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No Torture Training

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Why Day Long Training?

The traditional training day is an artifact of travel. To attend a traditional training class, we have to get the time off from our employers. We have to travel to the training location, whether it be on the other side of town or the country. We may need transportation to get there, a hotel nearby to stay in for multiple training days. Restaurants nearby. In this model we frequently spend more time getting to and from the training than in the training itself.

Online training is not restricted to day blocks. Online training can dedicate every single hour of your time to the training. Online training can be, and in our opinion, should be, broken down in to more manageable chunks. Something that allows you time to get up and stretch. Something that allows time to absorb the information, even try it, generating insights and questions to be discussed at the next training session. Time to think.

Now that most of the world is working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, training opportunities are increasingly moving to online models.

Does the thought of sitting for 16 hours in front of your computer screen for two days straight sound like torture to you? Are you foregoing learning opportunities to avoid training-induced tedium and boredom?

You are not alone.

Moving a traditionally delivered in-person training session to an effective online model takes re-imagining and re-engineering to take advantage of the new world we are living in. Everything from the class pace, structure, and learning exercises needs to change. It is not as easy as just setting up a Zoom call.

I know how good this can be.

Recently I attended a total of eight hours of training from the Rees/McCann Group located in London, England. Delivered in two four-hour sessions, I expected them to be filled with some amount of tedium and boredom. Sitting for four hours in front of a screen at my home desk just didn't sound like fun.

My experience was quite to the contrary. Before the session even began, as the attendees filtered in to the online session, we were broken out into teams to meet others and discuss our learning objectives. People joined our little offline groups, providing a great opportunity to begin to meet others in the class. Many of which were from around the world.

Within the first 5 minutes of the session we were all contributing to an online collaboration tool.

By one hour into the session, as we took a stretch break, I was shocked to find that one hour had already passed. The four hours whizzed by, filled with lively discussions, activities, and thoughtful insights. At the end I was energized. I was looking forward to the next four-hour session.

I thought, this is what online training should be like!

Let's contrast that with an eight hour full day training session. If we are lucky, we get breaks every two hours. Hopefully one long enough to head to the bathroom. And if we are really lucky, it will be long enough to do that AND get another cup of coffee.

A few years ago I attended a four-day Agile Boot Camp training session my employer sponsored. The intent was to train the entire development team on basic Scrum, and get everyone with the same level of understanding and agreement on practices. My first hint that things may not go well was when I received my two-inch thick binder of course notes, basically the Powerpoint slides used in the training. I held out hope, since there were a number of exercises in the notes. Good Agile training is all about interactive learning, team based exercises, lively discussions, and very little lecture.

This was not that kind of training.

On the first day we ran two 30-minute exercises. The entire rest of the training was the instructor reading from the slides and telling stories. No interactive learning. No team based exercises where we simulate the principles and learn from our mistakes. No small group interactions and debriefs. No lively discussions. By day two, I was bored and fidgety. By day four I could barely stay awake and couldn't wait for the training to end.

This was death by Powerpoint.

Unfortunately day long training allows trainers to fall into the death by Powerpoint trap. It is just too easy to put up the slides and talk. Especially if that is what the trainer did before, like the one in my Agile Boot Camp session. If this isn't enough of a challenge, virtual learning day long training sessions are difficult for other reasons.

During these long format training sessions we are continually pulled in other directions. Our kids, who may also be schooling from home during this pandemic, keep coming in to get help with a class problem or to ask for a snack. Our dogs keeps barking and need attention. Our cats walk over our keyboards and disconnect our online sessions. With all of these distractions, it is easy to keep losing our focus, allowing ourselves to get easily distracted. As a result, we're not paying much attention to the instructor. By the time lunch rolls around, we're ready to quit for the day, but we've got four more hours to go.

This begins to feel like training prison.


What is lost in the long format training models is focus and attention. Nancy Kline, the author of the Time to Think books, notes that "The quality of your attention can determine

kitchen timer shaped as a tomato

the quality of another persons thoughts." My lack of attention has a direct impact on the quality of the instructors thoughts and, ultimately, the quality of the instruction. Try it the next time you are in a discussion with a friend. Let yourself get distracted while they are talking and see what happens.

Shorter format learning models embrace the Pomodoro technique for learning.

Recognizing that short, 25 minute time blocks work best in not only accomplishing tasks, but in absorbing new material. Time for breaks. Time to learn. Time to think.

We've re-imagined training. From the structure of the class, to the pace, the exercises, and the opportunity to spend time practicing. All to enable a lively, interactive, learning session. Through our exercise deep dives, we strengthen your learning. You retain the material better and gain deeper insights. We are so happy with our online training, that we believe it is better than in-person training.

We believe our approach is the hallmark of true learning. Time to absorb, try, and truly understand the material. Time to think.

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