Have you ever attended a miserable and boring training course? Have you heard your colleague’s tale of boring training course? People love exceptionally good training courses and talk about them a lot, but if they experience a bad one, they feel just as equally compelled to let the world know.
If you are a trainer or in a position of teaching, you can appreciate delegates’ feedbacks. You can learn enormously from what works and what doesn’t. You can somewhat guess from the feedback what went wrong. However, while delivering a course, a particular course of action that sounds quite rational may actually be a bad idea.
Hence, exploring such feedback can be very educational. In this article, we have listed a series of feedbacks received from hypothetical learners who have attended a bunch of boring courses. We have designed these based on general patterns of feedback observed over the years. The aim is to see why these courses have been unsatisfying and what can be done to avoid such a fate.
To make you think about it a bit more we have provided the feedbacks separately from the analysis. We want you to think about them, devise solutions and learn more in the process. Here is what you need to do:
- Read through the list, one feedback at a time and explain to yourself, or write it down, what has gone wrong with that course.
- Think about what strategies you should employ to improve the course. Put yourself in the position of the trainer who has this feedback. What would you change in this course?
- Now think about your own courses and see if you are susceptible to receive similar feedbacks. Think of actions to improve your courses.
“It’s such a boring course. The trainer just talks and talks and talks. I don’t think I remember anything. Happy there is no test at the end, or I would have certainly failed.”
“I am made to constantly do stuff. Nobody actually tells you anything on how things work! Maybe the trainer doesn’t really know. It’s exhaustive and slow. And what’s the point of me working out everything from scratch like some kind of research on original science when I can just be told how something is done?! So frustrating!”
“This trainer just spoon-feeds you. Tells you do this little step after that little step. But the whole of it doesn’t make any sense and when I challenged the trainer, I was told I am being argumentative! Would you believe that? But I cannot learn these steps if I don’t agree how it fits into the main theory. I don’t think it does, but the trainer didn’t want to listen to me or discuss it.”
“I was hoping that we would actually be shown how the system works and be able to give it a try. But it seems the trainer just wants to talk about it. The trainer showed us some images and videos of the machine but that’s about it. I am more informed about it for sure, but I don’t really get a feeling that I am attending a training course. It’s more like a sales pitch to sell the machine. I haven’t actually seen the machine or got a chance to use it, so I don’t think I have learned much.”
“We were told exactly how the whole thing works. I tried to ask a few questions on related topics, but the trainer didn’t want to deviate. Seemed she had an agenda and just wanted to stick to it. She explained quite a lot, but every time somebody asked a question, she looked a little irritated as if we have derailed her class. I felt she wanted to avoid discussions or any talks about theory and instead go back to her preferred topics, empathising the same points again and again. It just got boring. To be honest I wasn’t paying much attention during the second half of the course.”
“My head hurts. So much to go through and learn. It’s overwhelming and frankly rather confusing. I don’t think the last part fits well with the first. Not quite sure why we had to spend a whole hour on just one element of this process. There are eight more! I am not sure I can handle all this.”
“I felt as if we were getting rushed through the activity. The trainer was talking so fast I had difficulty understanding, let aside keeping up. The whole course felt like a lot of information given too quickly to understand; as if the trainer must cover a set number of topics or her job was on the line. There were several instances that students asked questions, but the trainer told us that there was no time to dwell on it.”
How to Improve Unsatisfying Training Courses
Think about what you can do to improve the above training courses before you move on to read the analysis listed below.
Problem with Feedback 1:
Too Much Lecturing
The trainer is lecturing the delegates rather than training them. One-way communication is detrimental to learning due to its passivity. It is likely that delegates switch off and become non-participative.
Problem with Feedback 2:
Too Much Discovery
This trainer strongly believes that it is important to make the delegates work hard and discover ideas on their own. This is advocated by methodologies such as experiential learning, inquiry-based learning and constructivist learning. Increasing participation is important but not at the expense of learning efficiency. If delegates are constantly denied information and are expected to find everything on their own, it leads to frustration of the kind that can be detrimental to training. It is one thing to feel challenged, but another to be frustrated by being kept in the dark. As you know, a training course should not be a one-way communication, but it should not be a zero-way communication either. Aim for balance between providing information and allowing delegates to do exercises to learn.
Problem with Feedback 3:
Too Much Focus on Steps
Some people like to be told exactly how many steps there are and how these steps help in getting something done. Others learn better by discovery or discussion. If your entire training is focused on telling delegates exactly what to do, it is very likely that quite a few delegates will be dissatisfied. Aim to balance the course in a way that it caters for all learning styles.
Problem with Feedback 4:
This trainer is focused entirely on presentation and lecturing. There is not enough demonstration and exercises to get the delegates involved in the process. Delegates can learn a lot on their own by trying and failing rather than by being given all the information beforehand. The retention will be much higher when delegates are involved and experience the tools themselves. Failure is part of learning, so give your delegates a chance to fail and learn in their own time.
Problem with Feedback 5:
No Speculative Elements
The trainer is indeed following a set agenda and is not getting delegates involved in any speculative elements. Such elements help learners to think for themselves and do their own reasoning to understand how something works. This is critical to adult learning because adults need to know how the information fits into what they already know. It is therefore important to give them a chance to initiate discussions and get them involved in exercises that help them think for themselves.
Problem with Feedback 6:
The learners are suffering from information overload. It is important not to hold back, but it is also important not to deliver a one-way lecture and overwhelm them with too much information and data. This is what books are for. A training course is primarily about skill transfer. Anything that can be achieved easily by reading should be left to articles, books and the like. Go for quality rather than quantity. Make sure they learn whatever you cover rather than covering everything without making sure they have learned it. Remember, less is more.
Problem with Feedback 7:
Not Enough Time
The trainer is rushing through the content. Either there is too much to cover or too little time allocated for it. When you have less time, stick to a smaller volume of content rather than trying to cover everything and rushing through it. If you rush through session after session, delegates are not going to learn so you might as well not bother. Skip the less useful content and focus properly on lessons that matter most. Think and learn the art of compromise.