When you organize a training in a configurable space, how do you decide on your setup? Obviously, your content will have a lot to do with it, and you’ll want to arrange the space to best support the information you’re planning to present. But what about your learners? Is your training space (and your organization) optimized to help them learn, and take away something useful from your session? Here are some factors to consider.
Physical and Emotional Comfort
What are some things you remember about the worst training you attended? It’s likely that your list will include physical discomfort: being hungry, too hot or too cold, sitting in an uncomfortable chair for a long clip, working for hours without any breaks, and so on. Make sure your learners are physically comfortable in the training environment. But consider their emotional comfort as well. True learning is a vulnerable experience because it requires admitting that you don’t know something. Is there a way you can arrange your space to normalize trying new things and making mistakes? Can you reward failure, or alternatively create an anonymous forum so that learners can make suggestions without fear of judgement? Can you create an atmosphere of serious play to encourage risk taking?
Classrooms vs. Learning Spaces
Modern learning theories like constructivism, problem-based learning and social learning theory all emphasize the need for learners to interact with content and with each other in order for meaningful learning to occur. This has driven a shift from classrooms to learning spaces. When thinking about your training and the space where it will occur, consider adjusting the setup to make it easy for attendees to talk to and collaborate with each other. To take it a step further, consider how the instructor might circulate through the space to offer feedback instead of lecturing from the front.
In addition to collaboration, learner motivation is a key factor in designing a training that sticks. Are your learners intrinsically motivated to engage with your training content? Your content will have a lot to do with this, but the layout of your room comes into play as well. Daniel Pink breaks internal motivation down into three components: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Can you address any of these through the physical design of your room? Some questions to consider:
Do your attendees have enough space to move freely?
Can they enter and exit the room at any time without interrupting the session?
Can they choose to sit or stand? Work on a computer or take notes with pen and paper? Work independently or as part of a group?
Is the purpose of the training clear? Did the learners contribute to defining it?
Do learners have an opportunity to develop mastery by working on authentic projects?
Devices as an Environmental Factor
Adding learner autonomy to your training means that each attendee’s device become part of the learning environment. In today’s fast-paced world, many of us feel the pull of our devices almost constantly, making it hard to pay attention to the task at hand even if we might otherwise want to. While this isn’t a factor under the control of the presenter in the same way as the layout of the table and chairs, prudent educators acknowledge this reality. You can make this factor work for you by arranging your learning space to include easy access to charging stations and ways for learners to collaborate using their devices. You may also consider designing your content to encourage learners to use their devices as part of the training and/or include scheduled breaks for learners to check their devices (and communicate these throughout the training).