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Don’t Keep Your Distance

Direct access to a qualified trainer in a dedicated training suite and interaction with other likeminded students is certainly an attractive environment when it comes to skills development. After all, this is the teaching delivery method that we’ve used through our academic careers, so we’re used to – and comfortable with – this arrangement.

However does traditional classroom based instruction fulfill the other important needs that we have? Clearly there is incremental cost for travel and in some instances accommodation; time is spent away from having easy access to our offices not to mention our loved ones or just the sheer frustration of having to fly or drive to a training event dilutes the attraction of this type of delivery methodology.

So what are the alternatives? Well, for every popular classroom based IT training course, there is an e-learning or self-study version. This certainly overcomes the travel issue and reduces the associated incremental costs, but will it really provide the effective means of knowledge-transfer that is needed?  Will the student be disciplined enough to create the time and focus that this type of learning experience demands? Depending on your organizational abilities and preferred learning style, this may or may not be an issue.

Of course everybody’s circumstances and needs are different and what works well for one student may not work well for another. However, over the last two years, a new trend has developed, attracting such significant attention that it could quite easily become the most popular IT training delivery methodology for the foreseeable future.

The momentum behind this development is so strong that most IT training providers have embraced it to some degree.  In fact, some have actually redesigned their delivery schedule so that it is almost entirely made up of this new approach.

The IT industry has managed to give this new approach more than one name. Some may call it “remote learning,” others may use the phrase “distance learning” or “remote classroom instruction.” This learning approach has been tried and tested within many other areas of learning, in particular within the academic sector, but distance learning is relatively new to the IT training sector.

So what is the student experience actually like? Access to labs, simulations and other software tools provided to undertake workshops and enhance the training experience are similar to what you would use in a traditional classroom-based environment. In this regard, there’s little difference between learning remotely and being physically in a “typical” classroom.

The biggest change is not being in the same physical location as the trainer.  This is not to say that interaction with the trainer is reduced – it’s just different. Using video and audio facilities, you can see and hear the trainer, and using software, distance students can still interact and ask questions in both an open and private environment, therefore benefitting from the other students’ questions too. There are some students that actually feel that a distance learning course creates a better opportunity for trainer interaction, as they’re able to ask questions privately and not feel insecure or embarrassed about asking questions in front of the entire class.

Distance learning is also a different experience for the trainer. Teaching a full class of students via the Internet from a remote location – rather than all being together in the same physical location – requires enhanced skills. Many training providers have created courses to train the trainers, allowing their instructors to effectively manage their remote students.  Some trainers will ask for class sizes to be limited so they’re better able to manage the different needs of remote students.

In terms of the physical location, you can learn from anywhere.  The only real limitations are computer bandwidth and opportunity for distraction – the former needs to be high, the latter needs to be low. Without broadband capability, distance learning would not work, nor would it be a reliable option. Certainly you could participate at any reasonable location; home, office or the local library for that matter. Choose a location that’s conducive to learning, keeping in mind that most technical IT courses last at least three full days.

Some providers have facilities so you can attend a distance learning class at their own centers.  And many have repurposed “traditional” classrooms to accommodate distance learning students. This option may reduce some of the benefits of a distance learning (e.g., students still have to travel to these facilities), but it certainly provides students with a dedicated training facility with limited distractions. Many training providers report that students attend the first day of a distance learning course at the training center and then realize that they don’t need to be there for the subsequent days so attend from another location, such as their home or office.

Many IT training students are searching for the most time and cost-effective learning options, and distance learning will certainly fill a void in the marketplace.  This option combines the benefits of classroom-based, instructor-led training and self-study. There are clear and immediate cost, time and convenience benefits, however there are also other opportunities that are also evident.

If geographical constraints are minimized, then students have a wider variety of options when selecting a training provider.  If there’s a provider with a range of courses that are very relevant to you, but the provider’s location is inaccessible or prohibitive, distance learning breaks down that barrier. If you are frustrated that attending a course impinges on the work day, you may want to consider a training provider from another time zone. If you are on the West Coast, for example, a provider from the East Coast would give you the opportunity to start your course at 6am and complete the training day by 2pm, therefore giving you most of the afternoon to keep up with work commitments.

There is no doubt that distance learning within the IT training channel is here to stay, and no doubt that for some students the additional benefits will be compelling. Research suggests that student evaluations for distance learning courses are at least on a par with traditional classroom based instructor lead delivery.

The training schedule at www.trainit4less.com offers a broad variety of options, with more than 3,000 course dates for over 500 courses delivered by highly experienced, knowledgeable providers from the United Training consortium. The convenience and flexibility of this offering provides good reason to take your first distance learning course.

TrainIT4less provides a comprehensive, one-stop infrastructure for IT training, offering the convenience of the web combined with the depth of real experts behind it. TrainIT4less Corporate Services galvanizes the expertise of industry leader United Training, helping HR and Training Professionals get the level of service they need when dealing with more complex training procurement and logistics.  TrainIT4less has established a unique negotiating power, so users will enjoy significant savings and the most competitive prices in the marketplace. Single or multiple classes are available at the same low costs.  For more information, visit www.TrainIT4less.com.

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