The Learning & Development (L&D) field is an exciting place to be right now. There’s a lot going on and so many intelligent, dedicated, talented, and wonderfully creative people who are constantly coming up with new ideas, that there is almost an infinite number of possibilities! Even full-time L&D experts have trouble keeping up with the many new tools, technologies, research reports, surveys, books and things to learn, and my clients tell me that for someone who does NOT do this full-time, it can be overwhelming. So, I offer this first installment of a series about learning venues as a way to help.
Today we’ll discuss a live, on-site, in-class-with-an-instructor training. Next we’ll get into ELearning in its various iterations; then blended learning; and finally a discussion about what seems to work best for what.
I first got into the L&D (Learning & Development) business in mid-1980’s when “training” nearly always meant going to a physical classroom where the instructor/facilitator was in charge and managed the entire learning process. The instructor used some combination of lecture, discussion, breakout groups, simulations, quizzes, video, demonstration, role play, drill and practice, handouts, quizzes, worksheets, and presentations (often in PowerPoint) to illustrate his or her points, and usually, “smile sheets” to determine whether the learners liked the class. Sometimes the classes were really good and sometimes really bad, but most of the time they were somewhere in-between.
Even though many other options are available now, most companies continue to use live, in-class training as a primary venue because it works. It works because humans are by nature social beings and in a face-to-face classroom environment, we can interact with our colleagues and instructors in real-time. We can network, share “war stories,” solve problems, plan strategies, stick post-it notes on the wall, write on the board, and fully discuss new ideas. In-person experiences allow us to see each others’ facial expressions and body language; hear each others’ tone of voice and inflections; physically interact with materials and other people; and feel our creativity come alive with the “energy” of others in the group. In a live classroom, we become a community, and for a time, belong to something much bigger than ourselves. These are all good things, and when considering this venue for your next training program, you need to weigh the obvious pros / benefits, with the cons, described below.
Live, in-class training can be time-consuming, expensive, and require downtime as people travel to and from the training site and have to be away from their usual work – and being away for an extended time can increase stress for busy staff who feel they have to keep up with their regular job even while “in training.” Stress and multi-tasking are known to reduce learning retention. Production costs can be high because physical materials must be created or purchased for all participants, and costs for instructors and administrative staff to keep things running smoothly may also be high. There are meal, travel and lodging expenses, and for a large, broadly-dispersed group those costs can be astronomical.
Finally, consistency and standardization can be an issue because each group of trainees is slightly different; and what is taught (and how it is taught) will vary between instructors. Sometimes that’s o.k., but if you’re dealing with very specific training about technology tools, products, processes, or procedures that all members of a group need to know “hands down” and always do the same way, inconsistency and lack of standardization can result in procedures not being followed correctly and more errors. Confusion about policies, processes or procedures that different people understand slightly differently can lead to safety issues, equipment down-time, and friction between people or departments.
I invite you to share your experiences, both pro and con, with live training. Please comment and share!
Thanks for reading!
Your Learning Coach