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Training Terrors - Learners that Spark Fear


Werewolves stalk beneath a full moon, trios of witches brew poison in cauldrons, and Loch Ness has a hidden inhabitant. Monsters are not new in our culture as they stalk across TV, movies, and books. There are other kinds of monsters, however, that instead choose to haunt corporations and education venues—monster training participants. Certainly learners are not cursed by witches or resurrected from the dead, but every instructor remembers the first time they found themselves trapped in a room with a terrifying trainee.

So how do you defeat the loathsome learners that end up in your training room? Here are four of the common trainee monsters and the defense against them.

The Ancient Mummy

Training Participant Who is Behind on Technology

The mummy is from another time, far removed from the era we know. While they may have been the king in the old days, they don’t know how to cope with the new technology that surrounds them. They can lash out angrily at computers, striking terror into the hearts of their nearby fellow participants. It’s not only that they are incapable of technological advancement, but they are sometimes unwilling to even try.

The Defense:

 To break the curse of mummified learning, assess your participants’ technological aptitude early on. Identify potential mummies and plan on being close-at-hand when difficult technological tasks are approaching. It’s important to ensure that all learners are moving forward, but don’t let a single mummy drag the entire group into the dark ages.

The Directionless Zombie

Training Participant who is unengaged

The zombie staggers into the training, dragging their feet and showing little evidence of life. They mutter unintelligible phrases, hinting at the intellect that must have once existed underneath the surface. They come in with ragged clothes and an unkempt appearance, complete with deep circles underneath their eyes. What’s worse, you begin to notice their undead state spreading to everyone around them. If you don’t stop it soon, you’ll have a problem of apocalyptic proportions.

The Defense:

 To resurrect your zombie learners, bring them into the fold of conversations. Engage them early and often and, if they refuse to participate, wait out the silence. While it’s important to engage everyone in the room, trust your instincts to determine when a zombie can be resurrected or when it should be allowed to drift away. Remember, however, that some zombie conditions can be contagious.

The Life-Sucking Vampire

Training Participant Who Distracts Others

The vampire has wandered the Earth in ways that no one else has, and they make sure you know it. They have plenty of odd and arcane knowledge, which their unique perspective has allowed them. The longer they’re around, you can feel the life being sucked out of the training. Unfortunately, when they look in the mirror, the vampire won’t see a monster at all. The vampire seizes control from you and there is no sunrise in sight.

The Defense:

 To stake your claim as leader of the training, acknowledge the vampire’s opinion, then ask for others. While the vampire has legitimate knowledge to share, remember that the instructor is in control of the room. It’s okay to let the vampire’s hand hang in the air, while waiting for others to respond. Once the class sees that other voices are being heard, they will be more likely to offer their own. If that doesn’t work, add a little garlic to your lunch.

The Intangible Spirit

Distracted Training Participant

You know the spirit is in the room, but you can barely tell. Sometimes you catch sight of them from the corner of your eye, but when you turn they’ve vanished. You can hear their voice from the hall, communicating to those in a faraway land. Whenever you do see them, they’re distant and inaccessible, like the words you are speaking aren’t even in the their dimension. They’re half-existing in a far-away world that you can’t hope to reach.

The Defense:

 To put absent spirits to rest, establish rules early on for conduct in the class. Plan specific times for participants to check their e-mails and take breaks, so learners feel less compelled to check their phone or e-mail during class. If the problem persists, ask the participant specifically what’s going on. You may learn a compelling reason for the absence or you will let your participant know that they’re intangibility is being noticed—you might bring a learner back from the spiritual realm.

Read our post on ways to keep your learners engaged in a hybrid learning environment.

Monsters are not limited to the world of fiction and horror. Instructors and even fellow learners live in fear every day that they’ll find themselves in a room with a learning monster. You, as the instructor, are capable of battling the monsters you find in your classroom. Equip yourself with the tools necessary to survive the next time you find yourself in a room with a training terror.

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