deliveries of HSEEP to meet the prerequisite for the Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP) program.

MEP is designed to be an advanced program, with three week-long courses generally taken in-residence at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute.  In full disclosure, I am not a MEP.  Not sure if I ever will be, but given the feedback I’ve received over the years about the program, I’m not likely to until it gets an overhaul.  While I’m sure the MEP is great for many who take it, the more experienced exercise practitioners I speak with have much concern about it not being advanced enough, mentioning that a lot of time is spent reviewing basics that should have been learned in courses prior.  And while many people mention that the out of class activities designing discussion-based and operations-based exercises are good, they do little to enhance learning for those who have been doing this for a while.  Granted, it’s understood that you can’t make everyone happy, and with an advanced class you always run the risk of people coming in who already have experience at the level of the course or higher.  That said, MEP has become an industry standard accomplishment, and I’d like to see the program exceed more people’s expectations.  Grade: B


Let’s now go back to the beginning of POETE with Planning.  There are a fair amount of courses out there that teach people how to plan.  Again, FEMA’s Independent Study program offers courses not only in foundational aspects of planning, but also those with consideration toward various hazards and functions.  At the next level, there are also quite a number of courses which are locally delivered, by state emergency management offices, FEMA, and other training partners such as TEEX or the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium; with courses cutting through various taxonomy levels and addressing foundational planning activities as well as those that are hazard and function specific.

There are courses available, both locally delivered, as well as in-residence at locations like EMI, CDP, or TEEX, to address a variety of planning related interests within the broad realm of public safety, emergency management, and homeland security.  A vast number of courses, which may not be specifically for planning, can certainly support planning efforts for certain populations, hazards, and functions.  Some states offer courses on emergency planning, either as self-sustained versions of the Emergency Planning course which is now only an Independent Study course and not supported by FEMA as a classroom delivery, or home grown courses.  Emergency planning is such an important and foundational topic that it must be more accessible.  While there are some courses on planning for recovery and mitigation, we need to support this as well – planning is not reserved solely for response.

The reason why I started the discussion of this post with Exercises is because they have the MEP program.  Regardless of the possibility of the program needing an overhaul, the concept of the MEP – that being an advanced level program – is certainly a best practice that should be reflected across these other preparedness elements.  I’ve heard a rumor of a Master Planner Program, similar to a MEP, being piloted within the last couple of years, but I’ve not seen anything official on it as of yet.  Overall, in regard to training courses for planning, I’d like to see a more cohesive approach, along with a ‘master level’ program.  Grade: B-


Training on Organizing is not as direct of a topic as the others, but it is addressed, although I think this is another area that could be bolstered.  Most training on the topic of organization needs to dig not only into the foundational concepts of emergency management, which will aid in recognizing the resources and relationships that exist, but training in coordination, supervision, and management also need to better addressed.  FEMA does offer some very basic courses in their Professional Development Series which begin to address some of this.  There also exists the National Emergency Management Academies, but despite these being segregated into ‘Basic’, ‘Advanced’, and ‘Executive’, they are still largely offered only at EMI, which limits accessibility, especially at that area in the middle where most people need support.  We can also consider that the Incident Command System (ICS) provides us with some important support to the Organization capability element… take a look at my commentaries on available ICS training here.  Other training opportunities that support training for the organizational element can be found from non-emergency management sources, such as programs that address more traditional staff development and management concepts.  Often seen as ‘soft skills’, we shouldn’t ignore these training opportunities which help us to work within and understand organizations better.  Grade: C


Training on Equipping is something else we don’t often seen as being offered by FEMA or the consortium entities.  Much of the training on equipment is and should be offered by the people who are specialists in the equipment or systems used.  This can range from the EOC management system you use to the interoperable communications equipment in your mobile unit.  The manufacturers and other subject matter experts should be delivering the initial training on this.  Ensure that training materials are provided so you can continue to train new staff or offer refresher training as needed.

If we look at the Equipping capability element in its broadest sense, however, we should consider the entire continuum of resource management.  This is an area where we see some training available from our traditional emergency management sources, including a few Independent Study courses and some classroom courses, including those addressing the responsibilities of the ICS Logistics Section.  It appears to me that there is a training gap here, as much of emergency management and incident management center on the resource management cycle, from preparedness through recovery.  While there exists an Independent Study course reviewing the concepts of resource management within NIMS, I have yet to see a solid, comprehensive, performance-level course on resource management that is practical for emergency management personnel.  Grade: D


Training on Training… To my core, I’m a trainer, so I happen to have some strong feelings about how trainers and instructional designers (certainly different activities and not necessarily the same people) are trained and supported.  Broadly, in emergency services, the fire service has various levels of fire instructor courses and law enforcement has some courses available for instructor development.  Even in EMS we teach our instructors how to train.  Depending on the course, these programs can help refine platform delivery skills, or teach someone how to actually build curriculum (important note: a bunch of PowerPoint slides is NOT a training course… that’s a presentation).  In emergency management, there exists a state-delivered FEMA course on instructional presentation and evaluation skills, which is rarely seen delivered, but some states strongly use it to build and sustain their trainer cadre.  At a slightly more advanced level, FEMA offers the Trainer Program (formerly the Master Trainer Program).  Within this program are two tracks – the Basis Instructor Certificate and the Basic Instructional Design Certificate.

As a graduate of the Master Trainer Program, I was sad to see it go.  Despite some curriculum revisions and streamlining, the need wasn’t supported.  While I understand and somewhat agree with the initial intent of the course, the six courses that made up the program were a significant commitment.  The job of training also isn’t seen to be as sexy as exercises, so comparatively, the MEP program had fared better.  FEMA’s separation of instruction from instructional design was a wise move, as some jurisdictions don’t do much course development, but do need to develop platform instructors.  While advanced courses in training and instructional design are no longer available from FEMA, they can be obtained from sources like the Association for Talent Development (formerly the American Society for Training and Development), but at a not insignificant cost.  Grade: B-


Just when you thought we might be done… I often like to include Assessment in with POETE.  I believe assessment is a necessary activity within preparedness to identify where we stand, where we need to be, and evaluate efforts on an ongoing basis.  Assessment is an interesting topic to identify training on.  Within the realm of emergency management training, there is really little that directly supports assessment, yet most courses can by providing us with better information on projects, concepts, and applications.  These provide us the context in which to assess, but there still isn’t much out there to tell us how to assess.  We need to assess our plans, our organization, equipment, training, and exercises.  Sometimes we find some guidance that can help us, such as broad planning standards in CPG 101 or specific checklists on evaluating hazard mitigation plans.  Guidance and job aids are great, but having a critical eye to assess programs and projects is something that must be trained.  Big gap here.  Grade: D

Where this leaves us…

Average Grade: C

While C is a passing grade, it’s not great.  It’s closer to failure than it is to excellence.  We have some great training programs out there, but there are certainly training gaps that exist in these key preparedness activities.  While standards have been established for some of these activities (standards should exist for all of them!), training must support this guidance to ensure that it is followed (historical perspective: some training programs took quite some time to incorporate standards, such as HSEEP).  Further, training must be kept current to ensure that best practices and improvements are embraced and communicated.  One-and-done training may not be suitable for these topics.  All of this informs training need, which we must constantly assess to identify what training is needed, for who, to what degree of expertise, and by what delivery method.  The bottom line is that for people to conduct these important preparedness activities, they need to know how to do it and they need to stay up to date on the standards of practice.  Those who set the standards and those funded to support implementation must always pay heed to the training needs surrounding them.  There must also be a balance in training… we need to minimize burdensome, extraneous training and instead maximize quality, practical training that will build capability.


A great deal of homeland security funds are spent on the development of training across the nation by state and local entities, resulting in some incredible and innovative courses (as well as some rather mundane ones) which meet local needs.  This is a great program and should certainly continue.  Things to watch out for, though…  Many of these courses can be utilized regionally or nationally to support needs, but they may require modifications.  Additionally, while I will rarely discourage any jurisdiction from meeting training needs they might have, we do run the risk of developing non-standardized training across the nation.

Over the past 15 years, we have certainly seen an increase in the variety and volume of courses available from FEMA and consortium entities.  The training they offer is generally fantastic, but now we are faced with the other side of standardization – some courses are too generic, as they need to be applied nation-wide.  Additionally, while scheduling of these courses, particularly the locally delivered ones, has become streamlined and easy through state training officers, many courses have a significant wait list, with some courses being scheduled out not just months, but years.  This significantly delays the progress of preparedness efforts in many areas across the nation.

Overall, the number of state-delivered courses supported by FEMA has appeared to steadily decrease over the past few years.  Certainly one reason for this is the lack of staff and staff time at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute to support these courses and keep content relevant.  This is generally no fault of EMI, as their funding allocations have not supported staffing for these purposes as of late.  As a former state training officer, I suggest that states and regions are in the best position to identify and track training needs and to deliver a great deal of courses, certainly at the awareness and performance/operations level, and some at higher levels.  These programs, however, need to be supported with expertise, funds, and regional collaboration.

Interested to hear your thoughts…

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC Your Partner in Preparedness

Course Review: MGT-342 Strategic Overview of Disaster Management for Water and Wastewater Utilities

I took the opportunity yesterday to attend the aforementioned class held at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, New York.  This half day (0800-1200) course was well attended by water and wastewater personnel from around central New York, a couple of emergency management types, and even a representative from a local brewery (no samples, sadly).  This DHS approved course is designed and instructed by personnel from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC).


Through my career in emergency management I have regularly worked, albeit tangentially, with water and wastewater professionals, which are generally regarded as a niche of public works.  In many small towns across the nation, water and wastewater systems are among the only critical infrastructure these small towns have.  In larger municipalities, water and wastewater systems are extensive and necessary for not only their residents, but for business and industry as well.  We often see impacts to water and wastewater systems from disasters ranging from earthquakes, to utility outages, floods, and other disasters, including criminal acts.  I’m always interested in an opportunity to learn more and this course was convenient in location and schedule.

This course is a condensed half-day version of a two-day course also taught by TEEX.  When instructors reviewed the morning’s agenda, I was skeptical, and rightfully so.  The participant manual, like most products developed by TEEX, is excellently done, with an abundance of reference material.  Even if the material was to be just reviewed, I knew that addressing most, if not all of it, would be a significant task for the instructors.  The lead instructor was very knowledgeable and experienced in the subject matter and very well spoken.  While he had a lot of value to provide to participants, he may have provided a bit too much relative to getting through the three units of the course as intended.

The course units are largely broken into three main topic areas: Threats, Preparedness, and Response; all obviously relative to water and wastewater systems.  The first unit, Threats, was covered thoroughly, taking nearly the full class time.  The information provided was excellent and realistic in scope.  Examples of actual impacts to water and wastewater systems around the world from a variety of threats and hazards were used to drive the point home about the vulnerability of these systems.  I was dismayed, though, that the second unit, Preparedness, was not covered at all.  Fortunately, there is a great amount of materials in the participant guide for after class reference.

The third unit, Response, also contains a great deal of information, especially for those who are not used to complex and multi-agency responses.  Unfortunately, we only had time to review a case study which was in the unit.  While the case study (the Charleston, WV spill from January 2014) was excellent and certainly time well spent, it would have been great to dig into the other response related materials in the course.  Again, at least we have these for post-course review.

This content of this course is quite valuable, relevant, and up to date.  It was expertly instructed, discounting some time management issues.  I do think, though, that the instructional design in more to blame, as the quantity of content contained in the course is simply too much to be adequately covered in a half day.  It certainly had me wanting to take the two day course, and definitely from the same instructor.  I provided similar comments on the course evaluation sheet, and I hope they do make some necessary changes to this class to maximize the amount of information provided.  Would I still recommend this course – yes, but just know going into it (at least in its present form) that you may not experience delivery of all the material.  If the quality of material and instruction is any indication of what to expect in the two day course, though, I would absolutely recommend it.

If you have any questions on the course, or experiences of your own, I’d love to hear them.

  • TR

ICS Training Sucks… So Let’s Fix It

A great many of you are familiar with the piece I wrote in June called Incident Command System Training Sucks.  In it, I identify that the foundational ICS courses (ICS-100 through ICS-400 – but especially ICS-300 and ICS-400) simply do not provide the skills training that emergency managers across all disciplines require to utilize the system efficiently, effectively, and comfortably.  ICS Training Sucks turned out to be a popular piece which had a great deal of support from the first responder and emergency management community – which I am very grateful for.  The amount of comments and feedback was indicative to me that I was on the right track and that I need to revisit the topic and explore more.

At the center of my argument stands Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Bloom’s is a learning hierarchy which helps to identify the depth of instruction and learning.  Here is Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.  We’ll be referencing it a bit in the examples I provide.

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Take a moment to read through the descriptions of each of the ‘orders of thinking’ in Bloom’s.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Done?  Good.  Most would agree that courses such as ICS-300 and ICS-400 should attempt to convey learning at the Apply level, correct?  Unfortunately, that perception, while wildly popular, is wrong.  Most of the learning objectives of the two courses (objectives are our reference points for this) are at the Understand and Remember levels.  Yeah, I was a bit surprised, too.

In ICS Training Sucks, I provided a greater detail of the background analysis (it summarized the narrative of a Master’s research paper I wrote), so if you want more, simply go back and check it out.  While I make a few broad recommendations in that piece, there has been a need to examine our path to fixing this more closely.

In the development of curriculum, there exist several models.  The most commonly used model is the ADDIE model, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  The first step, Analysis, is really the most important, although often the most ignored or cut short.  People think they know what the need is, but often don’t really understand it.  If you are interested, I’ve written a piece on the topic of Analysis for Training Magazine last year.

Even though we are suggesting a re-write of the ICS curriculum, or parts thereof, Analysis is extremely important.  The roots of the current curriculum we use goes back to circa 1970s wildfire ICS courses.  These are good courses, and while I’m not sure if they fully met the need then (although they did advance us quite a bit), their evolved versions certainly DO NOT now.  There is no sense in repackaging the same product, so let’s first figure out what people need to know to do their jobs effectively.  Essentially, this leads us to identifying a list of key core competencies in ICS.  Core competencies will define the level of competence needed in a particular job or activity.  We can easily use the levels of Bloom’s as our reference point to establish common definitions for the levels of competence.  What am I talking about?

Let’s pick one key activity in ICS to examine.  Resource Management is a great example as it shows the disparity between what exists and where we need to be.  Resource Management is discussed in Unit 6 of the ICS-300 course.  I think most would agree that we expect most every jurisdiction to be able to implement sound resource management practices.  Implement is the key word.  Implementation is indicative of the Apply level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  When looking at unit objectives in the ICS-300 course for unit 6, the key words are identify and describe.  Identify is indicative of the Remember level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, while describe is indicative of the Understand level.  Both fall short of application.  While we aren’t looking for this curriculum to create incident management teams, we still expect most jurisdictions to be able to manage resources, which is certainly a core competency of incident management.

I think the NIMS doctrine provides a good starting point for identifying core competencies.  In an effective study, there may be other competencies identified – perhaps topics such as leadership, that may not necessarily be found in a revised ICS curricula, but can be obtained through other training courses.  This could lead to an important differentiation between core competencies (those that MUST be included in ICS training) and associated competencies which can be sourced elsewhere.

Further, we can capitalize on what we have learned through implementation of the current ICS curriculum and previous iterations.  We know that multidisciplinary training is most effective since larger incidents are multidisciplinary.  We also know that training must be interactive and maximize hands-on time.  The past few updates to the ICS courses have done a great job of encouraging this, but we need more.

Making more detailed recommendations on fixing ICS training will take time and effort, as a solid Analysis must first be done.  Once core competencies can be identified and defined, then a strategy for revamping ICS training can be developed.  As mentioned in ICS Training Sucks, this approach should be multi-faceted, using both new and (good) existing courses to support it. Let’s not be bound by what currently exists.  We don’t necessarily have to create a ‘new’ ICS-300 or ICS-400 course.  Let’s create courses within a broader program that meets the needs of the emergency management community.  They may no longer be called ICS-300 and ICS-400.  Perhaps these two will be replaced by four smaller courses?  Who knows where this path will take us? The bottom line is that we need to be responsive to the needs of the learners, not bound by “the way we’ve always done it.”

As always, feedback is appreciated.  Perhaps there exists an institution that has the desire and funding to pursue this further?  I’m fully onboard!

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


The Need for More Scenario-Based Learning

Think back through all the courses you’ve taken.  It’s a lot – I know.  What ones stand out the most?  I’m willing to be they are the ones that were the most engaging.  Not only did you enjoy them, but you learned a lot from them and still remember quite a bit of it.

It’s no secret that training adults can be challenging.  Training professionals in emergency services is certainly no different.  The challenges are even greater as the number of required training courses continually increase, requiring more and more ass-in-chair time every year for responders and other professions.  A great deal of training programs we see out there still seem to be holding out for the sake of traditional delivery styles, much to the detriment of our learners.  Why?  Designing traditional lecture-based learning is easy to do!  Figure out what people need to learn, develop content, slap together some PowerPoint, and voila!  Hell, even I’m guilty.

The fact of the matter is that we all know this is wrong.  Yes, it’s easy to do on our end, but the value and impact of the learning is pretty low.  People don’t want to be lectured to for hours on end.  We know that learning is most effective when we mix things up and when we increase interaction.  One of the best ways of engaging learners effectively is through scenario-based learning.

Now I’m not just talking about using a scenario at the end of the course to see if people can apply what they’ve learned over the past two days.  Yes, scenarios can be used as a test of sorts, but they are most effective for actual learning.  So when should you use scenarios?  Why not start the course with one?  It immediately gets people thinking, which is a good thing especially with an 8 am start time to the course.   If you use a lot of scenarios in a course, can they all be related?  Sure.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It all depends on what the purpose of the scenario is.  In training responders, threading a common scenario through a course is usually helpful.  Scenarios can get complicated when we need to establish a common understanding of what is going on, where it is, what resources are available, etc.  As such, it helps to use the same foundational scenario throughout the course (or at least regularly revisit it), and continue to introduce new problems or a different focus based upon the path of the training.  Using a common foundational scenario saves time so you don’t have to start anew introducing all new information each time and it keeps learners comfortable.  That said, it may occasionally be valuable to change things up a bit.

Do you need to use HSEEP to develop course scenarios?  No.  While these aren’t exercises in the strictest sense, we can benefit considerably from many of the principles and concepts of HSEEP.  Develop what you need to give learners the information they need to participate and the information you and/or other instructors need to properly facilitate and evaluate.

Adult learners like to be challenged.  Lecturing them for hours on end will only challenge their ability to not fall asleep – which may only be accomplished by their challenge for a new high score on the new app they just put on their phone.  The best way to challenge adult learners is to give them problems to solve.  A well written scenario will help introduce these problems in a framework which is both familiar and challenging to them.  Depending on how the scenario is provided, such as a compelling background story or use of video, learners will establish an emotional connection to the scenario which prompts a visceral desire to solve these problems.  Even one scenario is powerful and can prompt a lot of interaction.  It can prompt individual responses to questions, group discussions, and group collaborations.

Finally, don’t forget to evaluate both your learners and the scenario itself.  At the conclusion of each scenario conduct a hotwash and feedback session with learners to discuss what they accomplished and possible areas for improvement.  Also be sure to gain feedback from them and other instructors on how well the scenario worked and what can be improved upon.

Just like any other aspect of instructional design, the integration of scenarios can be time consuming but it’s an investment that will pay off.  To capitalize on the value of your scenarios, make sure the activities and expected outcomes of each scenario are associated with the learning objectives of the course and engage learners to the proper degree (i.e. the proper level of Bloom’s Taxonomy).  Yes, scenarios also take a fair amount of class time to execute.  That time needs to be well accounted for in your instructional design and course planning.  However, if properly designed, learners can learn just as much content if not more through interactive scenarios as compared to lecture-based training.

What types of scenarios have you integrated into courses?  How did learners respond to them?  How can we do a better job of integrating more scenario-based learning into our courses?

Need help designing scenario-based learning?  Let EPS help!

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


App Review – The ASTD Trainer’s Toolkit

ASTD app home screen

ASTD app home screen

A few weeks ago I downloaded the new ASTD (the American Society for Training and Development – recently changed to the Association for Talent Development) iOS app, the ASTD Trainer’s Toolkit.  Surprisingly, as the ASTD doesn’t give much away, this app is FREE!  The ASTD info site for the app can be found here.  As their website states, the app includes 20 original classroom and virtual training activities to energize, motivate, and help learners to retain content.  The activities include closings, energizers, forming groups, and topical openings.  All of this content is internal to the app.  The app also includes links to external content such as articles on Training and Development (T&D) and a selection of T&D books through links to external content (the ASTD website for articles, and the iTunes Library – for iOS users – for the books).  There is an article native to the app titled ‘Intro to Facilitation’ and an ability to create your own notes, add your own activities (they provide you with a template), and add their activities to your own list of favorites.  While the app can function as a stand-alone on your device, you can also log in through Facebook or Google to access your data from anywhere.

This can be a handy app when you are stuck trying to think of a learning activity for a group.  They break each activity down with a variety of essential pieces of information, including the size of the group the activity is applicable for, the time of the activity, the person who contributed the activity, the goal of the activity, the materials and/or technology needed for the activity, search tags related to the activity, and a step by step process for conducting the activity.  They also provide some facilitator notes/tips for each activity.  The user can enter their own notes for each activity or use an in-app timer.  You can also tap the ‘favorite’ star in the upper right corner to add the activity to your list of favorites.  You can also use the in-app search function to find activities based on various metrics such as group size or time limit.

In typical ASTD fashion, however, there are plenty of opportunities for in-app purchases.  Not only the books, but you can also download additional activities from the app.  These additional activities include Icebreakers, Openings, Reviews and Teachbacks, Trainer Tools and Techniques – each for $1.99, or all of them for $5.99.  There does not appear to be a limit on the number of article views from the app – if you are familiar with ASTD’s website, non-members have a great deal of restrictions on viewing their articles.

All in all, it’s a good app with solid, easy to reference information.  The app did crash on me since my first download of it, resulting in a need to delete the app and reinstall it.  I’d also like to see more information provided in the app.  Activities are great – and we should all include more objective-driven activities into our training – but what about other areas of training?  Perhaps the steps of instructional design – be it the ADDIE or SAM process?  Perhaps a reference for Bloom’s Taxonomy or the Kirkpatrick levels of evaluation – two things I often reference when designing instruction or when writing a proposal involving instructional design (especially the action words associated with each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy!).  Remember that training is more than just what occurs in a classroom.  I appreciate the ASTD/ATD for providing us with this app, but challenge them to give us more (and for free, thank you very much!).

Give the app a try yourself and let me know what you think.


The Death of ADDIE?

In a recently received email solicitation for ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) membership, they are offering a free copy of Michael Allen’s new book Leaving ADDIE for SAM.  Like many practicing trainers who also design and develop training material, I’ve used the ADDIE model my entire career to facilitate the process.  ADDIE, if you aren’t familiar, is an acronym for the steps in this universally accepted instructional design process standing for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  This process, when used properly, is a key to success in instructional design.


So, being intrigued by this concept of replacing ADDIE with another model, I did some research on the new model – SAM – which stands for Successive Approximation Model.  I came across a few articles and blogs which helped explain things to me.

This article is from Allen Interactions, Mr. Allen’s company which is promoting this new model.  Here’s another blog which promotes the Successive Approximation Model.  While these articles provided me with some insight and clarification on the SAM process, I’m honestly not sold.  I don’t think the ADDIE model is broken – any identified deficiencies (Mr. Allen identifies seven of them) are, in my humble opinion, errors in use rather than the model itself.  One must know how to use the model to be effective.  That’s like saying that a computer is broken because the user doesn’t know how to operate it.  I was actually put off by the insinuation in the previously linked article that the ADDIE model lends to ‘boring, lifeless training’.  I’m sorry, but no model is going to lend itself to or prevent that – that’s completely on the shoulders of those who design the training.  Admittedly, I’d like to learn more about SAM, but these are my first impressions.

All this said, can the ADDIE model be enhanced?  Absolutely.  There have been several modified ADDIE models proposed over the years, yet none have seemed to stick.  The essential differences in these models, including what’s captured in Mr. Allen’s SAM process, is to make the model less linear and to include feedback loops within the process for regular look backs, particularly to the data from the analysis phase.  The problem with these models, including SAM, is that they seem to require redundancy.  There are certainly instances when such redundancy is not necessary.  Regardless of these differences, I’m not sure that the ADDIE model was designed to be a strictly linear process anyway, and anyone who is a slave to a process without regularly reflecting on the quality of the product/outcome (and in training it’s all about learner outcomes) is likely in need of some remedial training on the matter.  I actually prefer this cyclic visualization of ADDIE to better show the interactions between the phases.

ADDIE Viewed as a Cycle

The initial instructional design training that folks go through may actually be the root cause of the problem.  If they are not taught to utilize flexibility inherent in the process then they obviously won’t see that flexibility.

The bottom line, regardless of what process we use, is that we must produce quality outcomes.  No outlined process will give us all the answers or a turn by turn roadmap to lead us to success.  We need to use our brains and apply what we’ve learned while keeping our ultimate goal in mind.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.