Watch attendance rise with customized training courses

Want to increase class attendance? Peter Nelson discusses the two best ways to design your curriculum so that your users will get where they need to be—in your class!

You’ve got your marching orders for a new training initiative. You’ve met with your future students to find out what they know (or don’t), you’ve talked with management so that you understand the business dynamics, and you’ve begun sketching out the class outline. Now, how can you design this class so that your students will actually want to attend?
In Part I, we discussed how to focus course content based on conversations with your future students and with management on business needs. In this final article, we discuss how customizing your curriculum and keeping classes short will get your users where they need to be—in your class!
Learn to market
Usually, when computers are installed for the first time or there’s a big upgrade, training tops the list of things to be done with the new rollout. Classes are scheduled, internal trainers begin preparing courses or external trainers are hired, the rooms are booked, the books are ordered, and finally we begin creating the class descriptions. Often the class descriptions resemble something like this, guaranteed to result in low attendance:


Class 1: Introduction to word processing In this eight-hour class we will introduce you to all of the basic features
you need in order to use your new word processing software.
Class 2: Introduction to spreadsheet In this eight-hour class we will introduce you to all of the basic features
you need in order to use your new spreadsheet software.


Sound exciting? NOT! These descriptions are written from a technical perspective. Your overworked colleagues will see no connection between what will be taught and how it will help them in their day-to-day work. You need to put your marketing hat on and customize your training content by business need or use instead of by the software documentation.

The following course descriptions are excellent examples of customized classes that will appeal to prospective students:


Forty-five minutes to painless client correspondence This course will show you how to quickly and easily create a letter
to your client, an internal memo, and even a meeting agenda. With one
or two clicks of the mouse, you will be creating better letters in no time!
E-mail the Training Department today to get in on these secrets.
Leave at 5:00 PM instead of 11:00 PM during budget season Using a spreadsheet to create your annual budget is a big timesaver,
but did you know that we can help make you even more efficient?
Do you find that you have to copy lots of cells? Do you have to go in
and edit formulas to change your annual projections? Are you tired
of typing the various department names over and over (with typos)?
We can fix ALL of these problems in this ninety-minute class.
E-mail the Training Department today to sign-up for this great timesaving class!

Convey to your users that you know what kinds of tasks they do and that your classes will address them, and watch your attendance rise.

Keep it short
Everybody is swamped these days, and trainers must take this into account when designing and packaging training. You may have noticed the class lengths in the examples above. In the first two examples, the classes are very long, whereas the customized classes are comparatively short. Unless I’m mandated to teach longer classes, I try to limit them to ninety minutes (ninety minutes sounds shorter that an hour and a half, doesn’t it?), but I budget for two hours. That way, if you have a great class going, you have plenty of time for questions or some additional topics. In my opinion, shorter is better.
What seems to be accepted better by the students? Do you have more success with the short classes? If you’d like to share your thoughts or stories about this article, please post your comments at the bottom of this page.

Peter Nelson is the principal of NewMarket Technology in Saratoga Springs, NY. NewMarket provides customized software training and applications development to its clients. While their client base includes manufacturing, government, and small business, NewMarket has a specific focus on brokerage and insurance markets.

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