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How do I make IT training memorable?


Does anyone have advice on how to make my trainees actually remember the things I teach them on IT courses?

I have recently gone back to do refresher sessions (I am an in-house trainer so this is easy to do) and am dissapointed though not really surprised by how little people have remembered.

I don't know if the problem is the original course I delivered - or is this low retention normal and refreshers are the only answer?

Should I have made the course more interesting in the first place? I have no idea how. I used the basic demonstrate then practice approach in the original training. IT training is teaching people how to press the right buttons, I can't think of anything more creative that would work better than what I did.
Perhaps I could incorporate some little activities into my basic approach: holding up flash cards, quizzes? Use colours, music?

Any ideas welcome,

Charlotte Wetton

10 Responses

  1. here’s a thought
    I’m not an IT trainer so my cred in this area is low but….
    If they can’t remember things you taught them on the last course it suggests that they haven’t used them since.
    If they haven’t used them this suggests that they don’t need them.
    If they don’t need them then it questions the point of you teaching it.
    So this raises the question “Are you teaching it because it’s there, or are you teaching it because it has been identified as a need?”
    I hope this helps

  2. IT Training
    We currently have a number of staff studying for an ITQ qualification. This is mainly taught on a 1:1 basis with the assessor either visiting the students desk or using a dedicated facility. One thing that came out was by visiting their workplace the training can be tailored to suit what people do not what they are told they should do. As Rus said “If they haven’t used them this suggests that they don’t need them.” it also suggests that they don’t realise how it can be made relevant to their work.

    If you are able to go to a competency/need based training then the benefits should far outweigh the downside. Have a word with a local college to see if they can offer ITQ as you may be able to get some or all of it funded under Train To Gain provided the students go for the qualification.

  3. Mind Map
    I completly agree with the comments made on this article. In case you are teaching them things they need to know and it is the delivery method that needs to be addressed then perhaps some of the following ideas would help.

    Mind mapping – at the end of the training session give the delegates time to create a mind map of their own that takes them from how it was to how it is, in their own language and thoughts. Encourage pictures and different colours where appropriate, this can be used outside of the classroom to refresh their memories.
    Build a story – If you can find a ‘hook’ within the training then liken it to a visual story, the more memorable the story the better. Characters named after the changes to the systems perhaps? Bring it to life more?
    If the delegates are existing staff that are familar with your businesses IT systems then give them full rein on the learning. Here is the new system and the new processes, split into teams and through searching,playing with the new system and reading the trainer material create a presentation of the new changes, you meerly facilitate a successful outcome, easy! 🙂

    Let us know how you get on and be sure to evaluate all your training to at least level 2 of Kirkpatricks model so that you have proof for your business that in your session they learned!

  4. Management Briefing?
    I would echo Rus’s comments and add one more. I am presuming that the original IT training you delivered to this group was effective and not something the equivalent of a near death experience for the learners. On the assumption that your training was appropriate you might want to consider whether line managers were adequately briefed and aware that their people would need to apply and practise the skills and knowledge you introduced them to otherwise it would all be for nought.

    If the managers can’t give the person this opportunity then one wonders why they are on the event and you may as well just burn the money and save everybody the time and energy attending the programme.

  5. Stimulate and Engage
    I have been using accelerated learning methods in IT training for 14 years, and they greatly improve retention and recall. For example, when I used to train people in using relative and absolute cell references in spreadsheets, I would have squares marked out on the floor with masking tape and then the delegates would become the formulae, they were actively involved, moving around the floor and it took 2 minutes for them to understand the concept rather than longer with a book or flipchart explanation.

    This week I’ve just run a ‘learn to touch-type in a day’ course, and again, delegates are literally walking around the room in memorisation exercises.

    Due to the nature of using a computer, i.e. sitting still for long periods of time, it actually shuts down our sensory input, and IT training can suffer from too much sitting down.

    I also use appropriate music, pairing up and coaching, colours, and interactive worksbooks.

    Oddball Training

  6. Try something out of the ordinary
    Hi Charlotte
    My advice to you is to ditch the demo. I know it may be hard to see how this might work. The trick is to get your students to get hands on straight away. “How on earth will they know what to do if I don’t demo?” you may ask. As well as ditching the demo, keep the amount of instructions down to a minimum but get them involved by asking them about what they see on their computers and how they think they might do something. They will probably need some hints to help them get it.

    This will keep your students engaged and they will love it and because they will be using their brains to think for themselves and work things out for themselves they will remember more. It is a bit like listening to TOMTOM when driving somewhere you don’t know. You listen to the instructions and follow its map on screen but if you try to do that journey again without it, you get lost. Well, I did anyway.

    Your ideas about including quizzes and memory aids are also a good idea. The quizzes, used before you give them a final exercise will help consolidate things and keep the practice exercises too. Repetition is good for memory. I am not sure about the colour and music for IT sessions though, I can see how they might work for non-IT sessions but definitely little analogies or work based examples could work.

    I know this approach works because I used to do just what you did until I attended a Training Delivery Skills course with The Training Foundation. I had the same issues as you and having to revisit students again and again because they couldn’t remember much from the sessions. After the Delivery Skills course I gave their methods a go and, wow, what a difference. My students were a little taken aback at first because they were so used being sat down and talked to with mind numbingly long demonstrations and then expecting to remember all of it.

    They soon began to thoroughly enjoy the sessions I ran and the sort of comments I got were about how quickly the time went and that they never realised they could enjoy it as much. It also meant that the spotlight wasn’t always on me either. The results were that fewer students needed lengthy refreshers.

    Check out The Training Foundations skills website You’ll be amazed how it helps.
    Good luck with your development.

    Kind regards


  7. IT Training Made Fun…
    Hello Charlotte

    I’ve been involved in the deployment training of 2 CRM packages over the last couple of years as well as software training. I have had mixed success with a number of styles and delivering methods / training aides. As a result myself and a couple of colleagues put together a how too… guide, which if you let me have your email address i’d be happy to share

  8. Make it real
    Hi Charlotte,

    At the start of my career I spent several years training IT systems and the best advice I can give is throw away the script and make it real. This will benefit you and your delegates.

    Several years ago I trained over 2000 people at a large pharmaceutical company; 2 sessions a day, 10 delegates per session, 5 days a week. All sessions were mixed ability, with some having never used a computer before. It would have been very easy to go through the motions, especially when most of the delegates wanted to be elsewhere and certainly didn’t want to make my life easy. Instead I spent a little time getting to know each of them at the start so that I could make the training more relevant to them.

    I could only do this if I knew the product inside out, so to be more effective make sure you know more than you are training. You then have the option to add/replace content based on the capability of the delegates.

    I used humour to break down barriers; it’s not easy to do and I would certainly not advocate comic routines, but the more fun you can have the better for you and your delegates (they will learn more). Remember IT training IS DULL, so most will appreciate your attempts to inject some humour.

    Get them out early! Given that all these people have a job to do and really want to be elsewhere; make a deal – they focus, you all get out early. It’s incredibly effective. While this may not be totally relevant to your situation, the principle of working for reward still applies.

    Avoid the curse of stupid activities to make courses more ‘interesting’. You are training them on a business tool that should be making their life easier, so you will be more effective if you focus on the benefits to them, rather than the feature list. Get them engaged in the possibilities and you will see a marked improvement in the application of these new skills.

  9. Short and to the point
    Some really good comments here. Getting delegates off the chair is great, making sure the delegates are getting something they actually need soon is also essential. I’ve also used the approach of let them play and present to each other what’s changed/new.
    I’m just rolling out a big programme and splitting it down into short sessions, tailored exactly to the bits they need in their job and, in this case, actually run by experienced users. I hope the focus means they have the shortest amount to remember and it’s all directly relevant, so they will have every chance of remembering. I’m also introducing the usual post-implementation support sessions (lunch and learn) on line Q&A and tips and probably a newsletter . Basically, anything to remind peopel what they learnt and to help them advance their skills with the systems.

  10. Thanks
    A big thank you to everyone who responded to my query, very thought provoking and I have incoporated some of your suggestions into training I have done this week.


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