Despite the predictions of technology pundits dating back to the laserdisc, classroom instruction still provides the majority of training worldwide. According to the Association for Talent Development's (ATD) 2016 State of the Industry report:
"Despite the increasing flexibility, availability, and accessibility of technology-based methods, the traditional instructor-led, face-to-face classroom continues to play a crucial role, and it was still the delivery mechanism for 51% of learning hours used in 2015."
Newcomers to the talent development field are often very surprised to discover this. Attend a national training conference and you will be immersed in a world of mobile, gamified, social, and virtual instruction, with little attention paid to what is still the dominant form of instruction. Unlike its lucrative, uber-sexy competitors, classroom training tends to be the wallflower at the dance. It's like the guy with the shovel who quietly gets the work done while the e-learning Ferrari spins donuts around the parking lot.
To be sure, classroom training has its share of problems. For the past decade, it has been in a PowerPoint-induced stupor, and subject matter experts still tend to unleash non-interactive data dumps on hapless students. But a skilled facilitator with a passion for teaching and the right instructional strategies can still be a thing of wonder to behold.
Let's not mothball our classrooms just yet!
Down through the years, academicians and training practitioners have wrestled with the distinction between "training" and "education." The best definition of training I’ve ever seen was from Ron Zemke, former editor of Training Magazine:
"The essence of training is identifying what trainees are supposed to be able to do and figuring out an efficient and effective way to teach them to do it. Not understanding this simple truth is what leads to customer service courses that try to teach psychology to cashiers or classes for beginning bank tellers that wander off into accounting principles.
Training is about figuring out what absolutely has to be committed to memory, what can be stuck on a job aid, and what is simply "appreciation" information. It's about giving people practice on the tasks they must be able to perform to do a job, and eschewing academic bodies of information. It's about being able to distinguish when trainees may actually need to know how a computer works and when all they need to know is how to type.
Training is about giving people the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs…no more, and no less."
We've all seen it, and most of us have done it: dozing off in a classroom. A warm classroom, mid-afternoon, pizza for lunch, slide number 82…these can all be ingredients for deep REM sleep. What should the instructor do?
1) Do not over-react. There may be a perfectly legitimate reason for a person to have nodded off. For example, they may have been up all night with a sick child, on medication, worked the graveyard shift last night, etc. Their sleeping is not a personal affront to you, just biology in action.
2) Use subtle, non-confrontational techniques, so as not to embarrass them. Your primary objective is to have them rejoin the class as an active participant, not shut down for the rest of the session. Consider:
-Calling a quick, impromptu "bio-break" to get everyone up and moving.
-Asking questions of persons sitting near them
-If possible, initiating a hands-on or group activity to get them mentally or physically active
3) Particularly if you observe more than one student having trouble staying awake, this can be valuable feedback to you that this part of the course needs some re-design or re-sequencing. Perhaps add more interaction, reduce the number of slides, add a learning-by-doing component, etc. As an old mentor of mine once said, "Talking students don't sleep!"