Instructor Guides

First, a little story.

When I took my first Novell course (way back when), I had a great instructor. Things were going well for a few hours until the instructor said, "Do you see this great diagram on page 42?...Oh, sorry, this is on the Instructor page. Just a minute." He pulls out the page, runs out of the room, and after a few minutes returns with enough copies for everyone. From a participant perspective, this was very helpful to get the added information, but somewhat distracting to the flow of instruction! Plus, I got the feeling that he had "all the good stuff" in his manual, but we had been cheated with a skimpy version. Since I was the one responsible for setting up the network when I got back to the office, my resentment grew. Why didn't WE get the same materials?

Some instructor guides give the instructor an edge so he/she can "add value" to the course with added information. Other instructor guides attempt to tell the instructor how to teach the course. As if instruction is a manufacturing job. All in the attempt to "standardize" the training so that participants can be "certified".

Bottom line? We don't have Instructor guides. Yes, we provide a setup document to help instructors get the classroom ready, but there is no separate guide. The instructor teaches from the same materials that the participants receive.

For many reasons it is NOT possible to completely standardize training (in spite of what the IBM/Lotus authorized/certified training center/course juggernaut says is the case). There is simply no way to know before the actual training event occurs exactly what participants need to learn in order to accomplish their jobs. Every individual brings to the training a different set of needs and skills. And even if you ask prior to the training event, students may not even know enough about the product or how the product relates to their jobs to know ahead of time what they need to learn. More often than not, they rely on the knowledge and experience of the instructor to determine what is important to learn. As the class unfolds, the dynamic exchange begins. As participants learn, questions arise. The instructor responds. This triggers a thought in another participant. This is what distinguishes the classroom from other types of training...it is alive and adaptive.

Our materials are comprehensive and are built on years of knowledge and experience, and can be used in the classroom environment to support the interaction between software, students, and the instructor. But we do NOT presume to know more about the product or about training than a qualified instructor.

What this means for participants is that they get the whole course. Our materials are extremely content-rich. They provide:

  • the most information possible during the course
  • an excellent reference once back on the job.

What this means for the instructor is that to add value to the materials is NOT to provide extra bits of information from the instructor guide or to follow it like a drone, but to:

  • understand and be ready to explain every concept in the materials...even ones that are not taught due to time constraints or if the priority shifts to other topics
  • present the material in a manner that makes sense and is sensitive (both in depth and pace) to the needs and experiences of the participants
  • conduct the course in a manner that enhances the learning experience
  • provide additional examples and add value from personal experience of working with the product
  • provide helpful feedback and answer participant questions.

More often than not we hear that our courseware has too much material for the recommended duration. We have heard from many IBM/Lotus-trained instructors that they learned a lot from our courses as they geared up for a particular wareSource-based class! So more often than not the most difficult task for an instructor or training center is to decide what material should be covered in depth and what material should be left out or summarized. Time and attention is limited, so it must be used wisely. Usually I recommend that trainers work with the customer to determine the exact objectives and then teach to those, turning to the appropriate courseware pieces when relevant. I do not recommend "teaching from the book" as this is a recipe for boredom. (We certainly do NOT recommend teaching to the objectives of the IBM/Lotus certification exams, a very low bar and narrow perspective). Good instructors should develop their own outline and storyboard...and then pull content in from our courses to provide the nuts and bolts content so they don't have to reinvent it. Our manuals are therefore a resource, and not the script. Instructors are responsible for formulating their own lecture/demo segments and must themselves decide when hands-on practice and independent exercises will best reinforce the concepts. Which takes me back to the instructor-student interaction, as some of these decisions can only be made on the fly. Maybe an analogy to technical instruction is a cooking show on television, where the chef goes through the steps (with great flair) to show you how, in a general sense, to cook something. But then it is up to you to log on to their web site or buy their cookbook to study the detailed instructions and practice until you get it right.