I think we can all relate to being in a strenuous training event where there's an endless number of slides and it's just hours of passively sitting, staring, and doing your best to pay attention and absorb what the trainer is saying. And you're just glad that the trainer will share the slides after the event because there's no way you're retaining all that info.
We call this type of event an information dump. And it's a trap that trainers can easily fall into. It's understandable though. We are often passionate advocates with a wealth of specialized and in-depth knowledge that we want to transfer over to our learners. Out of excitement and our want to give all the value we can, we just want to transmit it all.
But this type of information dumping is a roadblock as it floods the learner with so much detail that key points get drowned out and there is no space left for the audience to consider and explore what they are learning. This makes onboarding new knowledge and building new habits, very difficult. After an info dump session, rather than walking away with a foundation and the motivation to build, a learner can feel overwhelmed and lost in the complexity, with the feeling that it is all too hard for them, the learning curve is just too high.
Obviously, unmotivated and overwhelmed learners aren't the goal of any trainer! So, how do we ensure that rather than burying our learners with information, we are enabling them to grow their knowledge and skills?
Engagement as an antidote to the information dump
Engagement is easiest way to help your learners and facilitate training. Keep in mind that learning requires more than just passively receiving information. It requires active experimentation, discussion, play, and anything that allows the learner to engage with what you're trying to teach them.
So here are some tips on how to add more engagement to your sessions and avoid information dumping.
1. Set expectations for engagement
At the beginning of your training session, let attendees know that you encourage active engagement and participation. Invite your attendees to share, make comments and ask questions openly and freely.
2. Create space in your training for learner engagement
It's important when planning to allocate time and space for active user engagement. Leave time for questions, discussion, experimentation, and play. You want the training session to feel like you and the training participants are taking a journey together. So, you have to give space for them to actively participate in this journey.
3. Constantly throw the floor to your learners
What I mean by this is to take the focus off of you and put it on your participants. Given them a chance to speak and reflect on your teachings out loud. For example, after covering a topic, you could then throw the floor to your audience and ask questions like "How could this work in your organization?" or "How do you think this could help you in your work?" This is not only helpful for your learners, but it's also helpful for you as a trainer because it gives you important feedback about how your audience is receiving your teachings.
If you're able to, learn the names of your participants and find out what they do, so that you can really target your questions for better engagement.
4. Create space for experimentation and play
Whenever you cover a topic, have some sort of follow up activity that allows the learner to engage and play with that topic. This type of activity could be a discussion, a partner activity, a hands-on exercise, or a reflection question. It could be anything that forces them to apply whatever information they just received in a particular context. So for instance, if you talk about workflows, given them time to play with workflows to reinforce their learning.
5. Know that less is more
Instead of covering dozens of topics, cover just a handful and cover those really well, allowing ample time and space to your leaners to engage with the topics. Keep in mind that depending on role, there are many things an M-Files user could learn, but not everything need be learned immediately. It is the old adage, "you have to walk before you can run" at play, and supporting new users to walk early, helps them get up and running much faster.
Training as a journey, not just a single info-transfer event
As you know, one of the core benefits of M-Files itself, is the process of providing the right information, to the right people, at the right time, and we carry this through to our training processes. By providing the right kinds and levels of training to learners at the stages they need it, they can smoothly progress through the skill development stages with the feeling of accomplishment that comes when they "get it" and can do what they need to do, when they need to do it.
While in the early stages they might not be able to do everything they want or need, because they are seeing the benefits of their growing skills, curiosity remains high and the thirst for more development, more skill and therefore, more information grows too. See, that wealth of specialized information of the trainer didn't end up in the bin after all!
What is happening throughout this process is that rather than a one-way data transfer from trainer to learner, a conversation takes place between trainer and learner and often even, roles are reversed, with student becoming the teacher. This discussion empowers both groups to use and develop their skillsets and build working relationships that are effective, efficient, and enjoyable.
What this boils down to, is that all of the information that could have been dumped in the first stages, ends up being spread across the learning path and builds up a far greater sense of understanding in the learners. This means that now, rather than overwhelmed and resistant, they are enthusiastic, thirsty and are sooner able to run with the best of them, burning up the pavement as users and continual learners.
Knowledge is valuable, but it is when and how you use what you know that makes the difference!
For tips on how to promote engagement in virtual settings, check out our blog post here: 4 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE VIRTUAL COMMUNICATION JUST AS EFFECTIVE AS FACE-TO-FACE