IT Certification Training: Which Type Is Best for You?

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The wealth of training choices available for IT certification is overwhelming. Training resources are almost as widely available as the neighborhood convenience store. But how do you know which resource is best for your needs? How do you know that you’re not going to waste your time and money on a learning experience that might not be the best for you?

Contrary to popular opinion, training options are not “one size fits all.” There are number of factors that can affect whether or not a particular training course or experience is right for you. The obvious factors are cost, information covered and time available for the training. But there is another factor that is becoming increasingly important as the number of training delivery modes increases-your learning style.

Learning style has become an umbrella term referring to a variety of models and research on how people learn most effectively. The theory is that when people understand their learning styles, they can focus their time on learning experiences that fit their style. This can increase the effectiveness of the learning and decrease the amount of time spent on the learning experience. It can even increase the enjoyment of the learning experience.

For years, training professionals have talked about learning styles, and for the most part, they have focused on a group referred to as “Perceptual Modalities” that includes auditory, visual and kinesthetic/tactile. These styles refer more to how we perceive information. For example, an auditory learner can hear someone explain a topic and understand it, whereas a visual learner must see a diagram or read the words on paper. Finally, a kinesthetic/tactile learner must “touch” the topic or just begin doing it. Although this is a very valid model of learning styles, it isn’t quite as helpful when looking at the wide variety of training options available for IT professionals. Almost any instructor-led or online training course has visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile components, but how do you determine whether the online course or the instructor-led course is better for you? How do you know whether the online course or the ILT course will keep you more engaged and be more effective for you?

Motivation and Conation

There is an old concept in educational psychology that is beginning to make its way back to the forefront when it comes to the effectiveness of different types of training. The concept is conation, and it is best understood as it relates to motivation. When we want to learn a new topic, there is some type of motivation either internally or externally that gets us started on the learning path. Motivation is what directs us to register for the class or purchase the CD-ROM. Unfortunately, motivation only takes us so far. Once we have started the learning experience, conation begins to take over. Conation is an internal sense of striving to complete a goal. When a training experience meets our “conative needs,” that training experience has kept us engaged and learning in a way that is appropriate for us.

For example, there are many people who love to learn in collaborative, social settings where they can talk to the other learners and their instructor and work together with everyone. The type of experience that would best meet their conative needs might be an instructor-led course with a high degree of collaborative exercises and experiences. On the opposite end of that spectrum is the group of people who prefer to learn at their own pace and typically prefer to learn on their own. An instructor-led experience would definitely not meet their conative needs, but perhaps a self-paced online tutorial would.

Think of motivation as the act of starting a campfire. Motivation is what gets the wood in the right place and gets the fire going. Conation is the act of keeping the fire going by adding wood and ensuring that it is properly stoked and maintained. If conation doesn’t happen, the fire will go out. How many training experiences have you had where you were sufficiently motivated to learn a new topic, but because the training didn’t meet your conative needs, your “learning fire” went out?

Imagine taking part in an instructor-led experience that is not meeting your conative needs. Although the content is appropriate, the way in which it’s delivered is not stoking your fire. Due to social conditioning, it’s not very easy to just get up out of your seat and walk out of the classroom. Now imagine that the instructor-led experience was a Web-based training experience. If a Web-based training experience doesn’t meet your conative needs, all you have to do is close the browser it’s running in.

When all we had were print and instructor-led training experiences, conation wasn’t a big deal. The lack of available choices forced us to settle for a learning experience that might or might not have met our needs. But with the wide array of options we have today, the IT professional is in charge of his own learning. We can choose not only from a number of different vendors and solutions, but also from a growing diversity of types of training experiences. Given these circumstances, IT professionals can choose a learning experience that meets both their content needs as well as their conative needs.

A Conative Learning Styles Model

Before we take a look at each of the different types of IT certification training that are currently available, we need a model that will help us look at four different types of conative learning styles. The Insights Discovery Learning Styles System will allow us to do just that. Based on the psychological type work of Carl Jung, this model provides a simple four-quadrant approach that allows individuals to identify their preferred, more comfortable and less comfortable learning styles.

The model begins with a set of four color energies. Each individual has some degree of all four of these energies. As you review the adjectives describing each quadrant, rank each quadrant (based on the adjectives within) from 1 to 4, with 1 being “most like you” and 4 being “least like you.” These four energies are then mapped to the four Insights Learning Styles.

The focus of a conative learning style model is to help an IT professional understand what types of training experiences will keep adding fuel to their “learning fire.” When you rank the four colors, the color you choose as “most like you” is what we will refer to as your preferred learning style. The one that was least like you is your less comfortable learning style, and the two in the middle are your more comfortable learning styles.

Let’s take a look at each style and some of the characteristics of training experiences that will meet the needs of each style.

The Fiery Red style is really about immediate and practical learning. Reds prefer training that is focused on usable content rather than theory and research. Their learning motto could be described as “Get to the point.” Their desire for step-by-step and actual how-to information is much higher than their need for any agenda or structure. Reds like to be in control of their learning and hate to be slowed down by what they perceive as irrelevant information.

The Sunshine Yellow style is about collaborative and interactive learning. Yellows prefer experiential and social training experiences. Their learning motto could be described as “Get me involved.” Yellows really prefer to learn with other people around them to communicate and collaborate with. This style is very much about the experience. In other words, they learn best by getting into the experience of learning. They like to actually try out the topic being learned and really submerse themselves in the experience of it.

The Earth Green style is about the process of reflecting and reviewing. Greens prefer structured and guided training. Their learning motto could be described as “Giv

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