While the answer should be simple, unfortunately it is not. The principle reason to explain why is whether the time allocated for a course has been determined by content and how many delegates are expected. Whether the delegate numbers have been calculated by how fast you want to finish the material included also plays a huge factor as well.
Let me give a little example. One of the areas where a big difference in this is seen is in MS Access database training. Why do some companies have three levels of one day each, while others have three two-day courses? Generally, this comes down to how many delegates are being targeted per course. These two companies might be training almost identical material in each of the levels but one is aiming at a maximum class size of eight with the other company planning to have a maximum class size of fifteen. The class which has fifteen delegates is going to run at a much slower pace than the group with eight. This is purely because there will be more people asking questions and the trainer will have to take more time answering them all before moving on.
Another example of a large difference is Adobe training. If you look at an application like Dreamweaver, some companies will train this over two one-day courses. Other companies train it as a single five day course. Again, the difference in targeted numbers will account for this.
These differences are in effect an outworking of the training companies’ goals. Companies putting as many as fifteen people into classes for subjects like these often do so to the detriment of the student. While they profit massively if a class of fifteen is full, the companies that are sending the delegates have to pay for longer courses but not actually getting any more knowledge. The company pays a higher course fee, as well as losing extra time because their delegates are out of the office. If possible, go with a company that offers quality training for smaller groups because they will save time and money. Also, because they aim for small classes, you stand less chance of classes being cancelled if there are too few delegates because small classes were their intention all along.
What about when running your own training internally? The question which you should ask yourself is who designed the content? Did you buy it in? If so, do you know how many people were being targeted when the course was designed? Even if it was designed internally by yourself, did you consider what your target size was when designing the content? If not, maybe that could be re-evaluated.
One other area to consider is if the course is a certain length because it is prescribed that way by a specific body. For example, technical IT training in fields such as Cisco, Microsoft and VMware are often the length that they are because the vendor has said so. Courses such as PRINCE2 are generally run over a time period prescribed by the APM Group. Even when inviting companies in who are responsible for quality training so they can run this onsite, there will only be a limited flexibility that can be offered in the way of time saving.
Crucially, when material is designed, goals have to be set. What do you want the delegates to get out of the training? Do you want the training to be a ‘show and tell’ and hope that people remember as much as possible? Or do you get them to do everything at least once themselves because this aids in the recollection process?
At Activia, classes are designed using the premise that you remember 10% of what you hear, 50% of what you hear and see but 90% of what you hear and see and then do. Each piece of theory should be followed up by a corresponding exercise.
Hopefully, this will have assisted in determining what class size is best. If you do book external training, it will also probably assist in helping you to pick the right company. If you run your own training, it may have made you think about what you include in the training and how it should be run. If you have not thought about that before, perhaps now is the time to start to relook at that.