Creating an Effective Learning Experience
Imagine that your organization is just about to update its internal accounting system, and you've been put in charge of creating the training program for your staff.
Your boss has asked you to set up classroom-based training for them, but you're not sure where to start... For example, how do you ensure that each session is productive and doesn't waste people's time? And what is the best way of setting up this type of instructor-led training?
It isn't easy to set up an instructor-led training program - there are many details that need to be attended to, and it can be easy to overlook important points. In this article, we'll look at the advantages of instructor-led training, and we'll cover the steps you need to take to ensure that the learning experience is effective and productive for your trainees.
What Is Instructor-Led Training?
Instructor-led training is any kind of training that occurs in a training room, typically in an office, classroom, or conference room. This form of training can have one or more instructors; and they teach skills or material to another person or group through lectures, presentations, demonstrations, and discussions.
Most often, it's used to instruct a group: this allows you to deliver many trainee-hours of training for each hour of the instructor's time. Training can also be one-on-one, however, this can be expensive.
Instructor-led training is particularly beneficial when the material is new or complex: here, having an instructor on-hand to answer questions and demonstrate concepts can greatly enhance a trainee's learning experience.
There are several benefits to using instructor-led training, compared with other types of training.
First, unlike on-the-job training (which is typically one-on-one), instructor-led training allows you to instruct a larger group at once. This means that you can use a variety of techniques such as role-playing, and exercises and games to enhance the learning experience.
Teams may also learn better with instructor-led training, because they can share ideas, work in groups, and debate with their peers. It's also useful for bonding, team building, and team problem solving. All of these means that instructor-led training can have greater long-term benefits than one-on-one or online training.
And, because people are in a controlled space for a fixed period of time, you have the opportunity to train them without them being distracted by competing demands.
Instructor-led training is also useful when you're trying to keep training costs down - for middle-sized groups, instructor-led training can be less expensive than other types of training.
A disadvantage to instructor-led training, when you have several people to teach, is that it can be hard to provide personalized instruction. It can also be challenging to accommodate different learning styles.
Additionally, slow learners may find it difficult to keep up with the pace of instruction; these students might benefit most from personalized coaching or on-the-job training. Meanwhile, quicker learners may get bored, and may disengage.
Other disadvantages include the need to wait for training (unlike instant-access, computer-based training, for example), and the expense of training large numbers of people (where eLearning may be less expensive).
How to Set Up Instructor-Led Training
Step 1: Create an Outline of Objectives
As you start planning for your training, you need to begin by defining your learning objectives. What skills do you want your trainees to master by the end of their training program? And what do they need to be able to do by the end of each session?
Make sure that you're specific here. Simply stating, "My group needs to understand the new accounting system" doesn't provide enough detail. How will you know that your group understands the new system?
A better objective would be: "My group needs to understand how to log into the new system, submit payment reports, apply for reimbursements, and print their monthly departmental budget." Not only does this objective define what your group needs to learn, but it also provides you with specific metrics that you can test for during training.
Then, look at any knowledge gaps your students might have. Will some people come to training with more knowledge than others? And will you need to divide the group into two (or more) separate groups, to accommodate different levels of experience?
Also consider your budget, and the impact that the training will have on day-to-day activities. This will determine how much time or how many sessions your group can devote to training, as well as the technology and visual aids that you'll be using.
This first step encourages you to analyze the need for instruction, and determine what you'll teach if you decide to move forward.
Step 2: Insure Relevancy
Once you have a basic outline of what you want to cover, you need to define why this information is relevant to your audience. If your trainees don't understand why they need the information that you're presenting, and what they'll gain from learning it, the training will probably fail.
Make sure that you "connect the dots", so that as soon as you meet with your group, you can explain clearly why they need to do this training.
Step 3: Design and Develop the Learning Experience
You now need to determine how you're going to present this information. There are a lot of details to consider as you set about designing the learning experience for your group.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Are you going to be the only presenter? Do you have enough expertise to cover all of the topics, or will you need another instructor to supplement your knowledge?
- What are the most critical skills that your group will need to learn? How will you know that your group has learned these skills successfully?
- Where will the class take place? When?
- How will you present this information? What media or visual aids will you use?
- How will your trainees practice and use this new information?
- Will you need a microphone or other sound aids, or is the group small enough so that everyone will be able to hear you?
- Is the room or venue that you're using set up for group learning?
It's important to consider how you'll put variety into the training, so that your trainees don't get bored. To do this, consider using Active Training techniques such as learning tournaments, role-playing, and jigsaw design to get people engaged.
You'll also want to provide a good balance between doing lectures/presentations (where the trainer provides an overview of a subject while the trainees take notes) and seminar/workshop learning (where trainees actively participate in discussions and exercises, while the trainer supervises).
Step 4: Create a Plan
By now, you'll have a good idea of what the training needs to cover, and how you'll be delivering it. You now need to create a detailed plan for each training session.
It's up to you what to include in your session plan, but you'll probably want to include the following:
- The overall purpose and objectives of the session.
- Session preparation (if relevant).
- Materials and resources required (handouts, visual aids, textbooks, and so on).
- Equipment required.
- The information that you need to cover, how you'll present it, and the order that you want to cover it. (Include timings here, so that you know if you're sticking to your schedule.)
- How you'll evaluate trainees' learning.
- How you'll get feedback on how future sessions can be improved.
Remember that your session plan is a guide, and that you can deviate from it during the session if you need to.
If the training consists of more than one session, it helps to plan each session at the same time to make sure that the training meets the overall objectives you identified in Step 1.
Skills Required for Instructor-Led Training
Good planning is only the beginning. To deliver training successfully, you (or the person that you select to do the training) will also need to do the following:
- Brush up on your public speaking skills.
- Make sure that you rehearse teaching the material several times before presenting it live. Rehearse out loud, in front of a test audience, if at all possible.
- If you think that you'll be nervous speaking in front of a group, learn how to manage presentation nerves, so that you do your best on the day.
- Know how to use all of the technology that you will use during the training session. Have a backup plan in case any of your instructional aids fail.
Preparation is the cornerstone of any successful training program. Make sure that you're organized, and that you've spent as much time as possible preparing for the event.
- Use Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning to structure your training; this will help you accommodate different learning styles.
- Give your trainees time to sit and learn before you encourage participation: this helps people to feel grounded in the experience, and gives them time to feel comfortable with everyone else in the class. Once this sense of safety has been established, they'll be far more willing to participate in a group.
- Allow your class to take a break every 50-90 minutes. This will help everyone to stay focused over the long term, and avoid information overload.
- How you present in the training session has a major impact on whether the group accepts, or rejects, the information. Use Heron's Six Categories of Intervention to determine what kind of communication style you should use with your group.
- Remember that your group wants you to succeed. If you get nervous, take a deep breath, focus on being optimistic, and visualize completing the training successfully. You'll do fine!
Instructor-led training is useful for training middle-sized groups of people in an efficient, undistracted way, at the same time that they enjoy a positive, group-based environment.
To set up an effective instructor-led training program, start by outlining your objectives. Ask yourself what your trainees need to learn by the end of their training. Ensure that what you're teaching is relevant to the group; design an effective learning experience; and plan and rehearse how you'll deliver each session.
Last, brush up on the skills needed to be a great trainer, such as public speaking techniques and presentation skills.
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