I’ve been involved with training information professionals since 1991, when I first ran a course called (I think) ‘Introduction to CD-ROM technology'. I became a consultant in 1995, so for the last twenty years I have spent a lot of time teaching a wide variety of colleagues from a huge spectrum of organisations. Over the course of that period it’s become clear – particularly in the last few years – that there’s a lot wrong with the training that is available in the sector.
Don’t get me wrong – there are some brilliant trainers (I should know, many of them are my friends) and some excellent organisations that offer training (and I should know that as well, since I’ve worked for most of them), but the format of such courses really hasn’t changed. The course starts at about 10am, runs through until lunch, and finishes about 4pm. Everyone has a great time, and goes away happy, but it does concern me as to how much a)people can cram into a day and b) how much of it they can remember afterwards.
I feel that there are 3 basic problems with this particular training paradigm. It’s expensive. The cost of training courses is almost always an issue, and I completely understand why. The organisation has to pay to advertise the course, pay for administration, pay somewhere to host it, pay the trainer and also very importantly make a profit! There are of course exceptions to this; courses that are run by local groups, or simply individuals getting together and arranging something for themselves, but these are in the minority.
The second problem, which is more common these days than ever before, is that a course lasts all day. This makes sense if you have to travel a long way (perhaps overnight) to attend a course – you’re not going to do so for a few hours. Venues are booked by the day rather than the half day, so once again it seems obvious. However, employers are increasingly unhappy about sending staff out for a full day; and if there are two or more that want to go on a course it usually means one misses out, since you can’t lose too many staff in one go.
The third problem, leading on from the second is that much of the training that’s offered is based in London. Of course there are courses elsewhere but because of the location of many of the training organisations (and trainers!) London seems an obvious choice; even if it’s inconvenient for many people.
So perhaps it’s time to look at doing things rather differently, and with your help I’d like to try something rather different. I’d like to try the idea of having a course that addresses each of the problems mentioned above.
Instead of having a full day session, the training course would be about 3 hours long; a morning or an afternoon session. However, rather than leaving it at that point delegates would also have access to materials after the course. These might be things such as videos, podcasts, small group webinars, written materials and so on. In total this would be somewhere in the region of another 2-3 hours, but this part of the course would be available for delegates to complete at their own pace in their own time. So in essence delegates would still end up with close to a days training in total, just more spread out, and for a cost of half a day.
There is an alternative here – the idea of the ‘flipped classroom’, whereby you do all the work before coming on the course by working through the materials and watching the videos etc, and use the course time to discuss things that have occurred to you, ask questions, get answers to exercises set in the pre-course work and so on.
Of course, if delegates are going on a half day course it would need to be geographically close; none of this travelling to London! A course might be in a local training venue, school, university and so on. Hopefully that would deal with the last problem.
So the big one – the price. There are two elements here that have to be taken into account – the cost of the venue and the payment for the trainer. Much though I’d like to train for free, my bank manager would have words to say! However, it should be possible to bring the price down. I suggest that if the course is a half day course, you should be paying half day prices – that covers both my time as a trainer, and the cost of the venue. The extra element of podcasts, videos and so on would be pre-produced and packaged (updated as necessary) and made available to delegates. Once I’ve done the work of producing these, it makes sense to include them in the package that delegates would be paying for. The only exception would be if there was extra face to face (or cam to cam) work, which would take up my time, but if I’m doing that from home, once again, it’s not a big issue.
Venues usually charge different rates according to the facilities that you use, so again to cut down on costs delegates could bring their own laptops, tablets, smartphones and so on. They could use the wi-fi (which is usually reasonably priced and would be included in the venue price) rather than venue supplied computers. Course times could be 10.00 – 13.00 or 14.00 – 17.00 with perhaps a single short comfort break. No lunch, no morning coffee, just straight to work.
In order for this to work (ie. to pay my expenses and keep my bank manager happy) I’d be looking at quite large classes, in the region of 20 or more rather than single figures. The same course could run again in the afternoon session, or if it turns out people would like to make it an all day affair, I could run something different.
We need to work together as a community, not least of which when it comes to training, and while there’s some great work being done by some groups I feel that we could do more. So what I’d also like to be able to do would be to provide spaces on courses for the unwaged or students. If everyone paid a tiny bit more, and I took a tiny bit less I think this should be entirely feasible. I don’t want to get too ‘lovey – dovey’, but when we do things as a community – rather than for (large) profits we can all help each other a little bit more.
So in summary, my idea is this. Delegates have a no frills, half day course at a reasonable price, supplemented with training available afterwards. Courses could be run at locations all across the country (since I’m happy to travel and would pay my own travel expenses rather than pass them on). If a venue was able to offer a training room/wi-fi at reduced rates that would be great, and/or work out a deal with a certain number of free places for delegates.
This is where I need your help. Do you think this is a sensible thing to try and do, or am I in the realms of fantasy? How much would be an acceptable course fee, what would you like to learn? Where would you like the training to take place? I’ve put together a survey to answer those questions, so if you can spare 2 or 3 minutes I’d really appreciate it. Your answers will really affect what happens next! If you don’t think it will work, tell me, and I’ll look at doing something different. On the other hand, if you like the idea, and can help me price it sensibly and bring it to popular locations, this would be a really new and exciting approach.
Please leave comments below if you have lots to say and please, please fill out the survey!