Building Bridges

The Course Pilot and a Wedding? More Alike than You Think.

The bridesmaids donned light green dresses with intricate lace overlays. Before the ceremony, the ketubah (marriage contract) was signed by the groom. The groomsmen and bridal party enjoyed sushi and potato pancakes with smoked salmon in separate rooms before the wedding. At the appointed time, both groups entered the ballroom, awaiting the arrival of the bride on the arms of her parents. Each part of the beautiful wedding is executed perfectly, but how? Is it practiced for weeks on end?

No, of course not. Rather, it is choreographed according to a plan, by the couple and aided by a wedding planner. It is designed according to the couple’s traditions, which many of the attendees may know by heart from attending other nuptials.

After celebrating at this very wedding, it struck me that a well-coordinated wedding resembles the successful pilot of a course. Just like a wedding, the pilot needs to have each facet planned and each element timed carefully.

While the wedding plan focuses on where the bride, groom, officiant, and wedding party stand and what they say and do, the pilot plan describes what the instructor, debriefer, business stakeholder, and learners will say and do during the pilot. Prior to the course pilot, the pilot choreographer discusses the responsibilities with each of those groups just as, before the nuptial ceremony, the wedding participants learn what their roles will be. As soon as guests begin arriving at the wedding, the wedding planner begins to quietly guide the festivities from behind the scenes. Similarly, once the pilot begins, the pilot choreographer works in the background to help ensure the pilot runs smoothly.

A course pilot serves several objectives, one of which is to get a sense of the length of each portion of the training. If a facilitator goes off on a tangent, there may not be enough time for the skill-based portion of the class. Should the instructor take too many questions from learners, there may be no remaining minutes to summarize takeaways for the learners.

Similarly, wedding planners must have every element of the couple’s special day planned down to the minute. The bridal party must start their walk down the aisle at the appointed time. Each dinner course must be served on schedule, so the dancing can take place as planned. The band must plan their break carefully. Every element of the event is carefully orchestrated behind the scenes so that the celebrants don’t notice it.

In addition to the timing of events, the order of modules and learning topics can be finalized with the knowledge gained during the course pilot. Sometimes, the original plan may not correlate to the logical order of learning.  Likewise, the bride and groom may choose to change the order of events if there is a timing issue during the wedding rehearsal.  Perhaps they decide a particular reading or song would lengthen the ceremony and cut into the reception time, so they elect to take it out.

Of course, there are some factors for course pilots that don’t arise in wedding planning. Periodic check-ins with learners, with or without feedback forms, can be very effective for a pilot. Is the class going too fast or too slow for the learners? Are they engaged in the material? Are they bored? All of this information helps the instructional designer.

The course pilot offers many tools to plan the learning solution. It helps create what the instructional designer hopes is a successful course – just like a well-planned wedding rehearsal leads to a well-choreographed wedding, enjoyed by all.