Tips to maximize your training experience

In this article, we'll give you six tips to help you maximize your training experience. We've trained numerous students and we've seen people enjoy their training immensely and benefit tremendously from the experience. On the other hand, we've also seen students who haven't gotten all that much from their classes. We'll give you a heads-up as to what makes all the difference.

It's back-to-school time and many of you will likely be attending Windows 2000/.NET training and other types of training in the upcoming months. With that in mind, here are six tips to help you get the most out of your time in the classroom.

1. Ask a lot of questions.
This is probably the number-one thing that will help you benefit from your classroom experience. Why? Here are a couple of reasons. First, if you plan on asking a lot of questions you're much more likely to pay attention. Why is this? Because you don't want to look dumb by asking a question that the instructor has already answered!

Also, asking questions makes learning an active experience rather than a passive experience. Ever had a really great conversation with someone a little bit smarter than you? Amazed at how much you learned? Now contrast that with a boring lecture from your college or high school days. See the difference? Active methods of learning almost always work better than passive methods.

2. Jot down a lot of notes.
There is absolutely no way that you'll ever be able to remember all the stuff you're given in class. If you've got a good instructor, he or she should provide lots of additional information outside of what the book gives you. Don't take a chance by leaving it to memory! Write it down so that you can come back and review it later. This will make a huge difference.

3. Minimize your distractions.
It's very easy to get distracted when you're in the IT field. You get paged or get a cell call or check your email and find out that something is blowing up back at the office. Obviously, there are some situations that you have to deal with immediately, but for the most part, try to avoid dealing with work-related issues while you're in class.

Many companies now refuse to have IT training held on-site. Why? Because they've found that when their employees are being trained at the company, they are out of class dealing with problems more than they are in class. By moving the training off-site, you can minimize many of these interruptions.

It may take a bit of planning, but the more that you can isolate yourself when you're at class, the better off you'll be.

4. Find out when it is and when it isn't an appropriate time to "play."
Most training classes will have a lot of labs to reinforce what you are learning and give you hands-on experience. One of the most beneficial things that you can do when you are in a lab is to experiment and test out some theories as to what works and what doesn't. The key is knowing when it's okay to play and when it isn't.

For instance, a lab that has you installing Active Directory might be a bad one to mess around with as any deviation from the course might adversely affect other labs later on. However, other labs might lend themselves more to some creativity. Ask your instructor because he or she should be familiar with the labs and should be able to tell you whether your experimentation has any potential for disaster down the road.

5. Teach somebody else.
It happens in almost every large class. Inevitably somebody who's been in IT forever and pretty much knows everything will get seated right next to someone who's brand new to IT and still wrestling with the concept of Control Panel. Right then and there the experienced person has two choices. Spend the rest of the week mumbling about how they can't learn because they got stuck with this lousy partner or make an effort to help this person with questions they might have and labs that they struggle with.

The latter option is always best! They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else and this is never truer than in a scenario such as the one outlined above. We've seen some students who've transformed what was a potential nightmare into a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone.

And if you're the person who doesn't have very much experience, you can help, too. Be willing to learn from the person sitting next to you and thank them when they take to time to assist you. Don't pretend to know everything but at the same time realize that you likely know more than you think you do. As long as you're courteous and willing to work hard and pay attention, the person next to you shouldn't be upset. If they are, that's their problem. Not yours.

6. Have fun.
This should be the Golden Rule of Training. Learning should be fun and yet many people seem to want to turn it into an exercise of drudgery. It's okay to laugh and joke a little bit in a training class. Go ahead. Ask that off-the-wall question. Try out that crazy thing (with your instructor's permission, of course!) you've always wanted to do at the office but have been afraid to for fear that you'll end up unemployed.

For some people, a week of training means a week of vacation. That statement is only half-true. In the sense that you don't have to do anything or put in any effort, training should not seem like a vacation. However, if your idea of vacation is to experience something new in a low-stress environment that's totally different from what you do every day, a good training class should fit the bill perfectly.

Hopefully these tips will help you to make the next week of training you attend the best one ever. See ya in class!