Instructors Make a Difference
As the common designation for classroom training—namely, “instructor-led training” or ILT—indicates, its biggest asset is the instructor. A qualified and talented instructor’s insight, knowledge, flexibility and leadership are what makes a class great. As instructors lack or are deficient in one or more of these essential characteristics, the quality of the training experience declines. This means it’s vital to be choosy when selecting a training class because you want to sign up not only for the best possible class but also for the best instructor around. In turn, this means asking colleagues, checking references, looking for clues in newsgroups and chat rooms and following other leads to solid information about who’s the best instructor on your topic of choice.
What’s really at work here is the instructor’s ability to recast and represent classroom training materials in whatever form is necessary to meet student needs. Thus, what gives ILT its value and definitely justifies its higher costs is the instructor’s flexibility and sensitivity to student needs, knowledge and backgrounds. The best instructors will alter their examples to fit the students’ frame of reference, will raise or lower their subject matter coverage to match student knowledge bases and will choose illustrations most likely to make sense to people sitting in the classroom. An instructor’s ability to elicit feedback—especially nonverbal or implicit feedback—from his students and turn it to the class’s advantage is what makes classroom training so valuable. This dynamic is unlikely to change until other kinds of training can be as sensitive to feedback, as cognizant of learning styles and as flexible and accommodating of student needs as only a live instructor can be today.
- Structured classes, delivery hours and well-equipped and controlled facilities provide a great learning environment. This goes double when students participate actively in class.
- ILT is like being in school—that is, it uses familiar learning models and techniques. By taking IT professionals away from their desks and everyday demands, ILT permits real concentration and learning. Self-study, computer-based or online training all suffer when they are pursued during normal working hours at one’s desk.
- Access to a savvy, experienced instructor permits students to apply what they learn to real-world needs by asking questions and looking for connections to the job. Because learning works best when materials are relevant, good instructors add real value.
- The best classes not only include, but also insist that students get hands-on experience with the subjects being taught. This is particularly useful for those preparing for certification exams because analysis and problem-solving skills are learned best through trial and error, with access to a helpful mentor as needed.
- Good instructors distinguish between the information that students must master to pass exams and the information they must know to do their jobs. They can explain and illuminate such differences. This not only improves the odds of passing exams, but also helps develop genuine job skills.