It not usually something that you think about, but an important factor regarding training outcomes, is How long should a lesson be? The other perspective is ‘How long would it take to learn this?
I said previously that training is expensive, and more often than not, you may not have the time you need, to do a subject justice. Even simple, mundane tasks, can take far longer than anticipated to teach to someone learning it for the first time. Unless it’s a legal requirement, businesses will often forego training all together, just because it doesn’t move the business needle now.
The chances are there will be external factors that dictate how much freedom, time and space you’re going to have when it comes to delivering training. When those external factors become too restrictive, as an instructor it’s our job to push back and demand more resources to get the job done right … otherwise outcomes ‘will’ be compromised.
But skills take time to instruct and impart. Small lessons covering individual points, can be delivered so quickly, that overall instruction can seem like Q&A. Longer lessons with complete structure can overcook fewer teaching points, while also running the risk of losing the attention of the trainee.
Is there a sweet spot? There are 4 main factors that determine how long a lesson actually ‘ends’ up.
1. Skills have different Demands
There are skills that simply take more time to explain and then to practice. The list of multi-stage, multi-step and conditional procedures and practices are endless, but when it comes to teaching any one of these procedures, you have to explain each and every step. If the choice is made not cover some material then your teaching becomes open to the risk of being incomplete.
Whereas there are other skills that don’t take much time at all to explain and practice. Especially when there is no follow up skill, training can be prepared and delivered on the spot.
2. How deep do you need to go?
I wrote about training for emergency and abnormal situations just recently and this was all about making sure that as an instructor your clients (students) have been trained for abnormal and emergency situations that may arise as part of any skill or competency.
That evolved into exercise and scenario-based training which prepares clients for those ‘out of the norm’ situations. But there is also another element to this.
In the day and age of ‘The App’ which more often than not will do everything for you, there are now few times where you will need to teach how and why things are as they are.
Perhaps its about, how far is the student (client) expected to go? If the client is offered or expecting to gain mastery of a subject then lessons and training will require more depth and time to go with them. If the level of learning is less, then time can be shortened as well as the expectations to go with them
Related: Are you presenting or teaching?
3. Skill Level of the student
This is a massive factor. . . Who are you teaching and where are they at when you start? Are they conversant in the subject you’re teaching or are they seeing it for the first time when you start talking in industry specific language and nomenclature?
This is where new students will either allow a lesson to be delivered in under half the time you need, or they will take twice the time for each teaching point.
Qualifying students prior to starting a program is an absolute must, not just because of how much time you may or may not have, but also for the sake of other students. A workaround for this can be found at the design and development of training material when the skill level of the student is taken into account.
4. The limit of what you can achieve.
It is important to remember that as an instructor there is a limit to what you can achieve during instruction. You can only ever achieve competence in a client who is learning a skill before they inevitably must go out on their own and gain their own experience toward proficiency.
Otherwise you will fall into the trap of diminishing returns. You can spend a tremendous amount of time with your client teaching, but then fail to give your client experience which they so desperately need. There is also the issue of what that time use does for your business model.
So how long should a lesson be? Some Lessons Just Teach Themselves.
This is where my own perspective has changed. On one hand the best formal and technical education I have ever received has been within a rigid lesson framework, one which can be tailored for almost any type of content. On the other hand, more and more teaching and training material is being reduced into bite size vignettes of easily digestible, easy to absorb content.
And finely enough, both work!
You don’t have to go too far across this website to see that I talk a fair bit about finance. In my own opinion I don’t think there are many things more important than learning to become financially literate … where finance; learning about money is one of the most intricate, boring, exciting and strategic subjects I’ve ever dealt with.
And here too there are countless sources of material where information is delivered in bite sized pieces and formally structured slabs of content, both of which ultimately achieve the same outcome … competency.
How long should a lesson be? As you can imagine from the feature graphic … some lessons are learnt on the spot. Some lessons are better than others, the best are the most expensive.
At other times, how long should a lesson be? As long as it takes to learn it … and here, there is no one answer!