“Instant gratification takes too long.” Carrie Fisher
The mind can only absorb what the rear can endure. That philosophy should be a standard for training programs that last long enough to accomplish the training goal yet treat both participants and trainers in a kinder, more humane fashion.
Unfortunately, the powers that be who make the decisions about training content and length, particularly in technical areas, appear to be oblivious to the toll that long training days take on the participants’ mental and physical well being.
This is not, by the way, simply an indictment of technical training programs that are lecture-based. It doesn’t matter whether the training is lecture-based or participant-based, the end result of a training day that is too long is essentially the same.
What happens when a training day is eight hours long? It’s not pretty:
1. The participants get fatigued.
2. It is difficult for them to concentrate.
3. Learning is sporadic.
4. Content is “covered” but not absorbed by the participants.
5. The trainer loses energy.
6. Patience grows thin.
7. Everyone watches the clock.
8. Hours are logged, not learning.
9. Too much content is crammed into the day.
10. Learner overload occurs.
11. Rules and the exceptions are taught at the same time, cancelling each other out.
12. Participants and trainers caffeinate up, which wreaks havoc with their equilibrium.
13. Participants are unable to maintain interest in what their peers are saying or doing.
14. Class work gets sloppy.
15. The trainer’s writing gets unreadable.
16. Because the trainer’s arm is tired, laser pointing is less accurate and has a strobe effect.
17. The focus is on survival rather than learning.
18. The name of the game is wait out the clock.
19. The likelihood of learning retention is minimal.
20. The probability of learning transfer is miniscule.
21. The content seems overwhelming.
22. Participants associate learned skills with exhaustion.
23. Participants do not want to return to the classroom.
24. Break times get longer and longer as participants straggle in.
25. No one wants to volunteer.
26. Questions aren’t asked, so they aren’t answered.
27. Note taking becomes nonexistent.
28. Training is perceived as a negative rather than a positive event.
There is absolutely nothing to recommend an overlong training day. Eight hours of training in one day are too much. For some content, it is possible that even six hours of training are too much. It depends on the complexity of the content and the learning activities that will both engage the participants and help them to learn and to practice what they have learned.
They say that good things come in small packages. That’s another good standard for training content and length!
May your learning be sweet.