Get More from Tech Training

Get More from Tech Training

R. Marc Phillips

You feel like you’re learning something while you’re being taught, but once your tech training is over, you realize the information didn’t stay with you. Now you’re staring at the screen desperately trying to remember what the trainer told you to do to unlock this wonder of technology called your computer.

If you find yourself in this situation every time you return from a tech training class, here are some specific strategies you can employ before, during and after your training to help you retain what you’ve just worked so hard to learn.

Before Training

One reason we have trouble retaining what we learn is that we don’t play to our strengths. So before you go to training, think about how you learn best. “Train to your learning style,” says Dan Rauzi, senior director of technology programs and training for Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “If reading something is the way you learn, then read all the materials that are given out in the class and make notes on them. If it’s practice that works for you, then make sure you get plenty of time to do that in the class.”

Another way to hold on to more knowledge is to think about what you want to learn before you even walk in the door. It seems obvious, but very few people think about what they want to get out of training before going in, says Marc Russell, a senior analyst at T-Mobile USA in Seattle. “If I can go into a generalized training course with an idea of what I want to come away with, I’ll be synthesizing the course material and my actual needs throughout the experience,” he says. “That will lead to better retention and, hopefully, learning even more than I set out to.”

And don’t forget to take care of business before leaving for training. “Attendees who come to class worried about projects or a backlog at the office spend their time checking Web mail and voice mail, and lose their focus on learning new skills or techniques,” says Christopher Smith, president of the Aquent Graphics Institute in Boston, which provides training in creative software tools such as Adobe Flash, Dreamweaver, InDesign and Photoshop.

“You might be a critical member of your company, but your office won’t implode because you’re out for the day,” he continues. “Focus on your training, and you’ll return to your office in a better position to be more productive.”

During Training

During class, evaluate what you’re learning and note the information that seems most relevant. “If it’s not clear as to why a topic is being discussed, you should ask how it is used and how it might apply to what you do,” Smith says. “A good instructor should be able to relate topics being covered to your needs.”

When a particular skill is taught, assess its value to you by looking at your list or asking yourself if there’s a possible link. “Even if the connections are tenuous in the beginning, it will help you look at how you’re doing things in a new way that can help you be more efficient,” Rauzi says.

What if you realize the class isn’t for you? “Excuse yourself or wait until a break and speak to an administrator,” Smith counsels. “A good training provider wants to put you in the right class to improve your skills and will spend time working with you to make sure you are in a class appropriate for your needs and skill level.”

After Training

Try to put your training to use as soon as possible. “Block out time immediately after training to practice what you’ve learned,” says Wes Trochlil, president of Effective Database Management in Hamilton, Virginia. “Too often we go right back to work after training, rather than taking time to reinforce the learning that just took place.”

And don’t hesitate to follow up with your instructor or fellow participants. “Learning doesn’t stop just because the training’s over,” says Russell. “Staying in touch will help you continue to develop your skills and abilities long after the class is done.”

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