What makes for the best learning experience?

by Mark Crowe | July 23, 2021 |  7 min read

What makes for the best learning experience?
Home / Insights / Learning and Development / What makes for the best …

In our last piece talking about a BIM Academy project in Qatar, we reflected on the rapid change in international delivery that COVID brought about with the team relocating to the UK as lockdowns began to roll out globally. Fortunately, a year on and we are looking forward to a much brighter future with an Olympic grade leap forward in digital adoption!

Following the successful delivery of the BIM Implementation Programme for a large Qatar government authority, we were engaged to rollout their BIM training programme, upskilling their workforce in:

  • Their key objectives for BIM
  • What BIM means to each department, including roads, drainage, and buildings projects,
  • How their processes and roles change with the adoption of BIM
  • The framework of documentation developed to support contracting and delivering BIM projects
  • The tools they can utilise to support the updated processes.

With projects keen to embrace BIM or to start using the processes to support key project aims, there was a desire for a rapid rollout of the training, and with the size of the workforce, it was no small task. We started by splitting it up into easily manageable parts. Here are a few pointers for how we ensured it was a successful delivery and an insight into what makes training work at a distance. The global pandemic has afforded us with an opportunity to perfect the art of virtual training.

Structure does not just keep a building standing upright

There’s a lot of information to pass on, but one of the worst things you can do as a trainer is simply throw every acronym at someone in some monolithic week long torrent, hoping something will stick. Even with the best personality in the world, there is only so much BIM a person can take in one go, and the reality is, people have jobs – not all of us spend our holidays reading BIM. Splitting the material down into easily understandable key themes is essential, to ensure the right people get the correct information, within an appropriate amount of time and without hitting overload.

You are not filling an empty cup

A saying from one of my best teachers. Some teachers assume the people they are talking to know nothing at all and are incapable of figuring it out, they then have to fill them from the ground up; doing so is challenging and typically relies on just getting them to remember abstract concepts, without giving them the understanding behind them – you may end up with a full cup, but there’ll be so many holes in the knowledge it’ll dissipate over time.. Then some teachers understand the people they are teaching are already experts, maybe not in this specific field but no doubt many others – and are more than capable of coming to the same conclusions given the base information and logic.

What they do not have is time.

An effective trainer understands that what they are doing is not handing down golden wisdom that only they really can understand fully but saving a delegate from having to spend the time figuring out everything from base principles, by connecting the dots, distilling to critical concepts, and shortening that discovery to a much more manageable level. By helping delegates understand a topic to fully rationalise why and how, rather than just repeating acronyms verbatim, they are far better placed to grow, innovate and exceed the training rapidly.

We are learning together

In a similar vein, no one wants to listen to one voice for five days, regardless of the quality of my “Queens English”, any one voice is enough to put people to sleep over a long period of time. Training is an experience, and a delicate balancing act; the more we hold attention the more effectively we can transfer knowledge. And as before, whilst the things we are teaching at first glance may seem complex, what we want to do is take delegates through a discovery process where they rationalise the answers rather than simply being told them.

So putting engagement at the forefront is key; a quiet classroom is a bad sign Ensuring there are many options for carefully managed discussion, questions, and input from everyone is key to the most successful outcomes. And of course, with the wealth of knowledge in each group, I learn something new each time too..

Training is like a mirror maze

Give me a second on this one. We have mentioned that delegates are not just empty cups, they each come to training with a wealth of experiences, a variety of mindsets and more than likely an excavator load of questions they want answering. The challenge for the trainer is to try and anticipate as many of these as possible, to allow us to deliver training in groups that manages to address the induvial learning outcomes each person arrived with.

But we cannot assume everyone will see the training in the same way – like putting an object in a mirror maze, each panel may show the same object, but it’ll be in a million permutations of position that change depending on where the viewer is standing. That is even more apparent when you are delivering to delegates from a range of disciplines as we did on this project, with roads, drainage, buildings and more all looking to see how BIM affects their section of the industry.

At some point though, you are not going to be able to pre empty everything, and that is where agility is key. Being able to answer that particularly difficult question not with “I don’t have a slide for that”, but with “I can’t show you it now, but give me five minutes during the break and I will come back to you with an example”.

If questions are aligned to the course but the example included maybe doesn’t quite tick off a particular person niche, or doesn’t quite capture the issue entirely, being able to rapidly put together something to address the question and convey the answer effectively can turn that “I still can’t picture it” into someone who is entirely bought in – and I’ve seen it happen on a lot of occasions, where the person who brought the most difficult, often quite sceptical question, becomes the most hardened advocate by perfectly hitting their personal learning outcomes.

Training is simple, knowledge management is hard

We’ve all been there, you get asked to teach someone something, you take the amount of time you have, divide it by how much you like your own voice (so about 10min then for me), duplicate that number of slides in a presentation format and copy and paste sections of your web search results in – if you’re feeling fancy, maybe add a bit of word art and some images. Then click through the slides trying to remember what you wrote and hope no one notices that the text on each slide never aligns – I’ll notice! Then put it on your CV that you are a trainer.

The term training does not capture what it is most people want, nor what we offer. What we do is manage a transfer of knowledge from one person to another, effectively and engagingly, to not only maximise the value of our time delivering but also to maximise the time delegates are taking away from their work and / or personal lives – time which is very valuable.

And with that being said, I will cross out the other 10+ points I had written down to talk about and if you’d like to hear any more feel free to get in touch.

For more information, please contact Mark Crowe at [email protected].