What is the optimal class size for effective training?

If you’re looking for one number as the answer to that question, you won’t find it here. It’s just not that simple. Many factors will influence the final most effective class size.

Is this training to teach a new skill? Or a refresher course? New recruits or seasoned workers? In-person or virtual classes? Compulsory or voluntary? Working through these questions (and many others) will help you to determine the optimal class size.

Learning and Development Program Manager Marlaina Capes focuses on these four questions:

1. How many participants was the class designed for?

This is one of the first considerations in the creation of a training program, or Instructional Design. Rather than designing a course and then deciding how many people you can fit into the room, consider first how big the class will be. Then everything else built into the training is on the assumption that you will have that number of learners.

2. What skills are being taught and how are the skills taught?

Training courses these days are rarely the “chalk and talk” variety.

Learners rightly expect training to be interactive, with plenty of opportunity for feedback and practice of the new skills.

There may be role play if the training involves interpersonal skills. A larger class of, say, 20 could effectively be broken up into several groups for this activity. Some skills can best be mastered in small groups, such as sales techniques that will likely be practised in the real world only one-on-one.

Other skills may require greater involvement from the trainer, with opportunities for questions from the learners, and so a smaller class will be the way to go.

3. What outcome do I want for my learners?

If a trainee enrolment is too large, likely the benefit to each participant will be reduced. All the learners should be fully engaged for the best result.

Even the greatest instructor will struggle to do this with a large class. It will just take too long to get around to each individual or group. As the pace of learning slows down, inevitably some minds will start to wander, and the net result is poorer.

4. What is the delivery modality?

Some believe that online training (virtual classes) can include as many as can log in. That may be fine for a Webinar, but not for real training, which should involve learners being engaged and practicing the new skills.

It will be easier for an instructor to interact with a larger group in a classroom than it will be in a virtual training session. Many pundits will say 12 is the maximum for a virtual class.

Activia Training also points out that there is a balance between delegate numbers and the time allocated for the training. A smaller class, getting better attention from the facilitator, may learn skills in far less time than a larger class where it’s difficult to be seen.

For example, two companies could each arrange training with almost identical course material. One aims at a class size of eight over just two days, while the other has classes of fifteen over five days.

The trainer of the larger class needs more time to address questions or concerns from a larger group of individuals. Obviously, in this scenario, the longer course will be more expensive for the company in initial costs and in downtime. It may also be less effective.

Once you’ve determined the nature of the training your employees require, Karstens can help you with a variety of training rooms designed to deliver the best possible learning experience. Give us a call to arrange a quote.