Author Archives: Carol Prigan

About Carol Prigan

I am an education and professional development specialist serving adult learners through instructor-led and online training. I create programs to teach technology applications and sales.

Monday, Monday

Mondays toward the end of a month mean teaching tech training classes. I have the pleasure of teaching agents new to our brokerage how to use the tools we provide for their real estate business.

This seems like a noble cause, and honestly, I do enjoy being able to help the agents learn what the tools can do for them. There are days, though that try my patience. Today was one of those days.

Five minutes before class, there was only one person in the room besides me. There were eight names on the list of registrations. My first thought was that perhaps they decided to skip class to see the solar eclipse. Over the next five minutes, people wandered into the room. One man showed up without a laptop. This class is hands-on training, and agents are prompted upon registration and reminded the day before class to bring a laptop with them. He asked me if he should have a computer. I said yes. I know from experience that those who come without a computer end up staring into space and not getting much out of the class. He departed to retrieve his laptop and arrived at class an hour late. He struggled to catch up with the other participants.

Note to self: Be more explicit with the reminders about bringing a laptop to class.

Sometimes participants are worried that I won’t cover something that they have a burning desire to know about. I always start the class by telling them what the agenda is and how we will accomplish each item on it. That doesn’t stop them from asking me about things I will cover in the minutes to come. This happened repeatedly today. Despite my best efforts to reassure them, I continued to get “how do I” questions that I would cover in short order. Two things about this: It causes me to constantly say “We’ll get to that” (which sounds like a cop-out) and it heightens the level of frustration the agents feel. Neither is a good option.

Note: Prepare an outline and give it to the agents to follow through the class.

Complicated topics require extra preparation and targeted delivery in class. I try to break down the process and explain carefully what the steps are as I demonstrate them. I repeat myself and the demonstration often, and prompt agents to work along with me through the process. Most of the participants stay on track and can follow. A few are unable to keep up and all of a sudden I get the dreaded “where are we?” question. I then must stop the class and assist the person who has gotten off track. It can be as simple as helping them with a click or two to get to where they need to be. Sometimes it requires troubleshooting a range of issues from browser type to restarting the computer to Install updates that the person inadvertently clicked on. It takes time to get back to where we were. It’s frustrating for the participants who work diligently to keep up. It’s frustrating for me to have to stop and start multiple times because some participants are somehow unable to follow directions or pay attention for a period of time.

Note: Break down the process into shorter, more digestible chunks and check in with all participants on a regular basis to make sure they are able to follow along.

When you get to the end of a long day of training, both the participants and trainer are tired and ready for a break. I try to summarize the actions I covered and what they should have learned over the course of the day. It never fails that someone claims he/she doesn’t know what to do or how to do it because they “just don’t get it.” My attempts to calm the frustrations and explain that all participants will want to practice with various tools can fall flat. Such was the case with one man today. He just couldn’t understand the process of setting up a signing session for his client to sign documents electronically. What finally came up was a general angst about not knowing which documents are needed for different situations. Although I could answer his questions, he was convinced there was nothing that could help him (there is/are–he just decided that there wasn’t). I fought hard to not lose my temper or get sarcastic with the agent. My tolerance for this kind of response at the end of the day is nil.

Note: Devise a way to communicate expectations for agents so that they understand the scope of what is covered in the class and where to go for additional help.

Tomorrow is another day of tech training. If I had my way, I would break down these two full days into several shorter sessions. The reality is that everyone (managers and agents alike) want to get through the introductory training as quickly as possible. Ideally, agents would go online for much of the compliance and basic tools training before coming to a class. In class we would focus on application of the tools in selected situations. I have moved the syllabus of this sequence to a more situation-based approach. The next step is to create the online modules to take the place of some in-class time.

Note: Create more online modules and rework the class outline to incorporate them into the sequence. Schedule less time in class. Communicate the rationale for this mode of delivery and get agents and managers to buy into the changes.

A good night’s sleep does wonders for my ability to handle even the most frustrating situations in tech training. Sometimes that’s all I can do to prepare myself for the next day’s adventures!

Get It Done!

I am the consummate procrastinator. If there’s a project or task to get done, I’ll find a way to procrastinate and put it off until it must absolutely get done. Sometimes I hurt myself by putting things off too long. Here are some techniques I use to combat procrastinate and get things done.

Lists. I make lists–a lot. I create a list of my top five or six tasks for the next day before I wrap up my work. If I can put it down on paper (or in my phone) it gets it out of my head and becomes more likely that I will actually accomplish what I want or need to get done. There’s something very satisfying, too, about drawing a line through a task you’ve completed (or tapping the button that says “completed” on your phone). I know people who create their lists in a notebook and keep a record of all the things they’ve finished over time. I’m not that organized and prefer to use notepads I accumulate from attending conferences and expos.

Chunk it down. I learned this trick when I was working on my dissertation. The entire project looked huge and the prospect of working on something so large became a block. I put off starting the writing because I couldn’t conceive how to finish. Someone told me to take pieces and work on just that part for a while. When I did that, I started completing chapters. Soon, the chapters took shape and I was able to connect them and shape the entire project. “Chunking it down” gave me the ability to focus and finish. Now, I do this with larger projects on a regular basis. I break it down into parts, focus on the parts, then assemble the final work. I’m more likely to finish a small piece in a timely fashion.

Consider the end result. It’s easy to procrastinate when you don’t have a vision of where you’re going with something. I like to know what the planned outcome of a project is before I start working on the component parts of it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of considering the objectives or determining the preferred result. Whatever the end may be, starting is easier when you have a goal. This applies to just about any endeavor you undertake! I trained for marathons and half marathons one week at a time. The goal was to finish the race, and I kept this in mind as I trained.

Set a timer. If the prospect of working on a project for a long period of time (especially when it’s something you don’t like doing, but must) keeps you from starting, set a timer and tell yourself you’re going to work on X for Y minutes. When the timer goes off, give yourself permission to do something else. Come back to the project and set the timer again. Work on it for a number of minutes, then stop. This might seem counterintuitive (work on it until it’s done!), but by giving yourself permission to step away from a task that you don’t like makes getting it done a bit easier. I use this when cleaning my house. I really dislike cleaning. I manage to get it done with the timer.

Take a walk. Get out of the office and take a walk now and then. You’d be surprised what five minutes away from your desk will do to your attitude and ability to focus. Too often we chain ourselves to the desk thinking that’s the only way to get something done. We end up spinning our wheels and spending more time checking e-mails or looking at cat videos on Facebook. Walking away from your work at regular intervals can help you get it done. I make a point of getting up once an hour and either walking around inside the building or heading outside for a walk around the block. I’ve even done this when working at home. I come back to my desk energized and ready to get things done.

Sometimes you just need time to think and absorb the material you’re working on. Don’t forfeit contemplation in an attempt to speed up the process. Some projects are complex and need time to develop. Try any of these techniques next time you find yourself avoiding the work that needs to get done. Hopefully you’ll be able to accomplish what you thought you couldn’t and stop beating yourself up for procrastinating. That in itself will be an accomplishment!

Running a Training Department on a Shoestring, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed how Eventbrite has provided an effective platform for organizing and delivering registrations for our professional development offerings. Instead of manually entering registration information conveyed in an e-mail, we direct people to a registration page via a calendar widget or URL. Agents enter their own information and get updates and reminders automatically. I’m free to focus on other aspects of the professional development program.

One thing that is a constant in my position is the need to produce updated materials. In addition to print materials, there are videos and images, job aids and user guides that require my attention. I’m always on the look out for cheap (read: free) ways to help me produce learning materials that look good and deliver the message well.

Over a year ago I encountered Canva. I’m not sure where I saw the reference, but it got me curious and I checked out the site. Canva is an online platform that lets you create designs for social media posts, documents, marketing materials, and more. I use the free version, but there is the option to upgrade to be able to load all of your brand-standard materials for use when designing pieces. You can also choose to use images or other design elements in Canva that carry a small fee.

I make almost all of my visuals for social media on Canva. I also create presentation designs and upload them to PowerPoint. My next project is to use the infographic template to create job aids and quick reference guides. Canva has numerous free designs you can clone and edit for your purpose. You can also create your piece using basic templates and adding background, text, images, and graphics. If there are no images in Canva’s library that suit you, or if you have a specific image you want to use, you can also upload these to your account and have them available for a piece.

There are other free platforms (Adobe Spark, Venngage) that let you create images and designs for use on social media and in documents, but I have found Canva to be very versatile and relatively easy to use. I was disappointed with Venngage because many of the templates they offer require the user to upgrade to a paid account. If you have a free account, your sharing and downloading are restricted. I know others who use Adobe Spark and like it. Adobe Spark has additional features that let you create animated videos and web stories. While Canva is set up for easy sharing online if you so desire, Adobe Spark is primarily geared toward social sharing and web applications.

Great content is the backbone of effective training materials. Good designs, images, and graphics reinforce the message. We have a marketing department at my company, and they do help with some design work (and use Canva as well!); however, I find that by creating the images I need for a presentation, video, or document myself, I can tailor the message with image and the words, written or spoken. It’s helpful to have a tool that gives me the “rails” within which I can confidently play with the visual message. That the tool is free is a definite plus.

Running a Training Department on a Shoestring, Part 1

There are many challenges to managing a training program for over a thousand real estate agents located across a state. Automating as many processes as possible becomes required when you have limited personnel and funds. One process that we had to find a cost-effective solution for quickly was class/course registration. We needed cheap, effective way to give agents access to a calendar of upcoming classes and the ability registration online.

Our registration process depended on agents or managers sending e-mails to one person who would then add the person registering to a calendar invitation for the class. All monitoring of attendance was done manually with a sign in sheet and a spreadsheet where names and dates were recorded. This was time-consuming and did not give us an easy way to monitor registrations prior to a class. We used a Google calendar as a class calendar. This displayed the upcoming offerings on our intranet site, but it was not interactive and did not allow agents to register.

After some research, I landed on Eventbrite. Although it is primarily for event organizers who want to sell tickets or charge a fee for registration, I found that Eventbrite suited us well for what we needed. Eventbrite is free to use (a big plus) and gives us a calendar widget we can post to our intranet site. The calendar is interactive: Click on a date and you can see all classes scheduled for that date; click on “Register Now” and you are directed to the online registration page.

Eventbrite charges a fee if you sell tickets through the site and have Eventbrite collect the charges. We have used this feature for our annual convention where we charge a small fee to attend. The process was straight-forward and the fee was not exorbitant. It saved us the hassle of collecting checks or cash prior to and at the event.

In addition to having the interactive calendar for class registration, Eventbrite offers several tools that make life easier for the department. We check in participants on our mobile devices through the Eventbrite Organizer app (this is how we take attendance now!). If necessary, we can even register/sell tickets through the app.

I often send e-mail messages to participants before or even after a class through the platform. This eliminates the need to copy addresses into my e-mail message to send from my e-mail. I also have a record of what was sent when in an easily accessed location.

At any time, I can download reports of registrations and attendance. This makes keeping track of required attendance easier and more efficient. I often download information to a spreadsheet and forward it on to managers so that they can also see who is registered for or attended a class.

Eventbrite will also create a Facebook event for a class and include all the relevant information as well the link to register. I typically do not use this option, but I do take the URL for a class (each one has its own, customizable URL) and post it on Facebook when promoting a class or program. In addition to the Facebook interface, you have the ability to connect an Eventbrite account with any number of platforms including Survey Monkey and Mail Chimp via extensions.

There are many more features available in Eventbrite. On occasion I’ve used access codes to limit who can register for a class or program, the name badge function to create badges for classes, the wait list when demand for a class has been high, and the copy function to create “events” based on past offerings.

It’s rare to find a versitle tool that provides options such as these at a low cost. I’m happy to have stumbled upon Eventbrite for our class registration and reporting needs.

Social Selling is Not Just For Marketers

Not long ago, trainers could depend on students showing up to class because they got a flier or a printed newsletter with a list of upcoming offerings. Their manager or boss told them about the class and they dutifully filled out the registration blank and sent it in to the training department.

Today, that printed promotional piece may never be seen, ending up instead in a recycling bin or trashcan when it is discovered after the class took place. Today’s trainer needs to be an effective marketer utilizing various channels to “get the word out” and attract participants to the seminar, class, or webinar. Social media gives trainers another channel to reach the people who need training. It’s also a way to build trust in your programs and the credibility of your message.

I started using a Facebook business page several years ago as a way to learn how to use Facebook for business so I could teach others. What started out as an experiment has turned into an effective way to promote our training programs. HER University is both an example of what real estate agents can do with their own Facebook business pages but also a tool for the training department to get more agents to our programs. Here’s a sample of how I use the page to market training at HER Realtors:

  • Events This is probably a no-brainer, but the ability to create Facebook events and invite people to them is one way to draw attention to special training programs or classes. The event has a link to register through Eventbrite (more on Eventbrite in a future post), information about the speaker/trainer, and all the basic details. As we near the date of the program, posts about what participants need to know or other helpful information is added. If available, I post videos and pictures to the Facebook event also. I encourage people to share the event to help broaden the reach, but ideally it should be promoted.
  • Sharing and tagging When we hold a special event or program, I and others share to the page about it with one or multiple photos and tag participants. This doesn’t necessarily get people to the event or program, but it heightens awareness of what we’re doing. Participants will often share these posts or comment. (I or one of my colleagues always respond when someone comments on a post).
  • Class Posts Any time we want to try to get more registrations for a class or webinar, it goes on the Facebook page with a link to register for the class/webinar. It’s not enough to just post information about a class or webinar, people need to have a way to contact someone or register for the class. And don’t forget pictures or video!
  • Video We create videos with quick tips or other information that our agents might find useful. Posting these videos helps demonstrate that the page is a resource for information. I used to post the YouTube link to the videos, but now I post directly to the page. This gets more attention and organic reach.
  • Interesting Information In addition to the information about upcoming classes and programs, we regularly post information about the company and real estate industry for agents to share. This is intended to help get the word out about topics we think they need to know or would like to know, but it also serves to give agents something to share on their pages. Creating content can be difficult for some of them despite our efforts to teach and reinforce best practices.
  • Private groups Sometimes it makes sense to create a private group for agents participating in a multi-session program. The private group becomes the place they and the instructor(s) can communicate and share their progress. The private group becomes a place for social learning also.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what a Facebook page can be used for to promote a training program. To be truly effective, I believe you need to put some of your budget towards boosting posts and advertising the page. Training is a recruiting opportunity in real estate, and the more agents at other brokerages know about a company’s programs, the more attractive it might be to affiliate with the company. This is likely true for other industries as well. Engaging managers on the page is helpful. They can help get the word out and have a presence on the page, too.

Facebook is not the only social networking site that’s useful for promoting a training program, but it’s relatively cheap (or free) and easy to use.

Training Tools In My Briefcase

Cleaning out my work briefcase, a rolling bag with multiple compartments, caused me to think about the most important tools I carry around. My bag is my office on wheels, and because I work remotely so often, I need to be able to access what I need wherever I go. Here are my “go to” tools that always come along with me:

  • My Laptop. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’m sure there are some people out there who don’t cart around a laptop with them wherever they go. I’m not one of them. I tried to rely on my iPad one day last week and could only do so because I wasn’t out of the office that long. I can present from my iPad and do a myriad of things on it, but there are still some functions that are just more comfortable on my laptop. I create presentations and e-learning courses, read and edit documents, facilitate webinars and online meetings, and even read and answer e-mail from my laptop.
  • A Presenter. No, this isn’t the person who stands up in front and delivers the talk. A presenter is what we commonly call a “clicker.” I used to have to make regular passes by my laptop to advance the slides while using a presentation in a training class. I got tired of that and got a presenter. Now I click my way through the slides and can even use a laser pointer (when showing slides on a traditional screen) or make the screen go black. Once you become familiar with presenting with a “clicker,” you won’t go back to being chained to your keyboard while delivering a presentation.
  • A Headset. For a long time, I used the earbuds that came with my iPhone when I gave a webinar or even when I recorded videos. I knew there had to be a better way. The microphone placement on smartphone earbuds is great if you’re talking on the phone, but not so great if you’re recording your voice for a video. I did some research and asked around for suggestions. I purchased a Logitech headset with an adjustable microphone. The sound quality is very good, and I don’t have to hold the microphone up all the time to be sure people can hear me. I also purchased a clip-on microphone that plugs into my iPhone for recording videos when I’m in the picture.
  • Pens. This may sound silly, but I always have a supply of pens in my bag. I get them from various vendors and give them to participants who forget to bring a pen with them to class. This happens more often than you think. I thought about carrying paper, too, but decided that there was probably always something on hand for people to write on (handouts, manuals, etc.), but not always something to write with.
  • A Pad of Paper. I use a pad of paper to take notes in classes or meetings, jot down ideas, and record task lists. I keep the letter-sized legal pad in a folio with a pen. I have a second, smaller size pad that fits in a likewise smaller folio that I carry in my purse/tote bag when not rolling the briefcase around. I still like to make notes and lists the old-fashioned way.

This is not an exhaustive list of the contents of my bag. There are things that go in and out of the bag depending on the situation or need. Everyone has their favorite tools–those they can’t live without and those they wish they could live without.

What’s in your bag?

Commencement

‘Tis the season for high school and college commencement ceremonies. I had the pleasure of attending my daughter’s commencement at Butler University last month. It was a joyful and sad time. These events remind us of the passage of time but also fill us with the promise of things to come. And, it got me thinking about the purpose of education in general.

We send our children to school to learn and grow. There are many things we expect them to learn in addition to reading, writing, history, mathematics, and science. We want them to learn to work and live among all kinds of people. We want to learn respect for their teachers, each other, and the world around them. When they achieve, we celebrate. When they fail, we encourage them to pick themselves up and try again. At some point, children have learned the basics (and then some), and we launch them into the next phase of their lives. This doesn’t mean that they stop learning, even if they don’t move on to a college or university course of study.

Indeed, we all need to continue to learn. The word “commencement” signifies the beginning of a new kind of learning. For some, this means an advanced level of formal education. For others, the learning may be on-the-job training. But the learning never stops–or shouldn’t stop just because a person “graduates” from school.

When employees and associates in my company complain about having to learn something new, I cringe. I wish more people were happy at the prospect of engaging their brains to learn a better way to do their job or essential information to pass on to clients, for example. I recognize, however, that not all people have the desire to continue to learn as they grow older. Some are happy when things stay the same. Some find learning difficult for many reasons. How do you engage such people in learning for their jobs or professions?

Continuing education can be a matter of complying with a licensing regulation. It’s challenging to bring to that kind of a class the material that will spark interest and engagement, but I always work toward that end. Just because it’s labeled “continuing education” doesn’t mean it has to be dull and boring.

My job is also a sales job. I need to express the benefits of the training I offer to get people to buy in to the idea that they need to be there. If I don’t have a good notion of what it is I want people to be able to do when they leave my class, workshop, or online session, then I can’t “sell” it to the participants. So, I start with why: Why is this important for participants to know or do? Then, I proceed to the benefits to the participant. Finally, I focus on the “how”: The techniques, the materials, and the mode of training needed to help learning happen.

“Commencement” happens every day in my world. I am regularly launching people into new and unknown (to them) territory by providing relevant and interesting learning opportunities.

Good Intentions

I logged into the dashboard and looked at the date of the last post. It’s been six months since I posted on this blog. There were comments on that blog post from November 2016 waiting for my approval, but I have been too preoccupied to even mark them as spam (as they were). At least, until today. The good intentions I had when starting this blog have eaten at me too long. Nothing happens unless you do something. So now it’s time to do something.

Training can be an all-consuming occupation. Besides the time spent delivering training, there’s the research, meetings, phone calls, e-mails, general preparation, and post-event evaluation that take the majority of my time. Actually delivering the training is the tip of the iceberg. When you add coordinating other activities ancillary to my main role, my days (and sometimes evenings and weekends) are full. This sounds like an excuse, but it’s meant as an explanation and a warning.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day activities that comprise our occupations. I have been complaining to family members for some time that I feel like my department is losing sight of the “big picture.” We schedule training classes and engage outside trainers willy-nilly as if being busy equals success. We lack the planning and direction that could help us run a focused, intentional program. We are not evaluating the efficacy of our programs. I miss this. I am a “big picture” kind of person. I like having a plan and executing it well.

I also happen to think that just providing training, regardless of the outcome, is more for show than the business outcomes the training is supposed to drive. (Look at all the programs we have! We’re being helpful!) Too often, we confuse offering training opportunities with participants being able to perform as we want or need. Just because they show up doesn’t mean they apply what’s learned.

I have put off returning to this blog for months now thinking that I didn’t have it in me to add anything interesting or consequential. In November I was grateful for the responses I received on my post about gratitude. The post had little to do with training, but the timing felt right (it also helped to have read a similar post on one of my favorite blogs, Spin Sucks). Then the holidays happened, then it was a new year with new programs to launch, and the list goes on. You don’t make art out of good intentions, as Flaubert reminds me.

So, enough with excuses and good intentions. It’s time to get back to a plan and execute, evaluate, and adjust it accordingly. I want to make good art.

Gratitude

Although we should practice gratitude every day of the year, we think about it most on Thanksgiving. Yesterday I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Spin Sucks. Gini Dietrich wrote about The Grateful Challenge and posted her top 10 reasons to be grateful. I liked the post so much, I decided to copy it! This may have little to do with training or education, but what the heck, it’s Thanksgiving!

rosa-calvinThe first word I wrote in my list for The Grateful Challenge was family. I have been blessed with parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. I have my own family consisting of my husband, my daughter, and Calvin, the wiener dog. I’m thankful that we can all be together for this holiday, and hopefully many more. I’m thankful for the great times we’ve spent together at ballet performances, soccer games, and around the table sharing a meal. Calvin doesn’t get to come along to the performances or soccer games, but he does enjoy the occasional snack that falls from the table or sitting on someone’s lap after thetonyme meal!

I never thought I would be a sports fan, but then I started watching soccer (the real football), and I was hooked. Some of the best times I’ve had over the past few years have been at Mapfre Stadium watching the Columbus Crew. Because we’re season ticket members, we get to go to all kinds of special events and meet the players. I finally got the courage to ask players to pose with me for pictures. This is one of my favorite players, Tony Tchani, smiling with me at last season’s fan fest. The Crew didn’t do so well in 2016, but we still love ’em!

glassWhat would life be without art? I can’t imagine a world in which we didn’t have the ability to express ourselves and reflect the beauty around us through art. I’ve long wanted to take a glass blowing class, but never found the time or the money to do it (it seemed frivolous, etc.). Then my daughter gave me the present of a glass blowing class at a local studio, Glass Axis. We both took the class and created ornaments to hang on our Christmas tree. It was hot. I loved it! (The ornament didn’t turn out too badly, either.) One of my goals for 2017 is to go back and create something else out of glass. I think I’m hooked.

ymcaA major challenge for me in the past two years has been to get healthy. This included losing weight and becoming more active (they do go hand in hand). We have been members at our local YMCA for many years, but I got out of the habit of working out regularly. This year I decided to try something new. I went to my first cycling class in January and got hooked. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get out of bed early 2-3 times a week and sweat with a group of people who are having just as much fun as I am. I joined them this morning for our pre-Thanksgiving feast work-out. It was sunflowerstough, but worth every minute!

There’s something about sunflowers that always makes me smile. I like flowers in general, but sunflowers are favorites. The come in different colors and sizes. I planted some last year, and the seeds that the birds and squirrels didn’t eat grew into lovely, tall plants with many, many blossoms. I missed the chance to plant sunflowers this year, but I plan on making up for it next spring. Who doesn’t like flowers that make you smile?

glcquiltsI am most grateful for my faith community at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. I have always attended or belonged to a church, but my faith is challenged and enriched by the people at Gethsemane in very special ways. We join together to live out our faith in the community through service. The quilts in this picture are one example of that. This year 101 quilts were made by Gethsemane members and shipped to Lutheran World Relief, then on to people all over the world who will use the quilts for warmth, shelter, and clothing. It’s a reminder to me that we have so much when others have very little.

Whatever you are thankful for today and throughout the year, I hope you have the opportunity to take a few minutes this holiday season to think about the people and things that make your life wonderful.

Anybody Up For Some CE?

If you have some kind of state-issued license to practice a profession, you probably need to have continuing education credits to renew or maintain that license. That’s true for me. I am a licensed real estate salesperson in the state of Ohio. I don’t sell much these days (my training position occupies much of my professional life), but I have maintained my license nevertheless. I must submit 30 hours of continuing education credit every three years to renew my license. It doesn’t seem like much (other fields have higher requirements), but many real estate agents have difficulty accumulating the necessary hours in the three year period. There are several reasons why. Here are a few:

  • Long Classes: Real estate licensees must take three “core” classes (core law, ethics, fair housing/civil rights), each for three hours. That leaves 21 hours of electives that fall conveniently into three-hour blocks. The more hours you can get at once, the fewer times you have to go to a class or log in for online education. Continuing education providers generally offer classes in three-hour blocks. This seems like a positive thing, but sitting for three or six hours for continuing education can be daunting for someone who wants or needs to be out working with clients and going on appointments (don’t forget–real estate agents don’t get paid unless they sell a house). Many agents consider it to be a necessary evil instead of an opportunity to learn something to help their business.
  • Boring Presentations: Many CE courses are taught by industry professionals who know a lot but aren’t good instructors or facilitators. In addition to that, many commit “murder by PowerPoint” with wordy and un-engaging slide presentations. The result can be three hours of boredom. I have seen many agents check out of class mentally and do everything from read a newspaper to check e-mail, post on social media, and text. I doubt much learning happens.
  • Seat Time Rules: It’s not whether you learn something that gains you CE credit, but how long you sit in the class. Managing seat time as a CE provider is much easier than administering tests. If the class is boring or uninformative, you still get the credit as long as you are present for the required amount of time.

Teaching continuing education courses is a challenge. I care about how much agents learn in the CE classes I teach. I want them to remember important information. That means I have to be an engaging instructor who employs a variety of methods to hold agents’ attention and make it easy for them to recall the material when the class is over. Here are a few techniques I use to accomplish this:

  • Interesting Slide Presentations: I don’t want to commit the mistake of putting too much information on the screen. Slides should enhance the material presented. I want the focus to be on the information, not on words on the screen. PowerPoint is fine, but there are other presentation software programs you can use to create wonderful presentations.
  • Varied Teaching Techniques: Not all people learn the same way. Lecture is not the only way to teach. I mix things up with group exercises, instructor-lead training, partner work, video, and short quizzes. I make sure people get up and move around at various times. Groups and teams present the results of their work to the entire class.
  • Current Events and Examples: The information presented in a CE class could be the same from class to class, regardless of who teaches. To make things relevant for the learner, I try to bring in examples and case studies to illustrate the points I’m teaching. In a fair housing/civil rights class, I look for current cases to cite as examples for behaviors agents should avoid. In a class of social media for real estate agents, I look for agents across the country who are doing a good job using social media in their businesses and show their pages/sites/profiles online.

Continuing education exists so that practitioners in a profession have the most recent and relevant information in order to work competently in their field. As instructors, we can make the experience of continuing education dull and lifeless or interesting and engaging. It’s up to us. When done well, continuing education can be something licensees look forward to and attend willingly.