Workplace trainers and college educators must adapt their methods when teaching in a new environment.
Scene One: You are a college professor, and a local company has contacted your continuing education department requesting someone to conduct in-house training. You know the material but have never trained in a business environment before.
Scene Two: You've been a trainer in business for several years, and you now have a chance to teach for a local college for the first time.
These scenes could easily play out as comedies or tragedies rather than as successful learning experiences. While both workplace learning professionals and higher education professors are in the business of increasing learner knowledge and skills, their approaches are often surprisingly divergent. For you as a trainer to teach well in a college setting, or you as an academician to deliver effective organizational training, you must understand the basic environmental differences.
Transition from workplace to higher education
Some of the most common problems that incoming faculty face include grading, delivering content, and dealing with students.
Grading. Trainers often arent accustomed to assigning grades, which means they must create new tests and evaluate assignments. Neither of these tasks is a natural skill. Some teachers want to administer only a final test, but it's much better to test at least four or five times during a term so that both students and faculty receive frequent feedback.
Create other measures of student learning through homework, projects, and in-class exercises. The tests need to be valid (directly measure the learning objectives at the correct level) and reliable (consistent across all student categories and multiple administrations), and must include effective discrimination (there is a small but distinct difference between correct and incorrect answers).
Delivering content. Many trainers spend too much time drawing examples from their own companies or industries. These are useful to a point, but students who lack experience or who work in other industries may not relate well. Often textbooks are available for support, and its important to pace the material effectively. Covering the correct subject matter is imperative because subsequent courses or degree requirements may necessitate student mastery of certain information.
Dealing with students. Trainers may be more reluctant than academics to hold students to appropriate standards. Some college students are so eager that they constantly challenge the teacher, while others are so laid back that they incite frustration. Unlike training in a company, students dont share a common frame of reference or the motivation to keep their jobs.
Additionally, discover what college supports are available. These include instructor manuals, materials from textbook publishers, test banks, and internal professional development programs. Many colleges assign mentors to new instructors; if possible, find an experienced faculty member who teaches the same subject and is willing to mentor you.
An effective new instructor orientation should provide an overview of pertinent information. Review the course syllabus with your dean or department chairperson before the class begins, and check in with him throughout the term to ensure you stay on track.
Transition from higher education to workplace
Professors making the move to workplace training should take note of the following advice.
Pay special attention to the needs analysis phase as you design the program. Most business training is "no-frills." Design your objectives to encompass just the skills and knowledge learners need to do their jobs well. Often this will be limited to factual and procedural information. Only include conceptual information that sheds light on the job facts or procedures trainees need to learn. Conduct a needs analysis to identify any knowledge or skills gaps so youre not sharing irrelevant information or teaching above or below their current levels of understanding. Remember to never talk down to trainees.
Learn the language of the organization. You will lose credibility if you only know the textbook terms rather than the language that learners use in real life. Spend time in the organizational environment before you begin to train. Talk with people who will be in your classes, as well as their supervisors--not just the employee who hires you. If you can, watch the soon-to-be trainees do their work. Learn what tools and information comprise the inputs and outputs of their jobs. Study the organizations structure, the market, and the products or services with which the trainees are working.
Minimize inductive training (lecture) and opt for deductive training whenever possible. Use a variety of styles in your design to accommodate the kinesthetic (hands-on) learners, the visual learners, and any auditory learners (theyre rare). Design activities so that learners--as much as possible--engage in tasks similar to their actual jobs. Ensure that people understand how to practically apply what theyre learning.
Plan for easy training transfer. Create tools such as checklists, templates, or real-life examples that learners can use on the job. Work with supervisors to encourage employees to use new skills and knowledge through contests, rewards, and other motivational techniques. When possible, train employees in their natural work groups so they can support one another when they return to the workplace. Schedule the training as closely as possible to the actual time when any new equipment, software, techniques, and so forth are implemented.
Organizational trainers and academics alike are in the knowledge business to help people learn new ideas and skills that make their jobs and lives easier. By tuning in to the distinctions between the two environments, you can continue to make a positive difference for your students--both in the workplace and university.