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MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR LEARNING
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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 you 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

Introduction

Your decision to improve your knowledge and competencies represents a valuable investment in your future.

You already know that people who are in highest demand in the workplace are those committed to lifelong learning. They are the people who are prepared to adapt and learn new things as their environment changes.

Digital Distance was created to develop and provide online learning that will help you expand your knowledge and skills in your career. That is why we are offering these tips to help you make the most of your learning experience before, during and after you take specific courses.

Before Your Course

Learn about the course from former or current students.
They can provide insights into how to prepare for your experience. If you are unable to locate a former student at your workplace or in your vicinity, contact the provider of the course you are about to take. Ask to be put in touch with other students and the instructor. Sometimes, evaluations of the course by former students can be accessed.

Meet with your manager.
Ask for input as to his or her expectations of you after you have finished the course. Try to identify one or more specific educational goals that is important to you and your manager.

Usually you will find that if you consult with you manage r in this way, you are more likely have your manager's interest and support throughout the course. In effect, while learning from your manager, you also will be doing a bit of internal marketing of your self within the company!

Be optimistic.
Most students are nervous when they start their first course, and some are nervous before every course. But they put their worries behind them as soon as they started learning. Expect your anxiety to turn into excitement!

Get Enough Rest.
We know that's often easier said than done! However, we also know that fatigue is one of the biggest barriers to effective learning.

Within your busy pace in your workplace plus your commitments as a part-time learner, part of the solution can be to set specific study times. After a short while, that will become part of your routine. The pace associated with a routine often helps reduce the effects of fatigue.

But . . . you still need to get enough rest!

Prepare for the start of the course.
As soon as you get access your course materials, review them to:

  • Get an idea of the scope and contents of the course
  • See what assignments and tasks (reading, interviewing, observing, etc.) are required and what the approximate time demands are likely to be
  • Be prepared to highlight key ideas, and summarize information and insights in a binder or on your computer
  • Use the experience of others who have attended the course to clarify anything that is unclear about the assignment(s) and to dispel any anxiety you may have. Your online course should give you easy access to an online chat capability.

During your course ...

Focus on learning rather than marks.
In graded courses, there is a temptation to focus on getting good grades, instead of benefiting from the learning experience.

Real learning involves stretching yourself, taking risks, attempting those tasks that you are not best at, and constantly exploring how new knowledge can be applied to your life and your job. If you achieve those things, the good grades are almost a certainty!

Learn from others.
Much of the valuable learning that takes place in any course occurs when students learn from each other.

To get the most out of a course, work with other students on group assignments, seek out other students' perspectives on content and experiences, and learn about different kinds of work performed by people from other departments and other organizations.

This can work out even better online that in traditional classrooms. Online, you don't have to schedule a time and place; you can communicate with others asynchronously - each at a time that suits you best.

Get to know as many people as possible.
Your courses provide a marvelous opportunity to meet and learn from a diverse group of people from many corporations. It provides you with a chance to start friendships with colleagues who have a wide variety of jobs. Use the online chat to make those connections.

Ask a lot of questions.
Be sure you are clear about your assignments and tasks, course expectations, feedback that you receive, or any other aspects of your learning experience.

Keep a log or journal.
Keep a log in a binder or on your computer, to have a record of your Key Learning Points (KLPs).

When you return to work after studying, you might find it difficult to remember all of the most significant experiences, observations and insights you gained during the learning sessions. You'll find it easier to remember and apply new knowledge if you keep a log of the KLPs you have absorbed during a course.

After your course ...

Make time to meet with your manager.
Meeting with your manager should be one of your first priorities when you complete your course, as well as when you learn interesting things during the course.

Share KLPs, insights and anecdotes you gained during the course. If you have any post?course assignments, make sure your manager knows what they are so that he or she can help ensure that your assignments can make a difference at your workplace.

Dive into post-course assignments.
Post-course assignments might be a formal part of face-to-face courses that you take, and also can be something that you create for yourself to help reinforce and build on what you've learned.

Although you may be tempted to postpone your post?course assignments when you return to work, you will find that applying what you've learned is easier and more meaningful if you tackle your tasks when course ideas and concepts are fresh in your mind.

Network with other course graduates.
Students report that one of the best parts of taking courses is sharing ideas with other students.

Relationship building does not have to end when the course ends; messages and ideas can continue to circulate long after a course has concluded. This is a natural extension of online courses, because the ways that you can communicate with each other do not change!

Share your new ideas and enthusiasm strategically.
When students are excited about what they are learning, they are often bursting with ideas that they want to share with everyone they meet. They are surprised when others do not readily see the value of the new ideas learned during a course.

Research suggests that, when listeners feel pressured to accept new ideas, they often choose to reject them rather than give into the pressure. The best way to share new thoughts is through two-way, open-ended dialogue, not as a street-corner preacher!

Be persistent.
As you use your new knowledge, you will inevitably face challenges that make it difficult for you to do everything you'd like to do. However, to get the most out of your learning experience, you need to take personal responsibility for turning ideas into practical actions, processes and habits.

Keep pushing yourself to use your new ideas and you will ensure that what you learned is valuable to you and your employer.

Credits

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.

 

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