Early warning on small and smart classes

Should you ever let a class go early? Schoun Regan discusses how and why you should try to keep those students around.

What do you do with small classes? What about classes full of students whose knowledge of the software exceeds the level being taught? Do you end early, take a poll, give more exercises, take longer breaks, or teach ahead?

Some company owners want students in their buildings as long as possible. The thinking, flawed as it is, is that the students will feel they got a full day's worth of education if they are kept in class. Deciding whether classes end early should be made on a case-by-case basis. As training manager, you should set guidelines for your instructors to follow—and you should keep the owner at bay when he or she sees a class end early. Should classes end early? If so, why? Let's examine some issues.

Small classes
A small class of, say, four students or less can be cause for an early dismissal. Even if you tell your instructors to add more exercises, students in a small class will connect with each other faster and may simply finish sooner. They may decide that since they are small in number, they deserve to be released early. There’s not much the instructor can do if the students feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth and want to leave early. An attempt to keep them in class may result in bad feelings toward the instructor.

However, the instructor should inform the sales staff that the class might end early. This should be done during the morning break to enable the sales staff to meet with their clients. As long as everything has been taught and the students feel satisfied, let them go early.

Smart classes
Beginning classes can contain some not-so-beginners. These students may be evaluating a class, repeating a class, or attending as a guest of another student. Why they are there is not important. The fact that they may already know the material is important. If your instructors have too many of these students in class, you may want to re-evaluate the class. An early ending may be appropriate after the sales staff has been consulted.

Time for exercises
One way to extend classes is to provide additional exercises for the students. Even if the class is small, you may want to add exercises that pertain to students’ job areas. This will allow you to continue the class and has the added benefit of giving the students more detailed, job-specific training. Individual attention—they like that.

Time out for advanced teaching
Teaching ahead to the next lesson is usually not a good idea. You may give the students enough information so that they feel they can skip the next class. Also the sales manager will hurt you. The only time teaching ahead works is when you’re teaching an expert-level class and have the freedom to roam in any direction.

Bottom line
Classes that end early aren’t the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that the instructor hasn’t taught everything or has failed to keep the students’ attention. As long as the students are satisfied, they will return.

Please note: This column ends early due to all pertinent information being absorbed by such intelligent individuals.

Schoun Regan, a consultant to training firms, crosses the continent conducting numerous classes for Complete Mac Seminars. Follow this link to write to Schoun .


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