The Role of the Trainer
Sunday night I had an interesting conversation with a couple of other Drupal trainers about the role of the curriculum vs. the role of the trainer in very short training sessions (less than one day of contact). The hardest part of training is the discovery and development phase. By the time you get to the front of the room, all of your thinking should be done.
When software is constantly changing, it is very difficult (and expensive) to put together curriculum that is predictably right. This means we tend to put subject matter experts (SME) at the front of the room. They can deal with the pesky questions about edge cases and generally they can spot a typo in the exercises and think on-the-spot about how to fix any problems with the curriculum being a little out of date. Developing good curriculum is expensive; but it is also expensive to have a SME delivering content, instead of working on the improvements to the software that are needed to reduce the reliance on training in the first place.
Over the years of developing classroom experiences, I’ve come to truly appreciate that my “job” is to engage the learners so that they are motivated to practice what happened in the classroom outside of the classroom walls. It’s not sufficient for an instructor to live demo a technique and expect students to be able to repeat the procedure outside of the classroom walls. On days when I do provide demo-based training, I always make sure to record the session so that the learners can review the material later.
The shortest of conference presentations is an edutainment experience. The best I expect to be able to do is make the audience remember me as a personality and where to go next for more information about the topic we’re covering. In these cases having downloadable resources is very important. The presentation should walk the audience through the resources so that they know what to look for when they have time to come back to the content.
The longer the presentation / training session, the more important those reference materials become. If we think about the experience of an entire conference (multiple days), the reference material is just as important as a day-long workshop.