What makes good or bad training?
Published on 03 Jan 2020 by Emma Eynon
Good question! Let's start with where we get our training.
First, at school we experience classroom training in many flavours, from an early age. Unless you're Steve, noone really looks forward to advanced Maths classes, when it's a beautiful day outside and just about anything else in the world would be more interesting!
At work then, and on-the-job training, usually lacking in content or depth and often taught by someone who has no desire to be teaching you on top of their day job.
How about self-learning – and using internet training or book learning to skill up? Can you think of an instance where you've enjoyed a training experience? It happens less often than one would hope, given the wealth of information about training techniques and methods available on the world wide web
What makes for bad training?
Let's explore a few things here (although this is by no means a comprehensive list!):
1. Irrelevant information
Know your audience! It is great to have some clever facts and information to teach, but if you're pitching to the wrong crowd it's effectively useless. The same could be said of trying to pitch to multiple audience types and hoping that some of the content will be applicable, to some of the people, some of the time.
2. Undefined learning
Without a key syllabus, training content can often dwell on the wrong points or take focus away from the learning aims. Perhaps there are no aims, and the training is merely a bulk of information with no real learning goals for the student to achieve – or importantly to be assessed against.
3. Poor structure
This really makes learning confusing and difficult to follow. Unexpected actions can trigger negative reactions and emotions in your students and frustration when the learning is more difficult than the content itself needs to be.
4. Too much information
Following the previous points, too much information is often given which makes it hard to focus on the key learning points. This can also make learning sessions more tiring and students will “switch off” – especially if there are not enough breaks between important learning points.
5. Messy displays
Visual input can be tiring, and “death by powerpoint” is one of the worst ways to go. Too many colours, images and general information on each display makes it very hard to focus and pick out relevant information. Jokes and mood enhancing presentations are always encouraged, as long as they are used in the correct capacity and not adding to the visual noise. This will switch your students off and tire them very quickly.
6. Lack of engagement
Telling someone a lot of information is not the same as teaching. It goes the same for reading large amounts of text, if the use of breaks and exercises to practice the learning are not used properly. When a student is not engaged, they stop absorbing any information – often until the end of the “training”.
7. No personal interest
If students cannot identify a personal goal or reason to do the training, they will often not find the motivation to pay due attention to it. This is when students become negative, sometimes aggressive and will often refuse to continue, seeing no advantage in doing so. Motivation will keep students engaged and willing to complete learning.
8. Too many distractions
This can apply to the external environment as well as within the training delivery. For example, if you set an exercise for your students, make sure to give them the opportunity to concentrate on the task at hand. As a trainer, this may seem boring, but this is an essential part of identifying student needs.
9. No way to practice
When students have no opportunity to practice what they are being taught, there is far less chance of them remembering that point or skill. It can also seem as though there is no point to the learning, if there is no practical scenario to apply the learning to.
10. No progress evaluation
An essential part of learning is knowing whether you are learning correctly. With no opportunities to assess their progress, through evaluating exercises or even asking questions, students often feel disengaged and lose motivation. The worst thing a trainer can do is instigate a learning exercise and then move on without evaluating or discussing the results. This leaves students wondering “what was the point?” as they lose trust in their trainer fairly quickly.
11. Peer pressure
Comparing progress against colleagues or other students can cause pressure and frustration. While a little competition can be healthy, this should not be in a personal capacity and certainly not used to shame or embarrass students.
12. Unappreciated students
Your students have paid for your training and expertise, and they have often been inconvenienced with travel and accommodation arrangements. To enhance the trust relationship and motivation, your professionalism and openness goes a long way. Turning up late, "winging it", not preparing before the training, not considering student needs or comforts and even skipping lots of course content in order to finish “on time” all shows a lack of value and respect for your learners.
13. Lack of feedback
Students who receive no feedback at the end of their training are unable to grow and improve afterwards. How do they know that the training was worth their time and expense if they have nothing to show for it – except attendance? With no means of knowing where they perhaps went wrong or need to revise, many students lose trust in their trainer and feel unappreciated. This is worth noting if you are looking to gain recommendations or repeat business.
I'm sure I could have added lots more to this list, however, now that we have an idea of what bad is, we can start to put together what good training looks like.
How is Fantom Factory eLearning any better?
It was in considering what good training should be, that we were able to establish what we wanted to be able to offer in our own training design. So, to use Fantom Factory designed training as an example, this is what we wanted to have:
Targeted courses for different audience types – keeping content relevant to the right groups of people. SkySpark Analyst is our course – for Analysts – to use SkySpark!
A course learning syllabus, focussing our content, exercises and assessments on key learning points – especially defined for the targeted audience.
A repeatable structure, following a consolidation methodology. Introduce content, demonstrate, evaluate against a scenario, practice in the actual technology, evaluate the student's result and analyse the outcome to reflect on the learning content. This structure is introduced, explained, used and adhered to throughout.
We use clear display differences between our training pages emphasising key learning points, and our fun narrative pages to break up the learning and to keep our training pages as clear and simple as possible.
We have consulted with a number of graphic designers and digital marketing specialists, to decide on our final display themes and layouts for the best learning and engagement. We aim to keep the content display consistent, clean and easy to read and absorb key information.
Much of our design is aimed at engagement and structuring our learning around consolidation. A key part of this is our ability to use different question types for practical exercises, and for students to be able to do this using the technology being taught – such as SkySpark.
Motivation online is slightly different to in a classroom. We use clear course objectives and measure our final assessments against those objectives to make sure the student will really benefit from what we advertise at the beginning. Our online platform also means we can use achievements and experience points as rewards for extra effort in their learning.
Our screens are designed to minimise distractions and our content structure keeps learners focussed on one task at a time.
We wanted to make sure that practice was a key part of our training. Setting up a safe SkySpark environment for our learners means that they can use the real tool they are learning, for exercises that they can get wrong or retry with no penalties.
Our training provides for practice exercises and then regular modular assessments to check progress. We are then able to offer feedback on particular areas of revision or exercises to try if our students need it.
With online training, the learning is at the student's pace and convenience – with opportunities to go back and review previous content at any time.
To value our students, we keep an open and honest approach and are keen to reply to any emails or comments as soon as we can. We will always strive to do our best for our learners – and we will continue to publish more thoughts and developments here in this blog!
At the end of our training courses, our students will either gain a certificate to validate their learning experience, or receive details on which areas to revise in order to try again. We want to make the certification worth earning, so we only offer one retry – but honestly – with good training – you should only need one!
We are always open to feedback and suggestions, or just a good old discussion! Feel free to contact us if you like anything you see here or want to ask about further!