Which Are Most Valuable and Why?
There was a time when learning was an activity that took place exclusively in a classroom. It ran to a set schedule, was neatly packaged in nice binders and afterward, you would file those binders and wait for the next training program. Fortunately times have changed, and so have the ground rules of learning.
IT learning has evolved from a world where training was conducted exclusively in a traditional classroom environment to a world where value-added resources are made available to the learner prior to the class, during the class and, perhaps most importantly, back on the job. There are many drivers that have led to this evolution in learning. They include cost, time, technology advancement and most importantly, a desire to transfer the knowledge to where it’s needed most, the workplace.
The most valuable learning happens after the training, when you apply these new skills and concepts in the workplace. Post-class resources are essential to bridge the gap between the theoretical concepts and their real-world applications.
There are a number of resources available to help you retain and apply your new knowledge. They range from e-learning tools to textbooks to tests and assessments. Often, these types of reinforcement aids are essential to develop your skills, reinforce and validate what you learned in the classroom and help you transfer the knowledge to your job. Here are some of the most valuable post-class resources that can supplement your learning and provide the support you need to apply your newfound knowledge:
- Supplemental E-Learning: Supplemental e-learning can be a very powerful tool because of the ability to access it online, anytime you choose. Access to dynamic content gives you the opportunity to apply the content to real-world situations for just-in-time learning. With this tool, you can reinforce a skill learned in class or use it as a refresher while on the job as many times as you want, for months after the class.
- Virtual Labs: Virtual labs are a great way to gain hands-on experience using real equipment. In contrast to using a simulated computer-based training program, live virtual labs provide a real-world environment to experiment and practice on real equipment at your own time and pace. Some vendors that offer the virtual lab experience include Element K, New Horizons Computer Learning Centers and Productivity Point International.
- E-Books: Electronic books put a complete library at your fingertips. Technical reference libraries provide 24-hour-a-day access to full electronic versions of top technical books in an interactive, instant learning environment. When you have a time-sensitive problem to solve, electronic libraries, such as Books24x7 and Safari Bookshelf, will help you find the answer fast. Using the electronic library’s powerful search engine, you can search hundreds of books concurrently so you find the precise information you are looking for without spending valuable time searching through individual books.
- Trade Magazines and Periodicals: These very useful, often free resources have the most up-to-date information to help you keep pace with our rapidly changing industry. Be careful, though, to avoid information overload. Subscribe only to those publications that match your needs and reading style. Use these resources to stay current and as a guide for future exploration.
- Practice Exams and Assessments: Practice exams and assessment tests from vendors such as MeaureUp, LearnKey, Transcender and Self Test Software can help you measure how much you have learned and assess your readiness to go to the next level. They will help you validate that you have retained knowledge and reached a defined standard and can be used to test your readiness for a certification exam.
Learning can no longer be thought of as an isolated event. Before and during your classroom training or e-learning, you must spend time thinking about the tools needed back on the job to help ensure that your newfound knowledge is retained and applied. Only then will you have truly maximized your return on training.
Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company.