Corrections or additions?
This article by Caroline Calogero was published in U.S. 1
Newspaper on July 26, 2000. All rights
Did you nap through your last corporate training
Or were you the teacher, trying to make a wake-up call? Trainers
learn how to make the courses they run — dare we say it —
enjoyable, says Jane-Alyse Von Ohlen
Creative Training Design as part of the training certificate program
at Mercer County College.
"How do you make it fun? How do you make it so people want to
be there, so they’re not what we call training hostages?" Von
"You need to have the basics first. You need to have some
skills. You need to understand how adults learn, how to create a
or a presentation." Von Ohlen explains most adults like to learn
by relating a topic to their own personal experiences or by
how an idea can be applied to their own lives.
Her course is scheduled for Tuesdays, August 1 and 8, at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $90. It is not a course for the inexperienced; prerequisite
courses in training fundamentals and/or the equivalent work experience
is required. Call Lynn Coopersmith
extension 3241, or to register call 609-486-9446.
Von Ohlen will discuss how to use music as a tool to energize a class
or put people at ease. Room arrangements will be deliberated including
the podium dilemma. Podiums are considered a definite no-no since
they create a barrier between speaker and listener. "We look at
creating an atmosphere," she says.
The ideal group size for break out activities will be considered.
Even flip charts and handouts will be subject to scrutiny, including
how to make them more appealing by using color and pictures.
Von Ohlen is the training and development manger at Virtua Health,
a health care system with 7,000 employees that runs five hospitals
and two nursing homes covering Burlington, Camden and Gloucester
She lives with her attorney husband in Roebling, majored in human
resources at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, Class of 1995, and has
a master’s degree in training from St. Joseph’s University in
She readily gives away a few experienced trainers’ tricks of the
is energizing and counteracts the effects of a full stomach.
by tossing out little giveaways like stress-reducing squeeze balls
to those who answer questions. "People like free things,"
says Von Ohlen.
ask everyone to draw pictures representing aspects of their life.
I always draw first on a big flip chart, and once they see that I
can’t draw, no one is shy." For a closer, she often has her class
blow up balloons. "We put all our stress into the balloon, and
we throw them up in the air to get rid of the stress."
going to be creative, you’ve got to come up with how you’re going
to make it fun and interesting. Themes are a way to do it."
For training courses dealing with adapting to change, Von Ohlen
taking students on a trip to Oz. Whether participants are adjusting
to a corporate merger or just a new department manager, Von Ohlen
believes a walk down the yellow brick road can ease their experience.
The Oz-inspired meeting room includes a floor mat printed with a
masonry motif, tables covered in blue and white checked cloth, and
red glitter boxes filled with candy scattered about. Even handouts
are adorned with a picture of Dorothy.
Von Ohlen then lowers the lights and shows her students a part of
the Wizard of Oz film. They watch Dorothy’s house detach from Kansas
during the cyclone and whirl away into the unknown.
A discussion follows of how Dorothy felt during these changes and
how she managed to make it through. Von Ohlen extracts from the class
that Dorothy, surrogate for the seminar participants, got through
by relying on her friends. This teamwork approach will help
negotiate changes, too.
For courses dealing with problems in communications, Von Ohlen uses
a jungle theme. The training room is transformed. Animal masks
the walls. Green crepe paper vines flutter above. A tape of jungle
sounds plays in the background. Von Ohlen even dresses in a safari
She explains to participants their train has derailed. They need to
learn how to get out of the jungle and back to civilization.
As a means for escape from the jungle, Von Ohlen has the class build
helicopters, made from kits. This project requires teamwork,
and good communication skills. After the whirly birds are assembled
and the participants’ rescue assured, "then we debrief it,"
"People have a difficult time talking about what’s happening with
them. But they have a real easy time talking about what just happened
in this group as we were building a helicopter."
She leads the discussion to how communication can break down. "It
makes it non-personal,"she says, "It makes it very
Von Ohlen believes everyone can benefit from improving their training
skills and remains steadfast to her goal of making even mundane
interesting. "No matter what your job is you are always training
other people," she says "If people aren’t laughing and having
fun in a program, there’s a problem with that program."
— Caroline Calogero
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.