CATALYST v24n2 - Training for Customized Teaching: Learning to Teach the Fully Employed Learner

Volume XXIV, Number 2
Spring 1994

Training for Customized Teaching
Learning to Teach the Fully Employed Learner

Sherrie Kantor
Dean of Corporate and Continuing Education
Central Piedmont Community College

The boundaries are beginning to blur between the college's more traditional mission of educating learners who are yet-to-be-employed and its expanding mission of educating fully-employed learners in the workplace. Enlightened colleges have begun to see the instructional role as a continuum with the traditional student on one end, and, the business clients who contract for training their employees on the other end. Teaching across the continuum requires training, and at the same time, presents educators a wonderful opportunity to address a wider variety of subjects, settings, and audiences. Teaching in work settings with fully employed learners cannot only update faculty and help keep them exposed to state of the art information and technology; it can be an important link to the potential jobs for the more traditional or yet-to-be-employed learner.

There are a growing number of faculty development programs that address the skills needed for teaching on one end of the continuum--teaching the traditional, yet-to-be-employed learner. However, recent national and state studies (Kantor, 1991) reveal little to no literature that addresses training for the skills needed to teach the learners on the other end of the continuum--those in business and industry.

Furthermore, the League for Innovation's survey (League, 1993) indicated that one of the biggest obstacles to delivering customized contract training for fully employed learners was the lack of experienced trainers. The survey revealed the majority of training provided used traditional methods such as lecture and discussion rather than some of the emerging instructional technologies. The most common staffing pattern was to hire trainers on a contract basis. While there are financial advantages to this pattern, there are also disadvantages to the college. It deprives the college of state-of-the-art information and leaves this important initiative at the periphery of the institution. Participation in contract training by more permanent instructors integrates it into the mainstream where it can be a catalyst in influencing curriculum.

Internships and Hiring Practices Help Expand Faculty Teaching
Horizons to Include Customized Training
To increase participation by full-time faculty requires a reexamination of the institution's staffing patterns and remuneration systems as well as a training and incentive systems. Red Rocks Community College in Golden, Colorado has experimented with arranging faculty internships in the customized training department. The Vice President of Instruction and the Customized Training Director have worked to make this option available to full-time faculty and they have done it within the existing structure.

At Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, reassignment of "regular" faculty to customized training has begun. For example, they assigned a regular business faculty member to Corporate and Continuing Education for one quarter. The main task was to refine and redevelop the process of assessment and evaluation of business. The development of such tools strengthened customized training as well as the regular business curriculum. The college is developing a full-time customized faculty core with the expertise to compliment their companies' needs and to coordinate the numerous part-time faculty and consultants that participate in training.

Another college, the Community College of Aurora, in Aurora, Colorado, hires full-time customized trainers and managers who have the credentials to teach both in industry and the traditional classroom. While the majority of work is done in industry, they also teach one course on the traditional end of the continuum. These training managers with faculty contacts are prototypes of future faculty who, with training and institutional support, will be able to teach all along the continuum. This is critical in gaining institutional acceptance of the expanded mission.

Obtaining Customized Training Training . . .
A Workshop in Partnership With Faculty Development
Partnering with faculty development professionals offers another method for providing training to interested faculty. Six Colorado community college customized trainers organized a customized training training session for an international faculty development conference in Vail, Colorado in July 1993. Participants were full-time faculty and faculty development specialists faculty from colleges within and outside the United States. This sparked interest and desire on the part of faculty and faculty development professionals to examine how they can learn to teach along a much broader continuum.

The workshop examined the similarities and differences in teaching the yet-to-be-employed and the fully employed learner. They then moved on to implications and strategies that faculty who wish to teach in industry must consider. An active learning simulation exercise was used. The faculty were asked to play the role of a customized trainer interviewing a company representative who is considering the purchase of customized training from the college. Following are highlights of questions considered and implications discovered.

Student Considerations Teaching the Fully Employed Learner
The motivation of fully employed learners is an aspect that must be addressed before implementation of training begins. The learners may or may not have chosen to attend the class and may have been told they must attend by their employer. It is highly recommended that a training council of representatives from across the company be established before assessment and training begins. When the management lets the college establish a cross functional team of advisors in setting up the class, there is more of a "buy in" by all parties and it is less likely the students will feel they "have" to be there.

Fully employed learners often know each other well and this can affect the dynamics of the class. Instructors need to acknowledge this dynamic and plan activities that consider this familiarity like rotating seating and small group assignments frequently. In addition, encouragement of oral or written communication with the instructor on an individual basis should be strongly encouraged. If animosities or rivalries exist, messages in writing give the student a chance to have a more private and authentic dialogue. The instructor must use these strategies and others to establish trust and open communication.

Client Considerations

Another difference in teaching this population is the presence of two clients--the employees and the employer. Again, the company training council can go a long way in establishing training that all can agree upon as well as procedures to be used in the delivery of training. For example, it should be made clear that privacy act laws prevent posting of grades or giving scores to anyone other that the student. It means the employer cannot have information without student permission. Complaints about the class by students need to go to the instructor and not the employer. If it cannot be resolved, the training council, which contains a college representative, should be notified. The college needs to be part of the loop when any problems are detected. College representatives should also be notified if instructors have complaints. It needs to be very clear to instructors that the company is a client of the college and not a client of an individual instructor. With good training and customized state-of-the-art subject matter, the instructor should be able to satisfy both employee and employers and should be aware of the dual audience.

Subject Matter Considerations

The subject matter in customized training, by its very nature, is based on what the audience "needs to know." This distinction is important. All effort should be made to design instruction to coincide with the formal or informal assessment of the workforce and the workplace. This customization often includes examples and case studies or demonstrations from the workplace. Relevance is key. Application of theory is key. And, adaptation to the industry is key.

The outcomes must be measurable and what those outcomes ought to be should be agreed upon at the inception of the program. In addition, upper management and college personnel should agree and commit to the expected outcomes.

The material must be customized to maximize the effectiveness and relevance to the company that is purchasing the training. This requires careful estimation of the cost of the instructional design or "choreography"--a term coined by Cary Israel (see Chapter 9). Such preparation must be built into the price of the contract.

In addition, the delivery and instruction should adapt to the learning styles of the individual and the company culture. Again, the use of the training council along with learning style assessments will help reveal this information.

Time and Place Considerations

The delivery of instruction must also adapt to the workforce schedule. This means instructors must be willing to deliver training at odd times to accommodate shifts and company priorities. The college's project manager must also be willing to drop in at these "odd" times to support the efforts. This is critical. All too often college administrators whose colleges work around the clock do not accommodate their own schedules to acknowledge and support those who work other than nine to five. Their presence at a five a.m. shift speaks volumes to company officials and employees as well as the faculty.

Company schedules may require material be concentrated, compressed, videotaped, individualized, and delivered in a manner other than a 10- or 15-week model. A variety of learning modes may be employed such as day-long workshops, fiber optic networks, a virtual reality simulation, one to one consultations, or an interactive T.V. broadcast class. This will require faculty who are trained or are willing to be trained to deliver education using these technologies.

Sometimes development and delivery require a rapid response. Instructors will need to be flexible, knowledgeable, and capable of designing a course in a short period. They may be asked to participate in pre-employment training where the college conducts screening for a start-up or existing training like that done at Pueblo Community College, (Zeiss, 1989). Administrators must be willing to cut red tape to allow them to proceed without bureaucratic bog downs. It may require re-evaluating and changing policies and systems so they are relevant, expedient, and timely, and still accomplish academic integrity. Dr. Tony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont, advises, "If the system gets in the way, change the system!"

Instructional resources must be readily available to accommodate customization in a relatively short period. This may require assigning a substitute to allow the classroom teacher with the expertise the time to research and design. The payback may be great for both traditional and nontraditional classrooms. Resources must also be available to purchase state-of-the-art materials to deliver just-in-time customized education. Again, the payoff works to the advantage of education and business.

Because 50% of most customized training is conducted on site (Doucette, 1993), modifications to the setting may need to be made. It may require some ingenuity and flexibility on the part of an instructor. Flip charts may need to be makeshift. A conference room or shop floor may become a classroom or a seldom used warehouse corner may suffice for a much needed demonstration. While flexibility is important, balance is also required. The instructor must balance the quality of instruction with the accommodation. If there is too much visual obstruction or the noise level is too high, the instructor will need to inform officials and explain how it will compromise the experience too greatly. The same is true of time. Asking students to learn too much too fast, sit too long, or forego assessment can jeopardize effectiveness. The instructor and college need to be forthright about their desire to deliver a quality product that will result in the desired successful outcome for the company.

Company space offers an opportunity as well. It exposes faculty to state-of-the-art technology and information not always available in such an applied way. It contributes to faculty and students' transfer of theory to practice. This relevance and application should be built into the instructional design.

Other Training Possibilities and Suggestions

Full-time faculty's shadowing of customized trainers and mentoring by customized trainers are two more ways to increase awareness and expose full-time faculty to this work. The shadowing and mentoring should go both ways. Customized trainers could shadow full-time faculty as well.

Team teaching is another strategy that could be tried. For example, teaming a full-time faculty in communications with a customized trainer doing a team exercise for a business would offer both insights.

Forming partnerships with individuals responsible for faculty development programs can be of great assistance. The approval and buy-in by this group can be extremely valuable. This strategy ensures that faculty can be trained to teach all along the instructional continuum in a systematic fashion.

Similarities With On-Campus Instruction

All of the characteristics and suggestions mentioned distinguish customized training from some more traditional settings, situations, and delivery styles. While differences and strategies for accommodating them have been addressed, what has not been addressed are the similarities between customized training of fully employed learners and teaching the yet to be employed learners. There are far more similarities. Students in these settings are after all learners, and learning theories that maximize adult learning experiences apply to all of them. The principles for designing instruction apply to both. In all situations, spacial considerations are part of the planning. Handling interaction and inquiry by students inside and out of the classroom still, of course, occurs for both as does the rewarding experience of watching a student master something new. Faculty need not be intimidated by the differences. With training, be it mentoring, interning, or a more formal workshop, interested instructors can join in this exciting work. Careful attention to the considerations, implications, and strategies can help ease the transition into customized training experiences. If policies encourage it, and administrators create structures that allow it, and training systems develop to facilitate it, more faculty will be able to participate and broaden the continuum along which they teach.


As the mission of community colleges expands to educate learners all along the continuum, including those that are fully employed, they will need to prepare their workforce to accommodate that mission. The extent to which a higher educational institution will engage in training their own workforce to be able to work in customized training and expand their ability to teach all along a continuum will depend on their commitment to workforce training. From commitment will come the resources, creativity, and motivation to train the workforce within the college as well as outside the college. It is critical to carrying out the expanded mission of economic development. While the training will have to be customized to accommodate each college, it is hoped that this article provides some insights for the need for training and some strategies that might be considered for those who attempt to pursue it.

Kantor, S. (1991) Direct Service to Business Delivered by Colorado Community Colleges. A Report Prepared for the Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System. (ERIC Document # JC920160, 1992)

Doucette, D, (1993). Community College Workforce Training Programs for Employees of Business, Industry, Labor, and Government. League for Innovation in the Community College.

Zeiss, T. (1989). Economic Development: A Viewpoint From Business. American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, National Center for Higher Education, Washington, DC.

Tracy Gilmore