In-person Training: What's the Point?

I’m in a philosophical battle with my 13-year old, whose study habits are, well, he’s going to transform if he’s going to do well next year when he starts high school.

What prompted our arguments is a terribly-designed project in Science: design a mission for a telescope to visit all the planets.  There are three fundamental incompatibilities in the title alone and scores of impracticalities, but that’s a long email for the training designer...  My takeaway of our discussion was that he needs to engage with his teachers if he's going to be successful:

What is the value of in-person teaching and training?

When I’m on-site, I start first with “Welcome to Sensitivity Training as mandated by your referral from HR.”

I then outline what we’ll be learning: it’s generally straight from our Learn Server, fully available to them ahead of time.  Same datasets, same documents, with videos of the software doing what we’ll be doing – often with me doing the video narration.

“What value do I add reading you the book I wrote and live demoing the video I recorded?”

Hopefully, I get some snarky retort from someone who either really liked the Sensitivity Training joke or someone who really didn’t.  Dialogue!  But the serious answer is:  you can ask questions!

     “We can ask questions to the video!”

     “Yes, but I’ll give you answers!”

     “What if we want correct answers?”

And we’re off!  Slight smile

There are a number of other benefits to in-person training:

  • Compressed Timeframe: lots done in a short burst.
  • If you show up, you’re there. You’re largely shielded from distractions.  You will actually spend the 24 or 32 or 40 hours on upping your skills.
  • Everybody gets the same training.

Those benefits are generally what gets the training scheduled in the first place, the value for the learner (and for the instructor) is asking questions, for turning the general into the personal.

“I’m not getting that.”  “Are you sure that’s right.”  “How do we do it for this need?” “How do we adapt that for our need?”

So, how do you maximize the value when you’re scheduling an in-person class?

Be clear on the objectives, internally and with the training provider.  Monday Morning Surprises seldom produce optimum results.  The hardest classes to teach are ones with broad skills range, different disciplines and no really weighting on who to satisfy. 

I “joke” that I like to make a Skills vs. Needs scattergram and then teach at the centroid, “so that everyone is equally disappointed.”  In a vacuum, that’s a good strategy.  But what are your priorities? 

(Generally, private corporations like to have their power users satisfied, as they will provide an ongoing mentorship with the less experienced users.  Sometimes “we need to get everyone functional, regardless of whether the fast people get everything they want”.)

Anything other than your training lead talking to the instructor ahead of time, will involve assumptions on both sides.  That the contract administrator communicates your intent clearly to the Bentley Account Manager who communicates it to the Training Coordinator who adequately passes that on to the instructor…  As an instructor I've been handed agenda mutually-agreed upon by both parties, that are way out of date and not totally appropriate: newly available training, updated training, differing assumptions on both sides.  You want to align with your instructor.  Your instructor will want to know who is the judging authority when it comes to weighing needs and making course corrections, if necessary.

Prepping Helps.  You can go into training cold, but the human capacity to absorb new knowledge has a cap.  Once the beer starts overtopping the pint glass, you should stop pouring.  But generally, we train until time is up rather than when the brain is overflowing.  All “Training” from Bentley is available on the Learn Server.  If you want to be absorbing well on Day 4, it helps to have seen material from Days 1-3 beforehand.  You’ll also be prepared for when our general deviates from your specific.  You’ll be ready with questions. 

I used to say “All Training will be remote.  All On-Site will be Consulting/Custom”.  If you want to maximum the value, do all the training ahead of time.  Then your time with the instructor is all your stuff.  A couple notes on this:

  • don’t surprise the instructor on Day 1: “Everyone has already completed the agreed-upon 5-day agenda.  Let’s wing it.”  That happened to me shortly after OpenRoads Technology was released.  It turned out well, but basically that is really risky for all. 
  • The other note is consulting is different than training. Training pre-developed material in a known workspace is fast and predictable.  Well-suited for a large group.  Once you move off of the known path, the pace of improvisational adjustment to “custom” needs, material, and engineering is much slower. 

As far as learning styles, I, personally, don’t really understand the software until I break it, test the boundaries, try it different ways.  This doesn’t work too well in class.  It works great learning by video.  I rewind A LOT.

Follow up.  You will NOT retain more than 30% of a multi-day training.  I try to design what 30% gets retained and I tend to beat those points home in class.  A good friend of mine replied “In MY classes, people retain 100% of what I teach.”  Either Mark has not studied cognitive theory or he did not retain that fact when he did.  Most people will have to follow up.  The short topical modules and videos on the Learn Server allow you to refresh what you need when you need it (“Just in Time” training). 

One of the challenges of answering questions in class is that the focused coherence designed into the training can get blurred, sometimes radically.  I can both deviate and have an out now: “If you want to hear me explain it clearly, there is video evidence at your fingertips.”

Learning is a continual process.  Industry training has historically been a rare event, like a comet’s return.  Bentley’s Training is designed to be continually available.  On-site Training is a valuable catalyst in providing the momentum and resources to being able to do your job fast and well. Use it well!