Have you tried online training?

Six keys for making it work, for you and your busy schedule

As the guy behind Kepner Tregoe’s online learning sessions, I have seen people succeed—and fail—at making online training work for them.  Online training is the best way to build new capabilities when time is limited and the value of the training makes it worth the time and effort. With good preparation and some realistic scheduling, you can get the most from your online training.

Here are six tried and true ways to get the most out of online learning sessions:

1. Set expectations for others that you are unavailable during learning sessions.  A week in advance, coordinate training sessions around your other commitments. Let others know at staff meetings or weekly updates with teammates that you are not available during the time set aside for online training. Find someone that can fill in for you while you’re learning and on the day of the session(s) set your out-of-office messages to refer others to your back up. This prevents you from being constantly peppered with calls, texts or emails during the training and can keep you from falling behind when someone else lends a hand.

2. Do the Prework.  Prework gives the instructor information about you and your goals and it lets you examine what you already know and where you want to fill in gaps. It also helps you identify unexpected topics that will give you extra depth and ideas, and it is an opportunity to ‘pre-learn’ some of the content.

3. Schedule time for assignments.  Many online training programs are split into multiple sessions, with homework assignments between the sessions.  You get less value from the session if you don’t practice what you’ve learned, and you are less likely to use what you learned on the job, if you don’t take advantage of feedback on assignments from the instructor and other learners.

4. Do a ‘tech-check’.  Be sure you can connect properly to the online meeting tools, that you have access to web-conferencing sites, and that your computer is configured for video and sound.  Let the instructor know ahead of time if you have any issues.

5. Find a quiet space.  Learning at your desk is fine if you have your own office or work in a relatively quiet environment; but that is increasingly rare in open office plans.  If you can reserve a conference room or other space where distractions are minimal, you will be able to stay focused and get more from the training. Even consider working from home that day (if allowed).

6. Turn off notifications.  Temporarily disable email, IM, and your notifications just before the session.  This will minimize the ‘pull’ of pings, dings and pop-ups and let you focus on the ideas in the training.  (See #1 about setting expectations that you will be unavailable).

These actions take very little time, but when done in advance of an online learning session, they will yield a better use of your valuable time and an improved learning experience.

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