Instructor-led Training

Written by Shirley Parker
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Most aspects of technical training can be absorbed through several venues. A first step might be talking to colleagues or knowledgeable friends and family members to identify the most informative books or CDs. You'll also want to invest in something that won't put you right to sleep with either pedantic writing or pages of dense type. In one sense, books are like computer screens; information needs to be chunked--broken up by frequent white space. Most academics don't like to hear that but it's how people best absorb written material of a blatantly educational or how-to slant. Screen shots, flow charts, photos, and the occasional cartoon all help make the point.

After getting your feet wet with some (or much) self-study, there's the option of signing up for online classes, which work well if you need a flexible schedule. They're often instructor-led and have student forums for exchanging ideas and finding out if anyone else is struggling with a concept or an assignment. Whether online or live, try to find out something about the instructor's credentials before signing up. An instructor shouldn't be too busy to check in to a forum several times a week. If he doesn't offer comments on student projects, or waits till the end of the course to provide feedback, if then, he might as well not be there.

It can be tough to contact former students, including anyone who might have been disappointed with a class, but try a search engine and see if you can get at least a few hits regarding the school itself. Check the refund policies, even if what you unearth is pretty positive. Your own life may present an emergency. And if problems arise after the deadline for refunds, try asking for your money back anyway. It isn't your fault if the instructor isn't qualified.

Employers May Pay for Training

Some employers have a tuition aid program where a satisfactory grade at a nearby college will qualify you for reimbursement, if you got approval before taking the class. Others may send you to a commercial school they've used before, or contract with one to teach classes onsite. Chances are that such a school is accredited by an appropriate agency or association and is doing a good job. Whatever class you sign up for, look for the evaluation form that you turn in at the end of the seminar or semester. Making notes for yourself along the way helps you to remember what really turned on the light bulb for you or what drove you crazy.

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