Thursday, November 29, 2012

Face to face with systems training?

As I'm flying down to Wellington (or the Middle of Middle Earth if Air New Zealand have it right) to deliver another face to face training session on Totara LMS the irony of delivering f2f training on cloud systems is not totally lost on me. I can't take full responsibility for this myself, I try to use webinars and coaching wherever possible with clients, but the fact is plain and simple that most of them simply expect their systems training to be delivered on site and f2f. The question is does that make it the best way to deliver? Or is it even what they need?

There's no doubt when you're learning a new system that there's a certain need for systems training, the issue is actually around how much and how it's delivered. Before you instantly dismiss webinar training, look at the typical length of training. The sys admin training I typically deliver in 4-6 hours. The trainer training (how to create content) in the system is typically 6-8 hours. I tend to run that over two separate days and often in separate and adjacent weeks (sometimes with the same people in both). Max numbers tend to be around 8-10. Very traditional, couple of 15 minute breaks and a spot of lunch somewhere around the middle. My web training sessions are typically no more than an hour each. They tend to be very focused and are distinct sessions covering the main topics. The number of sessions I would recommend is around 6 formal training webinars.

The training sessions aren't the total deal though; I like to run a few coaching sessions entirely focusing on what the learners are struggling with or feel they need more help with; they're coaching rather than training as they are far more user led than trainer led, much more interactive and targeted at learner needs. The key to success for the training is getting the learners to do something. In f2f this is usually predominantly done in the session I run, in the webinar model this is largely occurring between the sessions. I think that systems training is only ever truly successful if you put in to practice what you've been taught within a reasonably quick timeframe before the knowledge fades away. The problem with the single hit approach is that it's very much like front loading all of your training when a new employee starts and then assuming that their training is done with for the remainder of the time with you; it simply doesn't work that way. Learning is a lifelong journey not a day long session without follow up.

Sounds logical enough so far right? There's also cost to consider as always. Some clients want web training at the same cost as hourly support rather than at training day type costs. This simply isn't realistic or reflective of the work that goes in to webinars and the support and coaching (and of course the tools to deliver). Generally the amount we would invoice for a two day training session is higher than for than say 6 webinars and a few coaching sessions, but it's not twice as much either for the reasons above, you could probably expect a bill around 2/3 the size so their is some savings for sure. There are also your internal savings and these can be significant; you have to book and pay for your facilities of course; not to mention the staff time, potentially travel and accommodation, lunch etc etc.

The real reason though is about effectiveness rather than efficiency. Spread out your training and provide coaching to supplement the targeted sessions and you undoubtedly get better learning; if it costs less too that's a bonus rather than the main driver here.

So before you book in your next f2f session externally or internally perhaps you need to ask yourself is there a better way to achieve this? Should I be talking the talk of learning technologies and go as far as walking that walk too?

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Location:In the air