I really enjoy organized learning programs when they're done right. But when they're done wrong, it is a very frustrating experience.
Here is the story of a training I attended that was a huge disappointment, and 3 lessons I learned so I never repeat it.
Three years ago, while I was working at an accounting firm, I wanted to learn more about using SharePoint. So when two co-workers, who were SharePoint developers, announced they were putting on a 4-hour SharePoint training, I was very excited.
When I arrived, the login information for the SharePoint sandbox was on the whiteboard. For the first 15 minutes, everybody watched the teacher show us how to set up an account so we could actually do the training. While several of us were up and running right away, there were a few who needed additional help.
Twenty minutes into the training, and we hadn't actually done anything.
Exercises took too long
For the next 3 hours, we learned how to do basic tasks like:
- Navigate through SharePoint
- Create a folder
- Add a document
- Apply permissions
We would first watch the presenter demonstrate the task, and then try it ourselves. This took a lot of time because the presenters would then walk through the class and do one-on-one help.
No job aids
When the training was over, the teachers did not provide any reference documentation. The next day, while at the client site, if I forgot how to do a task I was out of luck.
At least I got CPEs
My co-workers and I viewed that training as a huge waste of time. It wasn't bad content, it was just an inefficient way to learn the basics of SharePoint.
We could have condensed all of the learning down to 30 minutes - then I would have considered it a good introduction to SharePoint. But as it was, our only consolation was that we got 4 CPEs.
During the last 20 minutes of training, the teachers shared some of the cool possibilities of SharePoint - websites, dashboards, etc. But we didn't have time to discuss any of that because we were out of time. Four hours learning basic workflows that could have been taught in 30 minutes... that was frustrating.
I do a lot of teaching, and I'm not perfect in my presentations. But here are lessons learned that I try to apply:
Lesson 1: Prepare the class beforehand - Class time is precious. If learners can accomplish tasks prior to attending a training session, it will speed things along.
Pre-class assignments include:
- Downloading software/upgrading to current version
- Logging in/setting up an account
- Performing basic operations (e.g. changing password, modifying settings)
- Watching a short video
Lesson 2: Cover the "how" efficiently - Spending 3 hours learning how to do very basic on-screen tasks is overboard. Performing on-screen workflows is not a skill like painting or kicking a soccer ball - it is a series of steps that anybody can do.
The skill is knowing what should be done and which tools are available to accomplish it - once that is decided, the onscreen workflow is just mechanics. I try to spend more time teaching skills, and less time teaching simple mechanics.
Lesson 3: Leave them with something to reference - Nobody can leverage their knowledge if they don't know, or cannot remember, how to perform the onscreen task.
Provide job aids or standard operating procedures (SOPs) that users can reference after the training. You'll save yourself, and your users, a lot of time.
Here are some more ideas on how to combine documentation with training to make it a better experience for everybody.