Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What makes excellent training?

I have spent the last couple of weeks training. First, training a Dynamics GP Distribution Partner Academy then a custom Forecaster training for a group from California. These were two very different classes, not only in content but also in structure. And next week I will be teaching a Dynamics GP Financials Partner Academy followed by co-training on Sure Step. So it has all gotten me thinking about what makes good (well, not just good...but excellent) training? What makes training valuable? This is the interesting thing about blogging, I get to just put my thoughts out there for all to share. So here are my thoughts, please feel free to share your own...

1. Training content must meet the needs of the students

Obvious, right? Sometimes this is out of your control, especially with non-custom classes like the partner academy. Sometimes students do not review the syllabus or enroll based on an assumption of what the class will cover. But the instructor also bears a burden to deliver the content in a relevant way, including real-life examples so that students can see how the content applies to their situations. Students can also contribute to this process, through their own experiences and ideas....which leads us in to my next point...

2. Students must learn from the instructor, but also from each other

I am only half joking on the first day of class when I emphasize the importance of students asking questions. Talking all day long can get pretty boring for me, and for the students. Only when students start to ask questions, and share experiences, does the class really begin to take off. Of course, a knowledgeable instructor is key to providing the forum and managing the exchanges; but I think the light bulbs really start to go off when students start explaining and relating concepts to each other. Here I go again, leading in to the next point...

3. Practical application of the knowledge is key (in the classroom, in discussions)

We can talk all day about what a particular field means, or how a particular process works in Dynamics GP. But it is the knowledge of how to apply those facts to real life situations that is critical. The ability to apply knowledge increases the value and life of the training to beyond the classroom. How can instructors contribute to this application? Maybe by sharing their own practical experiences, by bringing more than just the factual knowledge to the classroom, and by encouraging students to share their own practical experiences. I encourage this even beyond the classroom, asking students (particularly those new to GP) to continue to share their experiences with me after the class ends. I love getting the emails from students who have successfully completed implementations, or tackled a tough business process and found a creative solution.

4. Students and instructor must be engaged

Hmmm. Where to begin with this one. As an instructor, I have witnessed a variety of types of disengagement. The "I have too much work at my real job" disengagement, the "I was forced to come to training" disengagement, or even the "I am in denial" disengagement. I can completely identify with each type, and try to be proactive in the early hours of class to engage those individuals through gentle coercion to bring them in to the discussion. On the flip side, as a student, I have seen instructors who seem to want to be somewhere else. Or who are not engaged to the degree that they are unwilling to stray far from the printed word. As you probably suspect from my earlier points, I think that the most beneficial classes are those where all parties jump in feet first and contribute fully. This means that instructors are willing to entertain new ideas and approaches, and students are focused on the content being presented. Students and instructor both think critically about the task at hand, bringing their full mind to the classroom.

As a side note, I think a subset of the last point is that the instructor must be knowledgeable about the subject at hand. A bit basic, right? But, I think that is an aspect of being engaged. A fully engaged instructor is well-prepared for the class being taught and has the practical knowledge to provide a well-rounded learning experience.

So...what do you all think? What makes excellent training? What makes an excellent student? How about an excellent instructor? Share your thoughts!


LAInconsequential said...

I was wondering if you've come across any training that is specific to an upgrade from GP 9 to GP 10??

Christina Phillips said...

Under Training and Certification on PartnerSource/CustomerSource, there is an option to download training materials. There is a course (#8666) for Whats New in Dynamics GP 10. There is also eLearning available through the Training and Certification section as well. Let me know if this is what you are looking for :)