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To make sure that you get the most out of the time, effort and money that you invest in learning, we have some tips for you to think about and act on.

Share these tips! Whether your employee are learning through the on-line programming developed by us at Digital Distance, or through some other means, these tips can be valuable to you and your company. Please feel free to share them with others.

Of course, when you do pass them on, we will appreciate it if you credit this source by identifying that you got them from our web site! It is http://www.digitaldistance.com


As a manager supporting a learning process for someone who reports to you, you want to ensure the experience will be valuable for both the student and your organization. Treat this as an investment in your company that is as important as investments in facilities, merchandise, or Information Systems.

The following are suggestions you can use to help your staff and your workplace get the most out of the learning experience:

Before the student starts the course ...

Learn about the courses.
The more you know about the courses, the more you can prepare those who will be taking them. Research has shown that students who get the most out of their courses are often those who discuss their courses with their managers.

Managers are advised to read all course outlines, and to discuss courses with former students whenever possible.

Take some courses.
Managers who attend courses can better prepare students who are getting ready to go.

You can inspire enthusiasm for courses by talking about what you've learned. Aside from the benefits of acquiring new knowledge, courses also enable you to acquire a new vocabulary that employees may wish to use as a result of the course. You will also be better able to bridge course ideas and the day-to-day world experienced by students.

Meet with students and identify specific learning challenges.
During your pre-course meeting, you should discuss what students can obtain from the course.

Also, since students report that they get more out of courses when they have specific challenges in mind, you and the student should set specific challenges or goals that he or she will focus on during the upcoming course.

Give students an outline of the material that will be covered.
This preparation could involve going over a written document or having a friendly, informal conversation about the course demands and expectations. These might be related to effort required, time, cost, and application within the workplace.

What is important is that the student going to the course has a good understanding of expectations and is fully prepared for the course.

Put students at ease about the learning opportunity.
Research tells us that students often state that they worried too much about courses, and that their initial worries interfered with their learning.

You can put students at ease by discussing the kinds of assignments and learning experiences that they can expect in a course. As well, reassure students that the courses are useful, fun, enlightening and, perhaps most important, non-threatening.

While the student is attending the course...

Create a "critical mass".
This refers to the idea of getting enough people involved in an activity (a critical mass) to ensure that together they can make a difference. In practice, this means that when possible, enrol more than one team member at a time.

Peers attending a course together can collaborate on learning activities and provide support during the course. More importantly, students will be more comfortable using their new knowledge in the workplace if a critical mass of others in their workplace share that knowledge.

Make the course a safety zone.
You can help students learn by encouraging them to question, experiment and explore controversial issues. The course is their time to practice and take risks, so that their time on the job can be more effective.

Keep interruptions to a minimum.
Frequent interruptions can decrease the value of any learning experience. It can make it difficult for students to focus on the learning taking place in a work space designated for online training.

Emphasize that you're not interested in marks.
If students think their manager wants to know what kind of mark they receive, they will find it difficult to focus on the most valuable learning opportunities. Clarify that, while you are very interested in the new ideas learned by students, you are not the least bit interested in the students' grades.

After the student finishes the course ...

Meet to debrief within a day or two of the student completing.the course
Research suggests that students will apply their knowledge more thoroughly if they meet with their manager right after the course, or even during it, to discuss what was learned.

Use the language, strategies and concepts from the courses.
Students will be more likely to use their new knowledge and skills when they hear and see their managers applying the same new language, strategies and concepts.

Be open and encourage employees to try new approaches.
You will get the most out of learning if you tap into the enthusiasm that students have at the end of a course - when they are bursting with concepts, strategies and ideas that they want to try out on the job.

Structure opportunities for students to use their learning.
Ask students to share their ideas during meetings. Ask them, in light of their new knowledge, what they think can be improved in your workplace. Put employees in positions - perhaps in charge of special teams or committees - where they can apply their new knowledge.

Make learning part of the whole workplace culture.
In the end, you can most encourage learning through actively, openly demonstrating an authentic commitment to learning. Here are examples of the kinds of questions you can ask:

  • What issues did you/your team work on during the course?
  • What new ideas did the course give you?
  • What was the highlight of your week/session?
  • What experience from the course can be related directly to our workplace?
  • How did the course benefit your knowledge of our business?
  • What course would you consider attending next?
  • What action plan did you/your team bring back from the course to implement in our workplace?

Celebrating Success

In addition to the certification of grade report that the student will get from the provider of the course, you might consider having your organization do things to celebrate the student's work and reinforce the value of learning.

For example, you might do the following:

  • All students who successfully complete a course receive a certificate of course completion signed by a significant person in your organization. The certificate should be suitable for framing.
  • Many workplaces have a "Wall of Fame" where graduates can display their achievements for all to see.
  • Recognize successful course completions.
  • Recognize employees' achievements in company newsletters or other publications, and, whenever possible, associate those achievements with the courses employees took, in order to reinforce the value of learning.


These tips utilize the product of two initiatives.

First, much of the content is the product of work completed by teams from Eaton's and Canada Post who attended an Eaton School of Retailing workshop, The Next Steps, held in London, Ontario, in 1996.

Second, results from Getting the Most Out of Learning: A Qualitative Evaluation of the Eaton School of Retailing (conducted in 1995-96 by The Ryerson Centre for Research on Lifelong Learning) were drawn upon to provide a research perspective on the suggestions made here.