The Checklist: A simple requirement for success

Before they take off, even the most seasoned pilots are required to use a pre-flight checklist. In his book Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande applied this process to surgery and found that 80% of the doctors found the practice beneficial and in many cases, there was a rection in error. The book’s main point is simple: no matter how expert you may be, well-designed check lists can improve outcomes. If pilots and surgeons, who perform the same routine pre-surgery and pre-flight preparations over and over, rely on checklists, it is likely that students, professors, and training professionals will benefit from them. Here are some general steps to take to develop a personalized checklist:

  1. Consider the tasks that you frequently perform. In training, these might include broad tasks like developing a new course, delivering a lesson, conducting performance assessment, or more focused tasks like writing objectives or completing an assessment.
  2. Conduct a mini “task analysis,” where you list each step involved in the process. Be sure to make the list of tasks granular—imagine you will teach someone unfamiliar with how to perform the task.
  3. Create a visually appealing document to house your checklist.
  4. Make it easy to use. Consider where and when you are most likely to use your checklist (in your office, on the road, at home, etc.) and the most appropriate format (paper, notes page on your phone, tasks in outlook, Google doc, etc.)
  5. Try it out and revise it.
  6. Now use it! If surgeons and pilots rely on checklists to make sure they don’t forget an important step, you will undoubtedly benefit from their use.

I am currently working on a pre-class checklist for new online students. Add a comment to this post to include one or more essential items that should go on a checklist for online students before taking their very first class.

25 comments

  • Jenny Lemens Seale

    Great post! I was reminded of the Tom Hanks movie “Apollo 13” when the checklist for how to bring the computer back online without going over on power was reworked dozens of times. A checklist that has been carefully developed is indeed a “life saver!”

    To your list for new online students, I would suggest familiarizing themselves with any blogs or department websites – like this one for T&D! I found this blog before my first class started (I’m in the MATD program) and I found it very interesting & gave me insight into the program I was starting.

  • Alexandra Tuti Edwards

    Great posts!
    I use a checklist for almost everything that I do! It’s how I plan out my days at work and I use them when packing to go out on vacation.
    I would add to the checklist for new online students, is to familiarize themselves with Blackboard.
    The last time I used Blackboard before taking these courses, was back in 2002 and the platform has changed since then.

  • Great post! This information is valuable and I will definitely incorporate it into my current job role. I’m already a big fan of checklists. However, I tend to use it more in my personal life. This post has made me see the importance of using checklists in my professional life as well.

  • I really enjoyed reading this article and found the points extremely helpful. Checklists are important to make in any role you take as administrator, manager, employee, student and etc. As a medical assistant working in a doctors office during COVID-19 pandemic there are many things we have to do to keep our patients safe and ourselves. Our checklist includes: taking temperatures, screening patients, cleaning rooms before and after use, and being strict about mask wearing. Other checklists include daily activities making sure every machine is turned on, equipment is in the right place, cleaning all surfaces, checking voicemails, and etc.

  • Megan Davenport

    Great read! I find checklists to be very helpful in my job, school, and to tackle things in my personal life.

    One item I would recommend including on a checklist for new RU students taking online courses is to have them test their RU logins and familiarize themselves with the RU Tech Support page so they know what to do if they encounter any problems.

  • I am very fond of making lists, but I don’t do enough of them. I believe that even in situations where you do something so repetitive that you feel that you don’t need a list but that is usually when you will begin to forget a small simple step that can make or break a project. Having a routine gives us confidence, but having a list helps to keep us on track. It is always a good idea to conduct a mini task analysis to make sure your process is still effective or if changes are necessary.

  • Using a checklist is something that I believe people do mentally or for personal reasons. It is important to bring that mindset over into the work place to make sure all essential task are completed, and help to highlight progression moving forward, so small wins can be celebrated.

  • I agree that checklists are important to be used in both our careers and in our daily lives. I have always made a checklist at work for things that I need to work on and accomplish for the day and week. I believe these help limit ourselves from making errors in forgetting to do something vital. I am a long distance triathlete and always have a checklist for things I need for swimming, biking and running. If I forgot one crucial step with my checklist such as forgetting my swim goggles; well then the race is over before it even has started.

  • The preparedness that this list implies reminds me a lot of the Change Management course and how, prior to starting, there are certain steps and measures that must be taken.

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  • Excellent post. I agree that even experts in a particular area still have areas of improvement. I’ve created the training program for our student staff team for the past four years now and the preparation for this process is always the same. I also find that training is something that is like second nature to me, and I’m very comfortable with it. I may be a bit too comfortable. For instance, this past training, I waited until the last minute to create one of my presentations. While presenting the session, I came across so many grammatical errors along with conflicting information. It was quite embarrassing and evening disappointing. It was also an eye-opener that I need to treat every training like it is my first one where:
    • I took my time with creating the training curriculum.
    • I double-checked my work.
    • I reviewed particular information with my colleagues.

    This would have helped me to avoid so many errors this past summer. Noted for our spring training.

  • This process is something I wish I could of had in the years of school. Then I could remember what items were due and when they were due instead of looking constantly at the applications the instructors give us.

  • This is very interesting to apply on our everyday lives. There is always basic roots to learned from when accomplishing a task. Doing an analysis or having short or long term goals always help any situation. Revising things often always help for improvement.

  • I love this! I feel like this could be helpful for any process work or personal related. Great checklist! Thank you for posting this!

  • I totally agree ….I make a pre-check list every month. I have made an excel document for my lists, I use notes in my iPhone and I have an app on my phone for lists. I don’t think I can go about my day without the use of lists. I find it very helpful to make a pre-check list. Before this pandemic I said I would not take any online classes because I know I am not disciplined enough plus I have found learn better with in person option. To the new online learner, I would tell them to make sure you make a list of all of the classes you intend to take and document the textbooks needed, when you purchased them, how long you were told it would take and keep a track of how long it took for future reference. Also, I have noticed that when I file my taxes I am asked how much I have spent on my textbooks. Make sure to keep track of this as well for tax purposes. Of course, this suggestion is for those that are on their own and not under their parents responsibility.

  • Ginger Ulloa-Enright

    A pre-class checklist for new online students is brilliant! Online classes can be intimidating to some and a checklist would help alleviate student stress. I think one helpful entry would be to make sure the student does a technology check; computer operating efficiency and internet speed. These two components are essential to a successful online learning experience.

  • This is a very good read. Checklists are very helpful for both students and working applications. A checklist can help lay the foundation of what must be done or accomplished to ensure success with your tasks. It can also help remember tedious or easily forgotten first steps that must be completed in order to efficiently complete a task.

  • I think this is very, very helpful. This is something that I do not currently do, and have honestly never considered doing for tasks that I do routinely. However, when overwhelmed with work putting things down in a checklist help to ensure nothing gets missed because it is just as easy to miss those routine things as it is to miss new things. This is thoughtful and helpful, thank you.

  • I find checklists to be very helpful in identifying all items and not forgeting them. Having a level of importance can also help to decide when to complete the items. Though it may be easy to consider checklists as rudimentary, I agree that they can be used at any professional level.

  • Checklists are the ideal way to organize thoughts and find ways to make processes more efficient. If a new student is beginning in the MATD program, or online courses in general, I’d recommend finding your electronic note- taking preference early. Whether you prefer Google Docs, or OneNote, or anything else, explore the features and find what’s right for you.

  • I 100% agree with this checklist!!! Within my career a task checklist is something we use repeatedly on a daily basis. Our criteria in Logistics is not relatable to the posting for doctor offices but there are similarities. Mini Task Analysis for my career follows steps in order to conduct transportation needs correctly.

  • There are many important points and aspects to this blog post. As a working professional, student and mother, I often find it a struggle to find a balance between career, home and school. I have been utilizing checklists since I was younger, often first using them when I went on trips in order for me to not forget anything. Due to the fact that many classes are now online, a checklist is still an important aspect for me personally. I feel that on a pre-class checklist, it would be important to include times for professor’s office hours in order to help with time management. Also, when purchasing books, it would be important to notate how quickly one is able to receive the book and whether there may be a different option (like an e-textbook) that would aid in being prepared.

  • I agree with many of the points made in this blog post. As someone who actively uses check-marks I strongly believe that they’re effective.

  • As a student, employee, parent and spouse- checklist are essential. It may be easy to overlook items on various to do list- especially when operating via various platforms. One essential item that might be beneficial to online students before taking their very first class is to identify a time and date of important due dates for the week. Another might be to indicate if the item will be an individual task or if it will require group collaboration.

  • I agree that no matter how well-versed you are in a field, it is important to practice the basics and remind yourself. I think by getting into a routine, you can overlook small but important steps because you are confident that you will do it right. Sometimes, you want to work faster and skip over the tasks. I think conducting a mini task analysis is a quick yet effective way to ensure you are not missing anything.

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