July First Friday @ 5: Let me touch it—Don’t demo your training

By Ruth-Anne Klassen, Student Liaison

The IDL SIG hosts a “First Friday” social event for students and members each month. Each edition of First Friday includes a short presentation. Here’s a recap of the July 7, 2023, session, in which our own Viqui Dill led a discussion about training.

We talked about how to train so that learners get more value out of training. It seems that training is more effective when trainees engage and participate in training, so Viqui engaged us in memorable training. We played Pictionary and an ordering game, and Viqui even performed a song connected to one of the examples. 

We started with a game of Pictionary. On their turn, participants drew an object that the word generator produced. This became an opportunity for mutual coaching, a kind of participatory learning, as participants shared how to use Zoom whiteboards. 

To filter people who have misaligned agendas or want something that is not in the scope of the session, audience members shared their expectations. Our participants’ agendas sounded great, ranging from reconnecting with people and having fun to learning more about the topic of training. 

Viqui had the audience think about what teaching methods would most likely enhance retention by ordering the National Training Laboratory’s (NTL) hierarchy of training methods. With less regard for preferred learning styles, NTL ranks retention methods as trainees teaching others, practice doing, discussion, demonstration, audio-visual, reading, and lecture. According to this ranking, the most participatory methods are the most effective.

For the rest of the session, Viqui related effective training to a long-lasting relationship. Trust, history, and mutual support can improve the connection between trainer and trainees, instructor, and other training developers. 

Viqui’s Steps to Engaging Training are as follows:

  1. Make the bed: Prepare the training setup. The training setup includes cabling or wireless hardware and testing these before a session.
  2. Hooking up with the one you love: Students should bring their laptops to training and have them running during the session, or,
  3. Hook up with a stranger, as in a loaner laptop, which trainers should have ready for students to use. 
  4. Dimming the lights: Allow students to explore without much direction. Being self-guided often leads to lasting revelations.
  5. Plan a happy ending: Give students a chance to complete an assignment successfully in class.
  6. Send flowers: Send or present students with a certificate of their training completion, which they can hang in their offices.
  7. Have a backup plan, like making handouts available if possible. 

Our audience testified that training proves effective when using the methods Viqui outlined. For example, one attendee shared how they set up sandbox sites for students to practice what they learned during training and afterward. Another shared that they believe certificates are important since they are tangible evidence of their training for anyone to see. Still, another participant shared a great learning experience in which they and an IT technician spent time discovering how to use Zoom whiteboards together.

Audience members also shared frustrating examples of poor training, such as being asked to solve a problem with little prior guidance, the instructor doing example problems so fast that they did it wrong, and attempting to cover all of Microsoft Excel in one hour.

I agree that training is more effective when it engages the audience. I definitely learn more when I get to think and ask questions about what I’m learning. Skilled trainers can engineer their material to engage most audiences. At the same time, when an audience does not participate in a training session, it may not be a reflection on the trainer or their material. Training is still a two-way street, and some trainees take longer than others (speaking as someone who tends to learn slowly!). I still appreciate Viqui’s methods of optimizing the training experience for people new to an organization, software, or method.