Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

Is there any value in classroom style training?

I was talking to some of my peers about our experiences in undertaking various project management related certifications. Some of us had classroom based training; others had done it through e-learning courses. I thought it is useful sharing some of that. In the main, the discussion is relevant is relevant not only for project management, but any industry certification.

Classroom style learning allows you to concentrate for a good amount of time on a single goal – completing the certification. This is especially useful if you are very busy. The fact that you are out of the office for the week, or at least good part of it, there is likely to be less disruption from daily work. However, if you are an escalation point, you must hope things go reasonably well at work.

I have seen people hauled off from the middle of the training course to attend to urgent matters. For some people it is simply not possible to commit to a solid week out of the office at certain times. Or is it true? These same people take holidays at different times of the year. They manage to organise that successfully. Is it a matter of planning better and taking the course at the right time? The course may not be offered when you can afford to spend solid time.

Classroom trainers are usually very good at pointing out obvious mistakes people make in the exams and give you hints about reading particular styles of questions that help you pass easily. That however can come at the cost of good learning in some situations. I find some trainers focus very little on discussion of the particular topic and solely focus on how you would pass the exam. While this can be helpful in you have another acronym at the end of your name, your professional development will suffer because of not understanding the content as well.

The best thing about classroom based training is the interaction you can have with your peers. If you get a trainer that is good in facilitating discussion that is the best form of learning you can have. This does not preclude the trainer from giving you some specific hints about passing the exam. However, on occasions you end up with career trainers with little industry experience and unwilling to engage in any meaningful dialogue. That can be a disappointing experience. There is also the risk of one or two of the attendees hijacking the course by trying to show how knowledgeable they are.

Dedicating a week is fine if you are single. If you have a family, especially little children, they do expect a bit of interaction from you. Generally the courses are packed and expect you to do up to 4 hours of personal learning every night. If you think you will make up the time later in the evening, think if you will have any brain cells left for the content the next day. Costs can also be a factor. As an example, a PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner classroom based training costs around $3500 in New Zealand. An e-learning pack from the same provider costs around half of that at around $2000.

The challenge with e-learning I have seen is the discipline of putting the time regularly to get to a stage where you have understood the content and are ready to sit the exam. If you end up having gaps between your study times will mean you forget many things you had learnt, due to lack of continuity. You do not have the ability to bounce ideas off others and validate your learning. I know of people who have purchased e-learning material but have never got round to sitting the exam in time. You can always try just purchasing the text, studying yourself and sitting the exam when ready.

I prefer the classroom style primarily because you get the opportunity to bounce ideas with others. This type of learning is easier to internalise and will give you a higher chance of success. You also get to sit the exam while things are freshest in your memory. What is your experience of training? Happy to hear contrary views.

Major Image Credit: Rebus Training Ltd.

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