Ongoing training and education is, ideally a fact of life. Continuing education or work will include seminars, certifications and ongoing product training. And if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll have spent plenty of time on both sides of the equation as both the learner and the presenter.
Training programs, whether they’re presented by a vendor or a trade association, are intended to deliver a comprehensive learning experience students, both from the material in the curriculum, but relying on the real-world experiences of both the instructors as well as the experiences of the students.
A lot of work goes into preparing the material and presentation. And back in the days when we still got to travel (something I hope isn’t too far off in the future) there was some expense involved in both hosting a training event, and sending people to it.
As a learner, there are some habits or best practices to engage in that will ensure that you get the most out of the materials you’re learning. And as an instructor, keeping these learning habits in mind when structuring the program will support your learners in maximizing their experience.
Since some of my training materials go back to well before COVID-19, I’ll lead with advice for in-person learning, in the hopes that we get to return to it: Get to know the other students. One of the major values of classroom training (when you’re allowed to do it) is the opportunity to meet and network with your peers. As a learner I make an effort to sit with a group of people I don’t know, rather than co-workers. Aside from professional networking, you’ll learn a lot from industry professionals you’ve just met, especially in a group work setting.
Regardless of whether it’s in-person or online, take advantage of the discussions. If all you wanted was just the material in the book you could read it quietly yourself. One of the big benefits of a group learning session is the sharing of ideas and experiences amongst the participants. Both instructors and participants will have real-world examples to discuss that expand everyone’s understanding of the topic being covered.
Not only should you take advantage of the interactions, you should be actively involved. Ask questions, whether it’s asking for clarification on the material that’s been presented, or if you have something specific that you want help understanding.
Someone once said to me that for every student who raises their hand, there are at least a half dozen others who have the same question, but don’t want to be the one asking. Asking questions, and the answers that result benefit everyone involved.
Whether your textbooks for the course are physical or eBooks, tab them. If you’re using actual books buy colored tabs from the office supply store, and tab your books. Index the tabs and place them so they can be read whichever way the book is open. If your resources are eBooks or online material, look in the Settings or Help section to find out how to insert tabs, or if worst comes to worst google “how do I insert tabs in (document format). It may sound minor, it’s invaluable while studying, or later on when you refer to those materials as a resource.
Another learning strategy that helps retaining what you’ve learned is what I call “nuggeting.” Come up with a strategy where, when you’ve learned something that gave you that “AH-HA!” lightbulb moment, mark it down, or note it in a way that emphasizes it.
When I worked for Sony, their corporate trainer had a thing where every place setting at the tables had an extra water glass, and each table had a pile of small colorful pompoms.
At the beginning of his presentations, he would introduce the glasses and the pompoms. His method was this: every time you learned something that day that gave you that “AH-HA!” moment, or that blew your mind, put a pompom in your glass. At the end of the day, there was a physical reminder of how many new things you’d learned.
It may seem silly on a superficial level, but it’s a great idea and it works.