CXO

The ideal IT trainer: A mix of technical and training skills

We revisit a lively debate about trainers and the ideal mix of teaching and technical skills. Bruce Maples and TechRepublic members bring several points of view to the issue, and Vivek Lakshman offers a creative way to develop both sets of skills.


Is a little soul-searching in order? How do you rate yourself on the “ideal-trainer-to-useless-trainer” scale? If the widely read Harold Kushner ever wrote the book When bad trainers happen to good students, would he be writing about you? Hopefully not. But certainly he’d make reference to a TechRepublic dialogue on what makes a good trainer.

In a debate about computer-based training (CBT) vs. instructor-led training (ILT), author Bruce Maples discussed both why CBT is becoming popular and how trainers can turn this around. In “The rise and fall of the IT trainer ,” he advocated live, interactive coaching over CBT, citing a trainer’s energy, enthusiasm, and ability to provide human interaction as reasons that instructor-led classes are the best way to go.

Still, Maples blamed trainers, in part, for the trend toward CBT and away from instructor-led training. Maples identified “Three traits of trainers who are just plain useless ” in a recent article that covered all the wrong ways to approach teaching. In “The trend towards CBT: Is it the trainers’ fault ?” he explained how trainers could change their own behavior to keep the value in live training.

TechRepublic member Pamela C. experienced bad trainers firsthand as a student in a bachelor’s program in computer operations technology. Now an instructor herself, she made these two promises to herself and her students:

“1. I never go to class unprepared. I always go through the text and do every single exercise so I will know if there are any problems with the text or the student files.

“2. I participate with my students. I don't tell them to just go read a book. If that's all they need to do then they don't need me!”

This kind of prep work takes time and underscores the difficulty in keeping your skills current, as described by another TechRepublic member Joe_San_Juan. He writes that the idea of “you can teach it, but do you know how to use it” hits home for him as an internal trainer at a big company.

“Besides having to know the software inside-out as much as practically possible, I must also show employees how they can apply it to their own specific jobs. Therein lies the crucial challenge that I must meet for each and every training session; otherwise, the company can simply outsource the training function.”

Vivek Lakshman offered a creative solution to this dilemma in an article describing the perfect schedule for a trainer: one that alternates between technical work and training. In “Developing the ideal IT trainer,” Lakshman defined some of the steps a trainer should take—including developing good teaching skills and gaining practical experience—to become “the ideal IT trainer.” This article gives concrete examples of how to organize your work hours to maximize your technical and instructional skills. Follow the link above to get some ideas you can pitch to your manager as part of a plan to strengthen your performance.
Join the dialogue with a description of the best and worst qualities you’ve seen in IT trainers. Write to TechRepublic with your stories of useless trainers and excellent ones.

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