Of course

Photo Credit: Extra Ketchup via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Extra Ketchup via Compfight cc

I did something very unusual (for me at least) last week; I went on a ‘course’.

On this course there was some ‘training’ which I was both looking forward to (how new would it be) and fearful (the same old?). The course was about technology and applying it in the workplace. So the first thing the person at the front of the room – the ‘trainer’ –  did was to get everyone to turn off their technology to keep us disconnected from the workplace. I left my tablet on.

Next up we were shown some ‘slides’. These were projected onto a screen in a well lit room making them difficult to read. We weren’t given the slides to read on our technology or in the ‘handout’ that we were given.

The trainer then talked about the slides, explained what we were going to learn by the end of the session. They told us why this was so important and how we’d learn things that we’d use in the workplace. We didn’t hear what would happen if we didn’t.

The trainer then got us to talk to the person next to us about the problems we had with the technology for 10 minutes.  Not having any major issues with the technology I didn’t have much to talk about. Luckily the person with me had LOTS of issues so they were able to fill the 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes were up we then told everyone else about our problems. I couldn’t say much.

The trainer then talked about the technology and the likely problems we were having. They quoted some statistics with the name of someone underneath them. While they talked some more I googled the statistics and found they had been disproved. The trainer then told us about using the technology and some principles we could adopt.  I googled them and found they were  over 10 years old but were, to the audience, new.

We were then able to turn on the technology we were discussing and we got to try the principles out.  This bit was good – I was doing something at last but was uneasy that I was doing something in a comfortable (but possibly expensive) room in central London with people I didn’t know, having had to travel to the venue, when I could have been doing the same thing in the office following a Youtube video.

I read the handout next; it contained a range of activities, about 14 or so – based on the principles the trainer had spoken of. I found that I did 12 of them already so didn’t think there was much value from the handout.

At the end of the course we were then given a feedback form to state what we liked. I filled it in, handed it back and made my excuses and left.

So, these ‘courses’ that we’re still offering in L&D… sound learning practice or a bit faddish? Is this a typical experience for people we ‘train’?

Comments, as always, very welcome.

7 thoughts on “Of course

  1. Hi Andy, I am certain this is the way much L&D is still delivered and I am also certain, that many of our fellow practitioners who are not as cutting edge as they ought to be, will and still find this type of training useful. We’re at a crossroads in our practice and I feel the gap in the paths widens with each passing day. I believe those who care passionately about learning will develop themselves into the new expectation of excellence and many wont. I guess the question is – how do we help organisations understand what value, capability, innovation and excellence they should seek to expect from their Learning team?


  2. Andrew – I am surprised that you are surprised at this approach.

    I also think it may be also be a UK thing – based on what I see and read coming from the UK. I am still surprised that technology / systems implementations in UK are in the main undertaken via classroom chalk and talk process. In Australia this is unheard of and/or not supported by most orgs. In my last job not ONE software training request was supported – they were told to look at other options BUT not face to face delivery. If we wee asked to facilitate or support a F2F course for a system we rejected it and offered other solutions.

    The bigger question here is why you went to this course? What were you looking to learn? What was the capability gap you needed to address? Why did you chose THIS course? Did you do any research on the course? Also after the course: Did you offer feedback to the provider. Did you speak to the trainer and express your concerns? Unless they hear it then they will never change.

    Learners need to take some responsibility in continuing to support such training courses – we can vote with our feet and not support – then such courses will disappear.
    Those continuing to train and run sessions this way will not be around for much longer.


    1. Hi Con, thanks for your comment. I’m less surprised and more disappointed. As Gill suggests above, it feels as if the paths between traditional providers and more cutting edge thinking are becoming more distant.

      I went to the course because I’m looking at the workflow culture and wanted to know what the market could offer. In terms of a gap, it was more about understanding an offer from an external provider. If this had been delivered by an internal facilitator I’d perhaps be more tolerant. This, however, was a provider showcasing their content to interested attendees.

      I’d researched the course beforehand as I wanted to see what and how it would be presented. It felt like it was (as Ed Monk said on Twitter) 10 years out of date.

      The challenge in confronting the supplier is that this is their business model. They’re monetising learning using this model and for me to tell them it’s ‘wrong’ isn’t constructive criticism.

      As Doug suggests below, it suits organisations to farm this out to a provider; frustratingly the scripted delivery is still prevalent and the flexibility and forethought is lacking.

      Was I wrong to go on this course if I wasn’t a typical learner? Not at all; one responsibility of the trainer is to adapt to the people they’re helping and if my needs are untypical then that isn’t my fault.

      Thanks again for contributing to this discussion… It needs to be discussed.


  3. Oh dear – doesn’t sound particularly inspiring. It reads like you attended something that was rigidly prepared and therefore quite suffocating.

    How do you think you approached this session? To what extent could you and others have influenced it differently in the moment? I ask because maybe wrongly, I am interpreting your experience as something you let happen to you, which feels odd to me. I don’t normally experience you as being so passive I guess.

    I think classroom type training is often commissioned as part of the abdication of responsibility around learning and development. ‘We’ve booked Andrew a one day tech course, that’s our bit of the L&D partnership done’. I deliver some classroom training and here are a few simple things I think can be done to make the experience more worthwhile:

    Have some advance contact with the people you’ll be working with – invite them to feedforward their needs/wants/challenges – this can help you shape a framework beforehand.

    In the room – ask about mood and tone, how do people want to be with each other? What do they need and want – doesn’t hurt to check that again – and the information you gather together will serve as a useful reference through the time you have together.

    Be adaptable – don’t be afraid to stray from the path. Leave room for things to ebb and flow, for demands to rise and fall. This is where I find a framework much more helpful than a rigid timed agenda.

    When I’m training – it becomes apparent as we work that there is much experience and expertise in the room. As that shows itself, I invite those experts to share their perspectives so the group starts to work with each there much more. I am on hand to shade in any gaps, but this work is their work, and it will look and feel much more relevant subsequently if the people in the room have a hand in its cocreation.

    In case you and your readers are interested – here’s a link to some ideas I reflected on and shared after a series of classroom type sessions I experienced in Latvia recently.


    For me – as far as possible it comes down to doing things together – with and for each other, not to each other.


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