Over the years I’ve been asked how I keep participants in classroom training engaged and eager. Firstly, I’d like to remove the word classroom because the word itself makes us think of our primary or secondary years sitting in rows of desks facing the teacher and the blackboard. If you think back to your days in school, how often did you experience notes being passed around, making excuses to go to the bathroom, or even not showing up at all? As children, we did not have the ability to make a choice of staying or going. We had to go to class. We had to follow the rules of the teacher. We had no choice.
Today, students at school have been thrown into the electronic phenomenon of the internet, iPhones, iPads and video conferencing. Traditional methods of classroom teaching have gone through an overhaul and schools are looking at technology to ensure students are engaged during class. So why isn’t this happening in Adult Learning? I am not suggesting that each L&D department go and buy 20 iPads to make training more engaging. What I am suggesting is we need to seriously look at how we intend to engage and deliver the training to our audience.
I ran a new starter induction program that lasted three weeks in my early years as a trainer in the financial services industry. I had one participant that would nod off between 10:30 – 11am every day. For the remaining participants this daily occurrence was entertainment for them and they would place bets as to exactly what time he would nod off. This was an alarm bell for me to take action. I spoke with the individual one on one and was shocked that he had learnt everything that we had covered and was simply bored. This participant was craving more information and the pace the induction was going clearly was too slow for him.
I cringe when I hear that a session needs padding. What for? If the content has been covered then the session should not need padding to stretch out the day. If the session has been scheduled for a full day, why not start it at 10am. Participants get to miss the traffic and are not rushed in. You can then go through until 12 without a break. Back at one for an intense post lunch session before a quick afternoon break then finish up before 5pm.
When confronted with a training program, it does not need to conform to the traditional half-day or full-day classroom timeframe. Training should be piloted and tweaks made to time to ensure participants are engaged through the entire session.
In the end, my sleepy learner had a complete turnaround. He became a buddy for some of the other learners that were taking a little longer to grasp the content. An extra set of hands in the room is always nice! Remember, practicing different techniques and concepts will show you if they are working for you or not. If in doubt, ask your learner!
Why do we still call it classroom training?