How can we help our development teams achieve their full potential? Let’s look at the three main ways that training tends to be delivered and think about the purposes they serve.
The past two years have left their mark on the world in so many ways. How we help equip our teams has had to change out of necessity but should we keep some of those changes?
We continue to move forward and so let's ask, how can we help our development teams achieve their full potential?
Maybe you are considering how to onboard a new colleague or planning on upskilling an entire team to a new technology. Either way, you might be asking what is the most effective way to spend your development budget? How do you make sure that the training you’re investing in is the best use of your money?
Let’s look at the three main ways that training tends to be delivered and think about the purposes they serve.
There are so many options to explore when it comes to pre-recorded courses.
You can buy individual courses from educators you trust and know. These individuals have a proven track record of providing high quality material. Your developers have enjoyed them in the past and would recommend them.
You could subscribe to online learning platforms. These tend to provide wider catalogues of topics and instructors. This allows your team to explore their curiosity and have a wider understanding of the technical landscape they are in.
This tends to be the least expensive route for teams and individuals.
A well-designed course will have a designed curriculum that will help students gain new understanding. In a course like this, we can assume that common misconceptions are addressed well. Your team can jump to the piece of information they need rather than needing to work through the whole course. They can review the course even after they have completed it - revisiting the explanations after they’ve put some of the concepts into practice.
These pre-defined pathways and the ability to jump to the key concept that needs clarification is a big selling point.
The challenge though is when you have a more bespoke requirement, maybe not covered by the typical learning path. Your business needs might need a particular coding style or API integration that isn’t served by a pre-recorded course.
Another drawback is that the style of the course might not work for your team. Educators make decisions about how they are going to explain a topic at a given point. The choice of metaphor or language might not “click” with your learners. And worse, there is no opportunity to go deeper or broader. It’s not possible to ask a question of a book or a video for an alternative explanation.
A pre-recorded course has to aim at a particular imagined student. Your developers might be more or less advanced making the course less than helpful. It could reduce their confidence rather than increase it!
The pandemic has meant that we have been delivering more and more training in this way. There is a lot of things that make it great.
Before any course of this type we meet with the team leads and chat through the aims for the team. Using these conversations, our expert instructors adapt the content to match the needs of the team. This solves some of the problems with pre-recorded courses. It helps to speed up the effectiveness of the developers when they are working on problems for their clients and employers.
We’ve worked with individual developers and whole teams. We've helped increase confidence and to move to whole new technology stacks. This is made more effective by knowing the backgrounds of the delegates. Our instructors can use metaphors and examples to be more relevant to the people in the room. This can make a big difference to how well the delegates understand the content.
With an instructor present, there is the ability to answer questions in real-time. There are opportunities go deeper on concepts that are of curiosity and skim past areas that aren’t. Being able to adapt in the moment and target the training is so powerful. Our instructors facilitate conversation between the participants. They bring in their own expertise, and that of the delegates, to help enrich and inform the discussions.
There are challenges to delivering remotely. Only one person can be talking at a time and there is lag. This makes dynamic conversations challenging. We use a variety of methods to help with this -text chat, break-out rooms and other activities. In reality, this is never as good as being in the same physical room.
Of course, the advantage is that for distributed teams everyone can receive the same training without travel. This has been particularly relevant during the pandemic and many teams have benefited from this approach.
I have to be honest - this is my favourite form of training both as instructor and participant. I love being in a room with other humans, learning and solving problems together.
The benefits of the remote instructor-led route still hold here. There is the negotiated curriculum adapted (and adapting) to the people in the room. There is an expert there in-person who can answer questions immediately. Discussion is facilitated to encourage sharing the experience of peers. Grabbing the instructor for a quick question over coffee can feel less intimidating than talking in front of the whole group.
For the instructors, it’s much easier to read a physical room to know when to speed up or slow down. Those small black boxes don’t quite communicate the whole of the body language experience (yet!).
My favourite time for in-person courses is during exercises and labs. This is when I can wander the room and look over shoulders as delegates are solving problems. I can ask probing questions, collect misunderstandings and be available at the exact point I’m needed.
These exchanges inform the next bit of teaching and make the exercises even more valuable. Not only can I give immediate one-to-one support but I can help everyone else as I share the insights and misconceptions that existed in the room.
I often find that teams feel more connected when they’ve learnt together in the same room. Maybe this will be enhanced even more as lockdown restrictions are eased?
Our development teams are learning all the time. As languages, libraries and frameworks evolve there is a need for individuals to update their understanding. As new clients and new projects introduce novel requirements, training can help teams make the leap to new stacks and approaches.
It is wise to look at a blended approach to training. When designing a course with clients, we’ll often recommend pieces of content that can be handled using a pre-recorded platform. This allows everyone to start off at a similar level and also expose misconceptions that we can address in the course straight-away.
There will be some changes that can be handled entirely with a pre-recorded course. But, for more transformational change, an instructor-led course is often the most effective.
If you found this article interesting you might be interested in our Instructor-led Technical Training Courses - delivered both in-person and remotely.