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Train-the-Trainer in China

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Fri Aug 23 2013

Train-the-Trainer in China
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I facilitated the ASTD Training Certificate Program in Shanghai recently, and it was such a rewarding experience. Twenty-one students, from seasoned trainers to new practitioners, attended the three-day program.  I observed first-hand a few trends shaping train-the-trainer in China. It was fun and exciting, and I left China with a great deal of reflection.

A hunger for professional development

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There is a huge demand for professional development for trainers in China—from both companies and individual practitioners. At my class, several participants attended the program on their own budget, including seasoned practitioners and those relatively new to the training field.

To maintain a competitive advantage in this fast-developing economy, companies in China invest heavily in developing talents, including its own training staff. For instance, one large multinational company sent six people to attend the ASTD Training Certificate Program.  Developing internal training teams is also listed as one of the top priorities by Chinese companies, as reported by recent ASTD research.

Skills gap for practitioners

Training is still a relative new profession in China, and few universities offer education programs on the topic. Most practitioners build their skills though working experience, reading books, and attending workshops similar to the one I facilitated.

As a result, there is huge skills gap for practitioners. Training delivery skills are considered more easily obtained through on-the-job practice. However, acquiring such skills as needs analysis, instruction design, evaluation of training results, and managing the learning function are harder and more in demand.

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Facilitation vs. presentation

The traditional learning style in China is mostly through lecture. Students expect to learn from trainer’s presentation and PowerPoint slides. However, new learning technology and changing learning preferences from younger workforce have been shaking the learning field.

The participants in my class were skeptical at first about the facilitation style of this program. After learning more adult learning principles and participating in exercises, many of them realized the importance of interaction and quickly mastered it.

As one of the student mentioned at the end of the class, the most helpful advice she took away from the class was the need to change her mindset from a lecture-focused design to a learner-focused. She learned that she needed to be open to multiple ways to engage students.

However, the switch to learner-focused design will take time. Overall, because of a strong desire for learning (particularly from the instructor) and existing skills gap, students still highly appreciate the knowledge and information delivered by the instructor. I would estimate that some 60 to 70 percent prefer time spent on lectures.

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Social media’s impact on work and life

While I was aware of the rise in social media in China, it still surprised me how widely social media is being used not only for work, but in the daily lives of people. For example, current data reports that there more than 400 million WeChat users in China. WeChat is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service that offers text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange.

In fact, everyone in the class had a WeChat account. At the begging of the class, we scanned each other’s cellphone to connect through the messaging service and started our own chat group. Students stayed connected throughout the class—and even after the class. I also able to collect more feedback from students through the chat group, and participants have used the chat group to maintain connection and exchange resources. Clearly, learning is moving beyond classroom through the social media in China—just as it is doing in other parts of the world.

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