Alternative Types of Training Courses
E-learning is the new way to study
There is now a wide range of professional qualifications available through e-learning training courses: courses conducted via the internet with email or forum support from a tutor and with peer support and discussions available through the online course forums and communities. So if you ever wondered how you would find time to fit in that training course, and update your skills and qualifications, or persuade your boss of the need for time off to complete a training course - well, this is the answer. You can learn wherever and whenever suits you best and, what's even better, it will cost less than a classroom course so is a good alternative for the budget-conscious.
Online Training Courses
Professional training courses are vital in all sectors of business if, as a professional, you want to develop your skills and stay abreast of the latest tools and techniques. It is easy to fall behind in the latest methods in your particular field very quickly, particularly if you work in a fast-moving business.
But it has always been difficult to find a window in which to take up to a week out of your schedule to devote to a formal training course. It is even harder to persuade your boss that you should take that week away from the office.
Yet training can help you meet not only your personal objectives but also your business objectives. And whilst it might be easier to attend short one day sessions, if your aim is to gain a nationally recognised qualification this will certainly take substantially longer.
Training courses can instil you with more enthusiasm and motivation, which ultimately has to be good for your employer.
The idea of e-learning could well be the solution for all the time-poor workers out there keen to gain additional qualifications. Not least because in the tough economic climate in which we are all living, recent training qualifications and up-to-date marketable skills will give you an advantage if you find yourself looking for a new job.
So what exactly is e-learning and how does it work? Well, fairly obviously, it is just a form of distance learning (which has been around for many, many years through organisations such as the Open University) for the digital age. E-learning is a course of study conducted almost entirely at your computer. The benefits of using online features are varied and many:
- No waiting for a tutor to mark your work - answers are be supplied straight
- You can be flexible about when and where you study
- Learn at your own pace
- No travel and hotel costs to attend a training centre
Online learning courses use the latest technology and interactive components such as animations and quizzes to supplement the on-line learning experience. However, traditional written materials such as manuals and books are still necessary to complement the student's learning.
Course instructors also understand that it is important not to miss out on the discussions that happen in a traditional classroom setting so there are also online forums and groups where you can communicate with other students taking the same course. There will also be email support from a tutor for those more challenging questions.
E-learning may not be a better solution than instructor-led classroom learning but it is a great alternative for those who simply will never get to the classroom.
E-learning courses are available for a range of professional business subjects from Accountancy, Law and Project Management Courses. And if you want to study on the move then there are even options to study with podcasts on your mp3 player. Podcast episodes can usually be downloaded free from iTunes and a perfect for learning on the move, whether you are running, commuting or just lazing in the sun!
Studying with Podcasts
Studying for a professional business qualification using podcasts is becoming evermore popular. It's an attractive alternative to traditional classroom courses that may be difficult to attend for a variety of reasons. And whilst there are many online training courses as another alternative, these require an internet connection and computer. There are often situations where you have neither of these. In fact, I wish that when I commuted into London by train and tube standing all the way, I could have made better use of my time keeping up with the latest techniques for success in project management.
But whilst podcasts certainly fill a gap in the arsenal of training tools, and provide an option for those unable to attend an instructor-led course, they do not necessarily provide a better or easier way of learning; particularly if you are studying for a serious professional qualification.
However, if used to complement a traditional course or an online e-learning course, then they certainly are a very valuable tool in reaching your training objectives.
So if you are considering studying using podcasts then look out for those that are integrated with online or classroom modules and also provide written study guides or manuals.
There are, of course, a number of advantages to studying through podcasts:
- You can study when and where you like; whilst travelling on trains or planes, whilst walking in the countryside or even while lying on the beach.
- It's a fun way to learn so it's very motivating and effective.
- It is less expensive than attending a traditional classroom-based course.
- It's available anywhere, which is particularly relevant if you don't live close to a training centre.
- There is access to the expertise of an instructor through email or community forums.
But there are also some disadvantages that you should consider:
- It's easy to just listen idly to the podcasts without actively studying the material.
- You don't have to engage with an instructor or other learners so there is no impetus to fully absorb the information.
- You need an mp3 player! I wonder if there are any courses which offer the mp3 player for free as part of the course?
But overall, podcasts are an easy and exciting way to learn at your own pace and they are likely to become more and more popular and be more widely available.
Lessons Learned in a Project
It doesn't have to be a dreaded prospect
Everyone dreads the 'lessons learned' element of the project. After all, once the project is complete, invoices paid and everything wrapped up, who wants to spend time poring over the details of what was good and what was bad?
Well, although this might not be a popular stage in your project plan, it should be included in every plan. Not only that, but it should be taken seriously, because you as a project manager, and your project team, are only going to learn and grow if you take the time to review your performance.
A lessons learned meeting doesn't need to be particularly long, neither does it need to be a demotivating prospect. By planning your lessons learned session carefully and throwing in a bit of fun and games, you can help your team to really engage with this process and grow as professionals.
Ideas for your lessons learned meeting:
- Good, bad and ugly: Get everyone to nominate a good moment, a bad moment, and a just plain ugly moment. The balance you strike here between praise and criticism will be just the ticket to get people thinking about their performance.
- Sticky dots: Stick each deliverable or milestone on a piece of paper around the room, and give everyone coloured sticky dots to vote for the things they think went well. Each person should apply a green dot if they think that part of the project was excellent, a yellow one for satisfactory, or a red one for not so good. After they have done it, reveal your own assessment of each of the elements using actual figures on budgets and timescales and see how they compare. The variation between people's perception of success and the actual results can be very revealing.
- Friendly feedback: Get people into pairs and ask them to tell their partner about one thing they think they did well, and one thing they think could have gone better. Allow the partner to discuss and evaluate the responses and then feed back to the group.
- Vote for the winners: Get each person to write down up to three things that went well and up to three things they wish had been done differently. Amalgamate all these on two sheets of paper, a flip pad works well. Stick it up on the wall and let people 'vote' for their favourite thing on each list using sticky dots or stars. Each person only gets one vote per list. This is a great way of finding out what people really think, and also allows the quieter people to have a say without getting talked down.
Other tips for your meeting
It is most important that before the meeting starts, everyone is briefed about what it is and why they need to attend. Ask people to prepare some of the responses to save time if you like, and make sure they understand that this is an 'anything goes' environment. Holding the meeting away from your office can help to free people from the usual confines of the working environment, so consider hiring a room somewhere else for the day.