How to Replace Classroom Training

In this post we are going to discuss how to convert your classroom training for a more efficient, and potentially more effective, delivery. However, I first need to lay the groundwork by examining some of the factors leading to the decision to move away from the classroom as the primary source of learning content delivery. shutterstock_362358830

Consistency is a key part of a good training program, but when you have a significant amount of instructors leading multiple courses and classes, it can be difficult to ensure a consistent approach. One company I profiled in a case study last year, Opus Stewart Weir, was frustrated by what it referred to as “instructor drift,” where you can have multiple classes of a specific course occurring with different topics, conversations, and results simply due to differences in instructor knowledge or delivery. This can lead to inconsistent results, and that is certainly not the goal when it comes to specialized training or even compliance requirements. Consistency is key.

We’ve talked about some of the common problems with training lately, from poor examples of how to train the trainer to the forgetfulness of our learners. But what about this challenge of instructor drift?

Structure and Consistency

Using tools and a uniform methodology can help to reduce errors and standardize the training process. But even those can only go so far. Consider these four examples from a single company—Tata Steel—that were hampering the effectiveness of its classroom training.

  1. Classroom training sessions were limited to the size and seating capacity of the classroom; this was a drawback given the size of the organization’s 36,000+ workforce. Training always took place on a large scale, and non-availability of space to train a large number of employees proved to be a training barrier. While training sessions were sometimes held in halls that could occupy 50-60 employees, there were venues that could accommodate only 15 to 20 employees.
  2. The organization was cognizant of the high rate of dropouts in classroom training due to the high production pressure that employees were faced with. While a 3-day course usually started off with about 50 employees, only 30 employees would complete the course. This high dropout rate of close to 50% was attributed to high work pressure, inability to comprehend the trainer, and non-interactive classroom sessions.
  3. Professionals associated with research/technology/scientific services at Tata Steel need to go through specific technical courses at a post graduate level – for which an employee needs to get himself/herself registered in a leading institute, and attend the course throughout the semester. This was not possible for a large number of candidates, and the organization wanted to make use of thoughtfully designed eLearning modules that would provide these employees with the required training on their desktop/laptop.
  4. Oftentimes, one-day training courses would get extended over several days when employees failed to understand the subject matter and also due to extended interactive sessions. With the extension of these training courses, costs went up and productivity suffered.

The answer for Tata Steel was to move its training online through the use of a new learning management system provider, ultimately saving more than $5.6 million in the first year with a projected savings of $22 million over a four-year period. While that may be an option for some, it also presents yet another issue, because many employees don’t get the same experience from an online course as they do from a classroom event.

Replicating the Feel of Classroom Training

Due to cost constraints, many companies are looking for ways to move courses online, but people just don’t want to sit through another click-through course. One client reached out to us this week asking for ideas on how to make the transition without losing the “essence” of traditional classroom training. I think that’s important, but we need to define that “essence” to answer the question.

  • Is it the social interaction provided by the classroom environment? We can replicate that to some degree with social learning solutions.
  • Is it being able to measure what employees are really learning? Leveraging assessments before, during, and after the course can help to identify what concepts were understood and which may require additional attention.
  • Is it the back-and-forth interactivity that allows for coaching and correction? That’s possible, too, through the use of video solutions and simulations that require the application of knowledge.

What I’m getting at is this: because of the sophistication of technology, we no longer have to walk, drive, or fly to a classroom to listen to a subject matter expert. We can do it comfortably and inexpensively from our own desktop or mobile device.

I would say that the best practice for this transition that all companies will eventually face is mixing up modalities and not relying on simply moving in-person lectures to an online format. While web-based training and eLearning are not new, being able to incorporate video, simulations, and assessments into a seamless experience for the learner is, and it’s a powerful combination.

Ben Eubanks, Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group


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