Is this training course any good?

I really do wish I had $1 for every time a manager or a staff member has asked me that question.  It usually comes in an email with a flyer about some program or other that has landed in their inbox (electronic or otherwise) and its sparks interest for either themselves or a staff member.

Of course how does one determine if a course or a program is good or valuable or will produce a discernible ROI for the organisation from a one or two page pdf flyer.  Now I could of course just simply look over the provided information and given that overview say yes or no and if I say yes, indicate that I would like the person attending to evaluate the program utilising our standard evaluation tools and provide that feedback to me so I could make a more informed decision in the future.  This is not too much of a big deal when the program in question costs between $50 and $150 per participant, particularly if we are only going to send one person as almost an evaluator.  However given that the cost of these programs often runs in the high 100’s or in some cases 1000’s of dollars there may actually be no positive benefit in sending someone along, unless there is some other incentive , to evaluate the program.

I could also take the time to ring the provider and talk to them about the content, delivery etc ask for referees, ring them, talk to other people and see whether there is a consensus on the value of the course or program, the problem with that is it takes time, in some cases a lot of time, particularly given that on an average week we would probably get 6-12 contacts from staff asking this question and on bad week, well lets just say a lot.

Now admittedly we do have a database of those programs which people have attended and found valuable and more often than not we can make recommendations based on that, same provider, same facilitator, good testimonials from people whose opinions we trust etc.  but just as often we can’t, so it comes down to almost a gut feeling, based on experience etc, by either me or the manager in question or both of us (an a little bit of hope sometimes) that the program will actually be good and provide us with solid ROI for the staff that attend.

So I guess the question I am asking is how do people make these kinds of decisions, how do you decide it a course or a program is going to be worth sending staff to.


About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

5 Responses to Is this training course any good?

  1. Nick Cook says:

    Its difficult to know, as you said there are many ways of deciding weather or not a course is going to be good value for money and provide a good ROI. Sometimes I think you have to take a gamble and go with your instincts, but as always the best and sometimes the only way of determining the quality and content of a particular course is by word of mouth from a participant.

    • pauldrasmussen says:


      I definatley agree that word of mouth from particpants is one of the best ways to determine the value of a course, particularly if the participant is ina similar role or position to the satff that you are consdiering sending along. Otherwise at the very early stage I think you’re right, instict and gut feeling count.

  2. Paul, it is difficult to choose a training course or provider as there are some better than others.
    As a training provider, our focus is to ascertain he client’s “pain” point and to develop a training program to suit. We do this by providing a training needs analysis for the staff to complete. WE often arrange for a trainer to speak to or visit the client directly to also help ascertain the exact needs and understand the culture.
    This information is then evaluated by us and the trainer and a suggested course content to meet the specific needs is put forward to our client. We find our clients are much happier to have a tailored program rather than send staff to a “one size fits all” training program. We have had very positive feedback about this method of training, plus there is always a guarantee (which we hope will never be required) that if a client does not receive what they expected, we rectify this by conducting the training again at no cost and continue to do so until expectations are met.

    • pauldrasmussen says:


      And for the most part in my mind that is the way things should be run. There is a lot of off the shelf, one off, or very specialist training out there however that that approach doesnt work for and how to determine its value pre-attendance is very difficult.

  3. We believe that when staff are given the option to up-skill, as long as they have a supportive surrounding culture plus the tools to implement their new knowledge, their new skills must increase their productivity overall. I agree this is difficult to measure. One of our clients has stated that they found an overall minimum of 30% increase in productivity after one of our tailored programs. But this was post-training not pre-training. Measuring pre-attendance value is difficult. In my mind, a successful training session needs the following ingredients. 1. Attendees who want to be there. 2. Attendees who want to learn 3. An organisational culture that values and encourages their staff’s professional development 4. A tailored training solution 5. Face to face facilitation 6. A reputable and experienced trainer. plus all the other standard items that make up a good training session – eg…a training session that is all-inclusive, works with all learning styles, an intuitive trainer who has a good understand of personality styles, a mix of activities and sharing of knowledge, good materials etc.

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