Training and Teaching

How do I get management support for training?

The best way is to start seeing managers as partners in the training process. Training is a process, not an event. And managers, participants and trainers alike have a great deal of impact on whether any kind of training is implemented. If managers see that what is being offered to their employees is equipping them to perform faster, better, easier -- they'll support training and other solutions that you recommend. Make sure you involve managers in both the needs assessment and evaluation processes and consider creating an advisory board of managers that can lend expertise and credibility to your efforts.

How do I improve the effectiveness of distance learning?

Even today, much of the e-learning and webinars that are being produced are largely ineffective. Why? Because poorly created content that bored in the classroom will be even more boring online, whether synchronous or asynchronous. Material has to be in shorter chunks. The size of the group for breakouts needs to drop from the 5-7 we recommend in the classroom to just 3. It will take you 25 percent longer to deliver the same content unless your participants are really knowledgeable about using the tools available on your delivery platform. The closer you can match what's required in participant-centered classroom delivery, the more effective your online efforts will be.

What do I do with a dull, depressing training room?

When I hear this, I think of a training room with no windows that is painted an extremely depressing color and is long and narrow. You may not be able to change these things for the class you're doing today, but you can make some changes for the long run. Paint the room, improve the lighting, get more comfortable chairs, etc. But what about today's class? First, create colorful flip charts that you can place strategically on each of the walls. Second, get some fun manipulatives that you can put on the tables: Koosh balls, stress balls, and colorful post-it pads can liven up the room. Play music designed for learning, but make sure that you don't violate copyright. We've designed 30 minutes of perfect music based on research done by Steven Halpern for walk-in, exit, discussion, reflection, games, and breaks.

How do I handle disruptive participants?

Make sure you use small groups of 5-7 people. Rotate the leadership so no one person can "own" the group. Have small groups periodically generate questions rather than simply asking, "Are there any questions?" which may allow the domineering to take over. Also, toss questions to the group to answer, rather than either calling on someone or allowing volunteers. By engaging more people, you minimize the possibility for disruptive behavior.

How do I improve training evaluations?

First, think beyond the level one, end-of-course evaluation most people think of. Management is not interested in whether people liked it. They are interested in knowing the people used it and that the applied skills and knowledge added value and made a difference to the organization.

To improve evaluation you need to improve preparation. Prepare managers to prepare their people to come to the course with the right mindset: a learner versus prisoner, vacationer, or socializer. Have people set personal objectives early in terms of what they want to learn. Ensure that each person develops an action plan while they are in class. Help create short-term (60-day) accountability groups (3-4 people) who will support one another in applying what they learned to their jobs. Enlist the support of managers in ensuring that adequate time is given to participants in the first 60 days after the training to really apply what they've learned on their jobs.

Designing Training

What are some creative training tips readers can implement right now for their next webinar?

One thing I've been doing a lot lately is adding in an element of the season. If I'm doing a webinar in April, I know May Day is coming up so I might do something with that element in it or tie-in some sort of "relief package" activity to Tax Day. Tying into a seasonal theme makes your content that much more timely.

What are four tips you would give someone moving content from the classroom to online?

The most important is that the need-to-know information must be in the workbook, not just on the screen. Second, webinars are for need-to-know only; you're not going to do any fluff. Third, take a lot more time to be strategic and plan every minute of your webinar. The environment is very different and every minute counts so the extra processing time helps you be ready for anything. Fourth, have a producer. Having a producer is a big help, even if for no other reason than to help reduce stress for the facilitator so you can focus on your content. A producer provides an extra set of hands to help with technicalities, answer questions, solve issues, record the session, work one on one with participants, upload files, send out files and so much more.

What is the first question clients ask you?

If I have a 90-minute class in a classroom, how long should I plan for online? My suggestion is to add about 50 percent more time online to teach a class because you don't have that face to face time so it takes longer to teach something online. If you're lecturing in the classroom, you can lecture online for the same amount of time. So we help our clients figure out the most important elements of a 90-minute class. We either pare it down or, instead of doing 27 questions in the classroom, we might do 15 online. The fewer questions still produce the same effect, but allows you to reduce how much time you spend training online.

What are the biggest differences between classroom and online training facilitation?

The level of interaction is very different since you don't have any face-to-face. Communication is a lot more difficult, the energy is different, and camaraderie is different. You're basically going to have to create a room of excitement on your own so it's a lot more output of energy from the facilitator. What we do with our clients is help them create interactivity every four minutes so that the instructor doesn't have to be "the energy" all by him or herself-the audience is creating the engagement for themselves.

What exactly do you do when contracted for webinar consulting?

If the client likes their content, we take that and weave in transitions for an online format. We might modify the classroom activities, if they exist, or we create interactions if they don't. For example, if content has been revisited through a Jeopardy-like format in a classroom in groups of five, we can use Bravo or Gameshow Pro for an online class if a client has either of those products. If not, we'll modify the game and either put it into a quiz function where they can work in pairs, or create four questions, put them in breakout rooms and have those smaller groups discuss four questions at a time.

How do you choose which content can or should be taught online?

Anything that can be tested online can be taught online. With swimming, you can test any of the facts about strokes or the definitions and terms online, but you can't do that actual skill test online.

When working with clients to move content from the classroom into a webinar, what is the first step you take?

First, we identify which classes the client already has that would make good webinars. These might include existing content or other messages and classes they want to put into a live, online interactive format.