Learning Delivery: What Makes Sense?

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There are more options available to IT trainers today then ever before. Long gone are the days when the only options were classroom-based training with heavy lecture or informal one-on-one instruction sessions executed more or less on the fly. Nowadays, you can choose from e-learning, teleconferencing, labs, simulations and other platforms, as well as mainstays such as classroom and coaching.

With all these options available to you comes greater difficulty in selecting which training path will work best. Which modalities are appropriate for a particular training experience, and why? There are a number of factors involved in this choice, but it basically comes down to understanding three main issues: the teacher (that is, you), the learners and the subject matter.

Know Yourself
Any training delivery tool you settle on needs to play to your strengths. If you are an engaging, charismatic and fearless speaker who has an arsenal of illustrative anecdotes, knee-slapping humor and insightful advice, then you’ll likely thrive in a pedagogical environment where you’re up in front of a roomful of students. On the other hand, if you tend to ramble off topic or are apprehensive about speaking in front of a group, but can express yourself very well in print, you might want to think about training through e-learning methodologies such as posting lectures or hosting chat sessions.

As you seek to understand the best teaching mode for you, it’s important to be both experimental and relentless in your efforts. Try new things, and don’t be discouraged too easily. If you have a rough first time out as a teacher in a standard classroom setting, don’t let that be the end of it. You certainly don’t want to eliminate what could be a viable learning delivery opportunity because of one negative experience—after all, even the best have their off days. Keep at it, and if you have persistent problems that you don’t think can be overcome, then you can move on knowing that you gave it your best shot.

Know Your Audience
Obviously, the target of the training is the learner. You’ve got to use methods that they’ll respond to and can participate in. To figure out what these are, you have to get into their heads a little. For example, what age group does your audience fall into? If your students are from the baby boomer generation, they might be more comfortable with more traditional means of training. Alternatively, learners from generation X or Y will probably be more receptive to cutting-edge methods such as games and simulations.

Other issues to think about are time and space. If your audience is geographically dispersed all over the country or even the world, then travel expenses might make coming to a physical classroom cost prohibitive for some of them. E-learning or teleconferences might be a good option in some of these circumstances. However, if your learners are spread out too far apart or have extremely busy schedules, you’ll need to make sure that your training programs are what’s referred to in learning and development circles as “asynchronous”—that is, either text content or a recorded live event that they can access on the Web at any time.

Know Your Content
The final factor in all of this is the topic you’ll be covering. It might be tempting to think that because you are training on a technology topic, technical platforms will be best suited for the job. This is not always—or even often—the case, and other issues are more important anyway.

One common complaint I hear from professional trainers is that they don’t have enough time to cover all of the main points in their curriculum. The amount of time you have to deal with all of the central knowledge and skills associated with a given technology, job role and so forth should be at the top of your mind when contemplating exactly how you’ll deliver training. You might even find that you have to adopt more than one modality to get all of the key information in. If your classroom training can’t encompass all of the requisite data, then you can supplement it with online or print materials that students can access outside of the course. This also can offer them an opportunity to refresh and reinforce their familiarity with subjects you’ve already covered and study topics that will be addressed in future classes, thereby preparing them better.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.” As you transport your students to new realms of knowledge, make sure they’re traveling in the right vessel.

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