Article published in InformationWeek by Joe Schulz, Orasi VP, Emerging Technology.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Tour is an elite road cycling marathon that includes 30+ races over 9+ months. I’ve been following since the February start: October marked the final ride.

An avid cyclist and professional software application trainer, I’ve noticed parallels between those interests. Most notably, cycling is not just about jumping on a bike and moving the pedals but infusing planning into every effort for success.

Cycling-Inspired Software Application Training Method

The phrase, “pedal with your lungs” is well-known by serious cyclers worldwide. It refers to methodical organization and purpose-driven execution to maximize a rider’s ability by channeling the lungs and brain to stretch the limit.

Applying the same concept to software application training improves the efficiency, speed, and ROI of distributed development teams, as well as the educators responsible for knowledge transfer. The most obvious connections that tie cycling to software application training involve seven principles:

1. Map the route

2. Study elevation changes

3. Add waypoints

4. Perform trial runs

5. Shift gears

6. Evaluate at the finish

7. Start again

With a few quick gear changes, I’ll explain why.

1. Map your route

Before I hop on a bicycle, I identify my destination, path and reason for riding. Similarly, the first step in any software training project should be to establish the goals and route. Build a plan based on the desired outcome and establish measurable objectives to quantify success. You’ll need to identify and anticipate bumps you’re likely to encounter along the way, and plan for accidents with prepared contingencies.

2. Study elevation changes

For cyclers, a dreaded enemy is elevation gain and a good cycler will plan the route with elevation change in mind. In software training, the same approach is necessary. Acknowledge tasks more difficult for students. Intersperse easily achieved objectives with complex ones, so students get a win before tackling tasks that chip away at confidence. Sometimes you’ll add speed bumps to teach versatility and test what’s being learned but be careful. Establishing a rhythm is important to drive completion and success, and that’s true with cycling, too.

3. Add waypoints

Some riders figure they’ll just stop when tired, but the problem is it’s likely there won’t be a rest station around once you do get tired. With training classes, it’s just as important to plan your pacing. It’s about breaking the learning path into pieces that naturally flow together, maintaining enthusiasm by fitting your training plan into their lives rather than the other way around, and keeping the desire to advance going.

4. Perform a trial run

Most of my rides are simple routes, but when I plan a longer trip (a multi-day ride or one that takes me far from home), performing a trial run is crucial to state of mind and preparedness. The same applies to my professional training classes. For informal sessions, I practice by reading the materials aloud to myself. For more formal classes, I’ll arrange a dry run with colleagues or student volunteers, which forces me to prepare materials, walk through curriculum, validate flow, and gather feedback on delivery and pacing.

5. Actively shift gears

Having multiple gears allows a rider to tailor the bike to meet varying needs. For example, rather than struggle on an incline, I’ll gear down and let the bike make life easier. It’s vital to make the most of available technology to improve cycling performance and that holds true with software application training. Innovative tools enhance instructor and student experience and productivity. New cloud training platforms manage registration and dynamically build student software sandboxes. “Over The Shoulder” functionality enables a trainer to virtually see what students are doing in real-time, which means engagement is high and teaching styles quickly adjust to those “in” the room. Online delivery options are the way to go in today’s workplace.

6. Adjust your plan from experience

After I finish a cycling route, I analyze how it went. In training, assessment is also an important part of the process. What worked and didn’t? What questions did students ask? Were materials/labs effective? What concepts were easily attainable versus difficult? Listen, adjust, try again – those elements keep sessions iterating for the better.

7. Practice, practice, practice

The key to making anything better — your cycling performance or software application training – is measured repetition. In the biking world, if I regularly ride the same route, times and exertion level generally improve each time. With training, that means making sure hands-on-the-keyboard exercises are incorporated into all classes. Studies show that having students immediately practice skills increases retention by as much as eight times, as compared to standard lecture-style presentations. Building in practice that also allows for experimentation is critical, too. The more hands-on learning a student does, the more likely they’ll remember what they learned and apply it accordingly, which drives success.

While we’re all not in a position to bike the Tour De France, we are all well-positioned to make the most of how we teach — and learn — new applications. Pedal with your lungs (and fingers) to get the most from each training experience. Enjoy the ride!