Return on Knowledge Is the Ultimate Goal
What is more important to you, earning a certification or gaining the knowledge associated with the credential? The majority of people who take a certification exam in our industry do so within four weeks of completing their training. For many, I understand that after spending so much time with the learning, they want to pass the exam as soon as possible. For others, this could be a matter of doing what they have to do to get by, focusing too much on passing and not enough on learning. I fear that these individuals may have lost sight of their ultimate objective, which is the ability to use that newfound knowledge.
My advice to all is to keep a healthy balance between return on investment and return on knowledge. How can you best attain your long-term goals of learning while earning your certifications in a timely manner? Can you study at a pace that allows you to apply and enjoy what you learn, and then worry about the potential for a raise, promotion or new job as a result of the training?
It is fully understandable that in these tough economic times IT professionals are more concerned with immediate return, but you need to find the means to stay focused on what is most beneficial.
Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind as you set your sights on certification and aspire to find your return on knowledge:
- Be sure to take care of the fundamentals and prerequisites before going on to higher studies. This will enable you to realize the return on your investment and on your knowledge. With a stronger foundation, you will more easily understand new concepts and ideas instead of trying to cram as much new information into your head as possible.
- Choose programs that allow you to absorb and apply material effectively. As you study and learn, think more about the context to which you will apply the knowledge. During class, do not just try to remember everything you are hearing; think about how you will be able to use this information. This includes finding the right pace and modality that works for you. Do you need to be face-to-face with an instructor? Can you effectively learn online? Or is the integration of all modalities the ideal solution for you? Accelerated methods, such as boot camps and fast tracks, may work for some learners but may not be the best way for everyone to attain the necessary skills to perform well on the job.
- Do not disregard the value of on-the-job application with classroom learning or e-learning. The most valuable learning takes place when you have the time to apply the newly learned concepts and skills in the workplace, not just in theory on paper. Programs that successfully tailor to adult learning do so by blending the real world with the theoretical world. Since adults forget a high percentage of what is presented in the classroom or on the Web, the training program needs to compensate. This can be done through on-the-job application or with reinforcement and support tools that bridge the gap. Some examples include online mentoring, post-class support, e-labs and asynchronous e-learning tools.
- Be challenging and inquisitive. Do not feel that you have to accept your training at face value. Challenge the concepts and the material presented to you. Ask questions about course concepts and how what you are learning works in the real world. Question the practical application of the technology. If it is not making sense to you, keep asking questions until it does, and you will gain far more from your learning.
- Think about what you will do after the exam. If you are going to obtain a return on knowledge, you need to analyze what you will do after you have the knowledge. Organize your studies and learning strategies to retain and apply the information instead of just focusing on passing the exam.
The next time you start thinking of certification and studying, ask yourself, is return on investment enough, or do you need to think about getting a return on knowledge? The reality in this hectic and competitive world is that you really need to be concerned with both. However, keep in mind that if you are good at what you do and love what you do, you will realize your ultimate goal—return on knowledge.
Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, the world’s largest computer training company.