Is It Training Or Is It Punishment?

Is It Training Or Is It Punishment? 5 Tips For Effective Training (And Not A Punishment Program)
Summary: As I sat patiently waiting for my prescriptions the other day at my local pharmacy I learned a powerful lesson about how some learners feel about training. While I was sitting there I kept hearing this monotone voice talking about how to recognize common scams used to get prescription drugs. It occurred to me after hearing it drone on for several minutes: That it must be either a monthly announcement that the pharmacist had to listen to or it was a training program. Becoming curious, I asked him, “Is that a training program that you are doing in between customers?”. I was completely unprepared for the response that I received.

5 Tips For Effective Training (And Not A Punishment Program)

My friendly pharmacist, who I have known for 15 years and who always greets me with a smile, scowled and said, “Yes, I have to finish 5 of those darn things today. Even though I have done them multiple times, they make us retake them every 3 months. The worst part is that I can’t move forward until it gets done talking even though I have it memorized”.
Being proud of what I do as an Instructional Designer, I said “Say, did you know that is what I do for a living? I build all of my company’s online training programs”.

He growled, while making the sign of the cross at me: “Get away from me Satan! I can’t believe you build things like this horror I have to endure!”

unhappy trainee

Wow, now that is a violent reaction to training! After I recovered from my shock, I assured him that none of my programs “talk at” you or prevent you from moving forward if you are a fast reader; like the 5 programs he was trying to complete. I also assured him that my programs were fun and had gaming elements mixed into the content so that they are engaging. From the continued frown on his face, I don’t think he believed me.

There were several things that I took away from this encounter, that I hope will continue to make me a better Instructional Designer. They are:

  1. Whenever possible, try to let learners who may already know the material (perhaps from taking it multiple times) test out up front if possible.
    In some circumstances this may not be a possibility; such as for regulatory reasons, but if it is possible it needs to be done.
  2. Try not to require multiple training programs be done all at one time.
    Having to take the same 5 training programs every 3 months is not an event anyone would look forward to; even seasoned designers like me, and I love training.
  3. Re-format programs that need to be taken multiple times within a year.
    Do this in a way that while the content may be the same, the look and feel of the program is different for the end users each time they have to take it. Everyone likes variety; so why not change things around a little bit each time someone needs to take a program.
  4. Try not to have programs read to learners.
    While children like to be read to, adult learners typically do not. So let them read at their own pace and don’t punish them if they can read faster than the narrator; if one is required.
  5. If you must use narration, make sure the person does not have a monotone voice.
    Use an animated voice worth listening to for an extended period of time.

There will always be those learners who feel training is a type of punishment, but we must remember to create training that most people will want to take and learn from. The best thing we can do to make sure we stay on course with this is to solicit feedback and learn from what students tell us, so that no one ever compares us to a wicked witch or the devil himself again.

As for me, I just hope my pharmacist has “forgiven” me for my occupation and once more has a smile on his face when I go see him next month.