Lecture notes

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Introduction

There are two types of lecture notes:

  1. Lecture notes for the trainer
  2. Handouts for the trainees

These are two very different things, and should be considered separately.

Lecture notes for the trainer

Most industrial training material typically consists of a set of slides containing summary bullet-points, which the trainer will use as a launching-point for the true content of the training session (which is largely contained only in the memory of the trainer).

Here, lecture notes are provided to remind the lecturer of the content behind the bullet points, effectively as an aide memoire to ensure that the trainer covers all of the required points. The material relies very much on the knowledge of the trainer. It is therefore usually prudent to work closely with the trainer themselves - to ensure that they understand the abridged bullet points, and to ensure that they the lecture notes contain enough information to let them expound on these bullet points.

Obviously, these notes are not included in the slides and are typically only seen by the trainer. Some `presentation' software (such as Microsoft PowerPoint) allow notes pages to be created and `tied' to the slide. If this is not the case, then it is important to ensure that the relevant slide number or title (or both) is included in the lecture notes, to allow the trainer to maintain synchronization between their notes and the slides being shown.

There is sometimes a temptation to simply include a lot more detail in the lecture notes. However, bear in mind that the trainer is likely to be reading these notes as they give the training, and will therefore seldom have the luxury of time to read detailed notes. A better idea is to include they salient points or memory joggers (remember, these notes are only seen by the trainer and therefore do not have to be too `polished' - brevity over grammatical accuracy would probably be appreciated).

Consider also the case where a presentation is developed by one person, but then delivered by another. This is often the case where a 'train the trainer' approach is used: the designers or developers of a system train key users (often referred to as Power Users), and these trainers are then responsible for taking the training package, and training this on to the remaining users. This approach is often used in large organizations, where it is not possible for one trainer (or training department) to train all users.

The lecture notes may also need to contain more than an expansion of the slides themselves. It may be necessary to provide actual instructions to the trainer, telling them to use specific props, ask questions, interject with anecdotes, or even an explanation of how to use a specific slide (especially with builds).

Consider also the case where the person controlling the projector (or computer from which the presentation is being transmitted) is not the trainer themselves. Here, it will be necessary to facilitate communication between the two parties without resorting to the trainer issuing a terse "Next slide please" at the relevant point. Here, it is worthwhile providing two copies of the notes - one to the lecturer, and one to the person manning the projector.

Handouts for the trainee

It is fairly common practice for a copy of the slides for a training course to be distributed to the trainees. With a lecture (whether this is an educational course, training course, or technical presentation), the content on the slides is often a very abbreviated form of the content of the lecture (sadly, often reduced to a bulleted list of paraphrased sentences). For example, a slide may consist of only the following bullet points:

  • Credit check;
  • Pricing Conditions;
  • Product Availability.

This may be sufficient in the lecture theater, where the trainer can expand and expound on the points, but it is likely to be next to useless when the trainee is reading them some six months' after the course, trying to work out what on earth they referred to. Here, the lecture notes (for the students) should expand on the information contained on the slides, in the same way as the lecturer has expanded on the content during the presentation. Where slides consist of a picture, photo or diagram, the notes should explain what the picture is of, and summarize what the lecturer said about the picture - what they pointed to, described, and so on.

Nowadays, many courses are delivered by way of a PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint (and probably competitive products) provides the capability to include notes for every slide, and the ability to print handouts that include a copy of the slide followed by the notes. This is the perfect place to provide lecture notes (although few people tend to do this).

Notes in handouts should always support the information on the slide itself; there should be absolute synchronization between the two. The notes should either provide additional details, a list of sources or references, and so on. It is perfectly acceptable for the notes to be just that - notes. However, they should not be abbreviated in the same way that the slides may be; remember that they are there to provide clarity, or to remind the students of what the slides meant when they are re-reading the slides at a later date, and without the benefit of the lecturer to expound on them.

You should also bear in mind that the trainee's copy of the lecture notes is likely to be nothing more than a black-and-white photocopy of the presentation (especially for `in-house' training). If this is the case, then consider the use of color on the slides (especially colored backgrounds) very carefully. You may also want to think carefully about any `special effects' used, such as animation, builds, fades, and so on, as these will be completely missed on paper.

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