The Top Training Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, right? The fact is we all do make mistakes, sometimes more than we would like to admit, but after all, we are just human. As a trainer, you encounter a variety of students, subject matters, locations, learning tools and time constraints on a daily basis, which at times might seem more like a juggling act than a training position. Nevertheless, juggling all these factors and demands can also increase the margin of error. Because certification requirements, technology advancements and the needs of IT pros are perpetually evolving, the roles of the certification trainers are constantly changing as well, so mistakes are bound to happen.
Not assessing the students in your course group is a common mistake and step that many trainers forget to perform. Students often hold different levels of experience, skill and knowledge. Because certification is a way to further or confirm people’s knowledge and skills, classrooms regularly include advanced, intermediate, beginner and novice students.
“It is very important and in some cases critical to the overall success of the class to have a good understanding of what the makeup of the class is going to be,” said Mike Renzi, trainer and training manager for the Training Associates. “Before the class begins, it is important to know about the various jobs that they hold, the kinds of tasks they perform already, the levels they are at in comparison to the course content, and what their expectations and objectives for attending the class are.”
Furthermore, it is important not to simply teach to advanced students or vice versa, because the point of the classroom setting is to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to pass the certification exam and succeed in the workplace. “It can be really fun to teach to the top of the class, but if you do, you leave a lot of people in the dust,” said Ann Beheler, dean of engineering and emerging technology at Collin County Community College. “Similarly, if you teach to the bottom of the class, you are going to have a lot of people bored.”
Because the focus of certification classes is to generate students who are ready to pass their certification exams, some instructors tend to center all of their lectures, assignments and lab time strictly on the features of the test. On the other hand, not including a certification prep test in the course syllabus is a predominant oversight as well. Although prep tests are not always a requirement, prep tests boost students’ skill confidence and calm the all-to-common nerves that come hand-in-hand with lengthy examinations.
It is important not only to prepare students for the exam, but also to provide them with the technical and soft skills needed for their everyday job functions. Today’s curricula commonly neglect soft skills, and more importantly, many professionals do not possess them. Moreover, nearly all IT professions require soft skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, customer relations, planning and organizing, and communication, on a daily basis. Trainers also frequently fail to incorporate experiential learning exercises into their curricula, and according to Renzi, trainers have been trying to resolve this issue universally. Real-world, on-the-job challenges and experiences are critical in learning. Textbooks offer a lot of valuable information, but a significant number of today’s students would rather learn by example or through actual practice sessions.
Another prevalent issue facing certification instructors today is the fact that their facilities do not have the adequate equipment to train their students to the specified requirements for the certification itself. Obviously, it is not easy to keep up with or stay ahead of the ever-advancing technology world, but it is important that schools try their best to keep up with the times. “Instructors, most often adjunct instructors, are not in a position to try to press the organization to get updated equipment, meaning the latest technologies used in the industry,” said Christine Ann Schubert, instructional associate for the Information Technology Institute at El Centro College. “It seems that the equipment and technologies change quickly—almost too quickly for an educational environment.”
As for the trainers themselves, they need to be personally prepared and knowledgeable of what is currently going on in the industry. Deans, administrators and instructors should all take it upon themselves to read the latest news on technologies and certifications fervently, network with professionals in the IT field to see what new challenges they are facing and what employers are currently demanding from them, and continuously evaluate their curricula, including the hands-on experience offered and the equipment used.
Trainers also need to not forget to make the class as well rounded as possible in different time constraints. Frequently trainers will manage courses that vary in length, from two-week cram sessions to five- to nine-week courses. It is important that instructors balance and prioritize their curricula to the specified time constraints. A well-rounded class must include lectures, textbook readings, experiential applications, test preparation and, of course, encompass all the technical and soft skills that are required for the job function.
Above all, having an indifferent attitude about your job as a trainer is a significant fault. “Being a trainer is all about passion, a passion to see people improve their lives,” Beheler said. “Technology training is unique in that fashion because it can change people’s circumstances radically. I think that good instructors are very passionate about what they do. They don’t just teach for money, they don’t teach just to have a cushy job—they teach to make lives better.”
–Cari McLean, firstname.lastname@example.org