Training Versus Education

I saw a great quote recently – can’t remember the source, sorry.

Roughly it was that you can train a monkey, but you need to educate a person. Funny how there are all these technical ‘training’ courses and very few’education’ programs.

At most clients I initially do some development to solve the immediate need, then often end up running  some 1-2 hour sessions for a few of the internal team, to coach them on some of the more useful and relevant features of their tools. This is followed up by desk-side support, as they actually use what we discussed. I have found this works well, and people seem to use the things we worked on. Probably most important from a quality point of view it gets people thinking and opens a dialog. When people consider the alternatives, and think a little bit before diving in, I usually find their work to be easier to understand and test.

My general view is that the 2-5 days away from work at a training company can be useful for introductory level stuff. But for more advanced content, it often needs to be set in a work context, and tailored significantly for each individual. Also the more senior people struggle to dedicate 5 consecutive days to non operational work activities.

What do you think?

Been on any good training courses? or had any in-house coaching recently?

Got any good course recommendations?

cheers

simon

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6 Responses to “Training Versus Education”

  1. Marcus Says:

    Many, many moons ago I worked as a corporate trainer – first as an employee and then as a contractor – before moving into development. I trained in the entire MSO suite and Lotus SmartSuite (both up to macro level – WordBasic: yech!) and some DTP packages including Corel Draw and PageMaker.

    I agree with your sentiment Simon, that time away from work for introductory courses is appropriate. On site training for intro material is often plagued by telephone calls and other work interruptions which don’t occur in an off-site training environment.

    For advanced courses though, one of the most common feedback comments I received was: “oh, it was interesting but I can probably only use 30% (or whatever) of the material we covered.” As you progress beyond the basics, training relevance is highly dependant upon job task.

    The most productive training was when people knew what their problem domain was (in context of their job) and I spent half a day showing them how to achieve those goals. The worst were courses at TAFE (local public colleges) which had cheap courses but packed 16 people into a room. Too many people don’t distinguish between price and value.

    Ironically enough, I can’t remember the last time I attended a training course for myself. I prefer to hit the books to learn a topic. Beyond that I’ll either do research on the Internet or pay an expert to help me fill in the gaps.

    Another point to remember is that training courses are not suitable for everyone, as each person’s learning style will affect their understanding and retention. For example, I much prefer to read something that hear it.

  2. Ross Says:

    I work with a number of specialist SW packages. To begin with you get a 2-3 day introduction, but that really just shows you how to put data in to the pro games, you only start to learn how to use them once you have to start solving real life problems, so I think i agree, on the job, sat next to me, that’s what i would prefer.

  3. sam Says:

    “Another point to remember is that training courses are not suitable for everyone, as each person’s learning style will affect their understanding and retention.”

    —-I agree Marcus….I always found it easier to learn from a person than from a book….

  4. Simon Murphy Says:

    I like going on training courses, I do minimum of 2 week and up to 4 if I get chance. I do the book thing too, especially when I know a fair bit about a topic.
    I’m thinking of doing a SOX course this year, has anyone done one? was it any good?
    cheers
    Simon

  5. Dermot Balson Says:

    I think learning Excel is like learning a language – a book only takes you so far. you have to actually use it to learn it.

    I teach financial modelling at a university, and I’ve found the best approach is to give students a real world example to model, and then I get them to model in class, while I walk round and keep them unstuck from all the little things that frustrate beginners.

  6. Simon Murphy Says:

    Good point Dermot
    I often like to learn by doing too, and I guess the ideal would be to have someone around to ‘unstick’ me when I am about to waste a lot of time.
    They do say trial and error is the most powerful form of learning. I guess guided discovery is just a more efficient, focused version of that.
    cheers
    Simon

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