Monday, June 18, 2007

Please...No More Eight Hour Training Days!

I'm sorry to be so remiss in my postings. If you think this is bad, you should see my personal journal! I promise to do better. (I say that in my journal, too!)

When I started this blog, I promised not to use it as a platform for rants. Today I would like to suspend my rule for one day.

I've been training testers, business analysts, and other professionals for over 18 years. However, I do not consider myself to be primarily a "professional" trainer. I'm a software quality professional that has learned to be a good trainer. I guess I've succeeded because people keep asking me to come back and train more people.

I do, however, pay a lot of attention to learning methods and how people learn. That's what brings me to my point.

I got an e-mail today asking if I had a 5-day course on a certain testing topic, with each day of training being 8 hours. This alone would not have bothered me much. But a couple of months ago I responded to a Federal Government proposal that assumed 8 hours in each training day. So, it seems to be on my mind more.

I'm thinking, "Are the organizers trying to punish people?" I might could handle sitting though a one-day course for 8 hours, but two days or more and I would be less than enthusiastic.

My standard is a 6.5 hour training day, not including breaks and lunches. I give the class breaks every hour or so because the human mind can only stay on topic that long. Actually, the experts say the average attention span is more like 15 minutes before some type of different activity is needed. I think the length of the day is also important. People can only retain so much information in one day.

I know that some people might be thinking they want to get their money's worth in training, but I've learned that the greater cost in training isn't the cost of the trainer, but the cost of the people being trained and being away from work. I have found that giving people the freedom to leave a little early and tie up loose ends of the day - e-mail, voice mail, etc., is very much appreciated by the people. (Actually, one of the great benefits of e-learning is being able to learn at your own pace in little segments during the week.)

When people are having a good time, they are more relaxed and retain more information. That doesn't happen on marathon training days. I suppose one exception to this are the true "boot camps" that are really hard core. But in those at least you know what you're getting in to when you sign up.

By the way, I have taught classes that were specified to be 8 hours long, but around 4:00 (hour 7), I get no argument from anyone, including the sponsor of the class, about ending "early".

So, if you are ever in the position of specifying the times and lengths of training, please...don't make it punishment. Keep the times around 6 or 7 hours and your team (and the trainer) will really appreciate it. You'll find that the overall impact of the training will also be much greater.

Thanks for reading!