Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Taking time for training

That training I took last week really set me back. Two days of work missed and I'm scrambling to get things done. Is this an argument for e-learning? That my time might've been better spent doing the training online, where I might've been able to test out of certain modules in which my skills were up-to-snuff and take only the modules that I needed, shortening my time away from work? Maybe. But, still, there is something to be said for getting away from the office so that your entire attention is focused on what you're learning, right?

Oh wait, my entire attention wasn't focused. I spent my breaks checking email back at work, wishing that I had more time to get something more productive than just email done. The training came at the worst possible time, so my stress level was high. I probably wasn't absorbing the information as well as I could've.

So this is an argument for e-learning, which I could've scheduled for myself (versus being tied into dates scheduled way in advance when I couldn't have predicted my workload) and that I could've shrunk down by pre-testing to just the information I needed. Perhaps with those adjustments I would've been more relaxed, better able to concentrate and focus, and would've retained more knowledge.

But what about the social interaction? The group work we did, critiquing each other's writing? Here's the argument for synchronous e-learning. For virtual classrooms, for live chat, for shared whiteboards.

But I'm not advocating blindly turning every training course into e-learning. There are certain skills that need to be learned in a classroom. Very technical or hands-on ones, for instance. Some soft skills that would be hard to teach without being face-to-face. I'm sure you can think of examples.

It's important for training managers to design training on a case-by-case basis and find the format that works best for the subject matter and learners. In my case, a shortened synchronous course scheduled at regular intervals, so I could pick the date and time that worked best for me on short notice.

After allowing people to test out of basic information, the course could be set at an advanced level. A second synchronous course could be taught on the basics. Is my wish list extravagent? Maybe for small organizations, but not for big companies that offer lots of training. These adjustments sure would've saved my sanity the last couple of weeks. (Although, I have to admit an office move also contributed to my crunched time and there's nothing training could've done about that!)

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