This is another post I've been wanting to write on for a while now. I wanted to share some of the interesting happenings or requests I get while preparing and conducting training. Together with each happening, I will like to share my thoughts behind it as well, so we can work towards building up the competencies of my future clients.

Skipping Modules

The "skipping" here is not what you usually think about. Let me explain.

I have been involved in a few training programs since the past two decades. Programs and short courses are very different. Programs usually consist of modules, that is either conducted immediately one after another or spread across a period of time, say about 3 months where participants goes back to work first and comes back to the training programs during schedule dates where there are classes.

Programs gives the trainer a lot of flexibility in scaffolding the curriculum. The advantage is that trainer can build in many "retaining mechanism" into the schedule, allowing participants to retain the knowledge, and be able to apply these competencies to their individual circumstances at the same time. For instance, discussions, project work, facilitation workshop can be integrated into the curriculum. This is compared to a string of short courses, where they are designed to make "foie gras" out of the participants, i.e. keep stuffing the skills and knowledge into them, with little consideration on retention and applications. The reason is because programs allows scaffolding the learning pathway through the programs as compared to just putting together a string of courses.

So what is the interesting phenomenon that I observe? As you can see from the description above there is a learning curve to climb up, as the next module's content are build from previous modules content. Participants have a high tendency to struggle if they actually skipped modules for their training, for instance there are 5 modules altogether in the program and they are to take in sequences, there will be a group of participants who will decide to skip the earlier modules and jump straight in to the higher modules. For instance, participant A look at the description of the modules, and decide on his/her own that Module 1 is very simple, and decide to move straight to Module 2 instead.

What happens if a class has participants who skipped modules? Here is a likely scenario. Participant A got "lost" in Module 2, keep asking questions during the class to the detriment of the other participants that have faithfully follow and scaffold their learning. In the end, all the participants in a losing situation. Rest of the participants did not learn much, since most times are spent on explaining to the single participant, taking time away from the trainer to focus on teaching and sharing what is needed in Module 2.


Participant A was embarrassed and did not ask question, decide to self-learn while at the same time absorb and retain what is taught in Module 2 making it a very hectic learning experience and again hurt his/her progress in the module and perhaps the subsequent ones too.

Let me give another analogy so you can see the possible absurdity. You ask the architect to design a house that has 5 storeys. For whatever reason, you ask the architect to build the only the 1st to 5th storey while skipping the 2nd storey. Is that even possible? :)

Suggestion? Ask the trainer or the curriculum designer. Explain your situation why you feel you can skip the module and let the trainer advise. If at the end of the day, you decide to go against the advice of the trainer, then just be prepared for the above scenario and don't blame the trainer. Because as a responsible and professional trainer, we hope to provide a very fruitful learning experience within our control. :)

"Foie Gras" Style

You may know that Foie Gras, while it seems like a high-class cuisine, its produced in a cruel manner where geese are forced fed to turn their liver into the "before" of Foie Gras.

Imagine a Learning & Development personnel approaches a trainer, to design and conduct a course. The parameters for the course was set that it happens with M budget and N number of days. The number of day is usually about 2 days these days and even that is considered long by most businesses I have come across. These days the tolerance of staff away from work is getting lower and lower.

Each day consist of about 6-7 hours of classroom time, excluding a lunch break, and two coffee breaks in between. Mind you, these breaks are needed otherwise participants will never be able to retain anything after the first few hours of training. This means that participants does get tired throughout learning, since they have to pick up, understand, retain, and apply all at once for the different points covered in the training.

Once the parameters of the course is set, the Learning and Development personnel then proceed to say what they hope to achieve in the short course. They will give a long list of skills and knowledge they hope to achieve in the short course, which is like hoping the course can move someone from zero programming experience to highly skilled programmer that can take into account scaling and maintenance! Still cannot picture? Well basically after the short course (2-days or less), the L&D personnel hope to turn the participants into Superman or Superwoman! And the final straw that breaks the camel's back? "Can you make the course to be engaging at the same time, like having quiz, discussion, etc.?"

Suggestion? Manage expectations. Humans get tired from the constant transfer of knowledge and skills. Besides receiving these knowledge and skills, there is a need to have some time to process and understand them before moving on to application of these skills and knowledge which is the final stage for the course to deliver its values. All this takes time to develop and mature. Participants are not computers where we can just upload the content of the course. Your fellow colleagues are not geese. :)

Work with the trainer to develop the course. The trainer worth its payment will assist you to achieve the largest possible outcome given the budget parameters. If the outcome is still not something you are looking for, then consider changing the budget parameters instead. :)

My Body is Here but my Mind is Not

A lot of people forget that there is a time cost to the organization when it comes to training. What it means is that not only is the organization spending money, but also paying in terms of "away-from-desk" time. So it is of utmost importance to ensure that training has the largest impact possible i.e. ensure that training is impactful, that it increase the value creation of each and every participants.

We spoke about scaffolding just now. Please do not be mistaken, there is still some amount of learning scaffolding done in short courses. It is just not that extensive in short courses as compared to a training program.

One phenomenon I notice a lot is participants needs to be absent for certain parts of the short course. Reasons given are critical meetings to attend, working on something "urgent and important" for their supervisor, take a sales call, etc. If you are a lifelong learner advocate, which I hope all L&D personnel are, you will know that for learning to happen a sustained long period of time is needed to absorb, understand and retain the skills and knowledge shared. Short courses provide that kind of sustained periods of time for focused learning. Occupying the time of the participants for other tasks, no matter how short it is is pretty short-sighted because it leaves the participants in a Catch-22 situation, unable to focus on the task at hand, and also not able to focus and follow the lessons during the course which is detrimental to the value creation of the course, and not forgetting the value provided by the L&D personnel who has painstakingly organize the course with the trainer, so as to meet the training KPIs.

Suggestion? As this kind of phenomenon impacts the L&D department more, they should be given a lot more authority on it. What do I mean? Basically, the company mandates that employees sent for training should not be disturbed during the training hours. L&D department becomes the auditor and gatekeeper for this mandate. Any participants who feels there is a need to be away during the training hour will need to seek permission AND the L&D department should also work with the trainer as well on this. To share with the trainer "allowed absence" and get the trainer to report any absence outside of the allowable list. By setting up a cost for being absent, it will discourage such behavior, allow the participants to focus more on training, absorb and retain the skills and knowledge, be able to contribute to the organization and allow the L&D folks justify their presence. :)

Concluding Remarks

These are just some of the common interesting behind-the-scenes look into the training industry. As we go into the future with AI replacing more tasks, the need to be more proficient, so as to be competent will definitely increase. Businesses will face increasing needs to provide training to their employees, because there is a limit to hiring permanent and freelance staff (search, onboarding and retain cost). Training with desirable outcomes will be of utmost importance. This needs to be managed as impactful training does not occur out of thin air.

Are you a fellow trainer? What do you train people on? Care to share your own "behind-the-scene" story? Will love to hear from you.

Are you a training participants? What trainers or courses that you attended have good outcomes and how so? Care to share with me, so I can improve? Will love to hear from you!

If you are keen to share or just stay in touch, can PM me on LinkedIn!

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