Collaborative Learning: Finding Study Buddies
People’s studying preferences are largely a function of their standards of socialization. For example, individuals who are introverted usually favor learning in isolation, while extroverted people will probably seek out others with whom they can study the subject matter. Those who fall into the second category (and sometimes even those in the first group) can benefit significantly from finding the right study buddy—ideally, a person who brings considerable knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to the learning process.
Experts in the learning field have long recognized the value of having a study partner. In the certification world, though, not much has been done to promote collaborative learning, at least before candidates obtain their credentials. (Many certification programs create communities for certificants that offer these kinds of experiences, but only after the credentials have been attained.) This might be changing, however. For instance, Microsoft had a two-for-one MCP exam promotion last year that was set up for the expressed purpose of getting certification candidates to study with each other. Al Valvano, business and product strategy group manager for Microsoft Learning’s certification and assessment operations, explained that it was designed to help them perform better on the test.
“The idea here was that people tend to be more motivated and tend to make more progress when they’re working with their peers,” Valvano told Certification Magazine at the time. “This was an interesting way for us to try and programize that with an offer that would allow you and a peer of yours at your office or school—or even a friend—to both reap the benefits of walking down the certification path.”
For now, certification candidates for the most part will have to rely on their own efforts to track down study buddies. But how do you find them? Well, Valvano’s quote above describes one way: Seek out people on a similar career path at your workplace, in your classes or among your friends who might be interested in the same certification you’re pursuing. Tell them why you’re working on it, why you think it might be advantageous for them to go after it and how you both can succeed by collaborating on your study efforts.
However, the more advanced and focused the certification, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to find people within your immediate social network who want to go after it or who would even be eligible for it. In this case, you’ll have to cast your net much farther to find study buddies. You can begin regionally, by researching specific study groups on the Web that are categorized by your city or state. If you come up empty-handed, you can expand your search to include anyone in the United States, North America or even the world. (If your quest for study buddies goes beyond national borders, you might find yourself learning about a lot more than just technology.)
In addition to the “push” method—where you actively go out and seek possible study buddies—you can try to “pull” people in by marketing your willingness to partner with someone on learning about a certification exam. If you write a well-trafficked blog, bring up the fact that you’re looking for a study buddy in your missives. Also, if you have one, consider mentioning this on your personal page on sites such as MySpace, Friendster and the like.
Here are a few other things to consider when looking for a study buddy:
- Don’t Take the “Buddy” Part Too Literally: Although you certainly want to get along with the person you’re learning with, you don’t have to be the best of friends. In fact, if you’re too chummy with each other, you might spend too much time talking about common interests, hamming it up or gossiping and not enough time studying.
- Try to Get Someone with New Knowledge: If possible, find someone who has notably different skills and experiences than your own. You want a partner who will bring new knowledge and perspective to the table, not someone who will just tell you stuff you’ve already got down (and vice versa).
- Build a Relationship: If you both work together really well and subsequently pass the certification exam(s) with flying colors, don’t lose contact with the other person. After all, you’re on similar occupational paths and might pursue the same certifications in the future. If you keep in touch frequently and let each other know where you’re heading job-wise, you might be able to give each other helping hands up the career ladder.