Tip #366: How to Manage Time Limitations for Lots of Training Content

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Charles Swindoll

Companies are doing more with less, so their employees have limited time to spend in training sessions. As a result, many trainers are frequently charged with what appears to be an impossible expectation: deliver training in a fraction of the time necessary and usually allotted for it.

The bad news is that trainers may react to imposed time limitations in two ways that produce ineffective learning results.

First, trainers eliminate learning activities in order to have more time to lecture on content. There are at least two problems with this response:

(a) Learning activities are designed to help learners achieve desired levels of learning and competence. Removing the activities will eliminate the opportunities for the learners to demonstrate and practice new learning.

(b) Lecture only achieves the most basic level of learning (knowledge). It also does not meet the needs of many learning styles. Lecturing minimizes the likelihood that learners will achieve the desired learning levels and resulting competencies.

Second, trainers resort to the “fire hose” approach to training. They spray learners with huge streams of data at one time.

Studies have shown that the brain can absorb only 3 to 5 new pieces of information per training segment. More than that results in cognitive overload. (A training segment may be 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or more than an hour- whatever amount of time it takes for that specific content to be learned).

When trainers are not selective in the amount of information they deliver, many learners are overwhelmed and can therefore neither learn nor retain much of the information. So these two responses should be avoided.

The good news is that training is still valued and imposed time constraints offer a great opportunity for trainers to decide what parts of their training are truly essential. In essence, the trainers can do some spring-cleaning, where they throw away clutter and polish up what is left.

Time limitations should compel trainers to distinguish the content that absolutely must be taught in the classroom from the content that can and should be provided for the learners’ later reference. The real challenge and opportunity for a trainer is to sift through the training program to identify and remove content and learning activities that do not need to be included in the training day.

Some trainers have a difficult time with this culling process, because they are invested in telling the stories or facilitating the activities that they have always included in their training programs. They need to measure their training content and learning activities against the core competencies that drive the need for the training. They should remove whatever is not essential to successful achievement of those core competencies.

When time limitations are imposed on training programs, rather than eliminating learning activities and subjecting learners to information overload, trainers should assess their training programs more closely to eliminate unessential clutter and identify and polish up essential training content.

May your learning be sweet.


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