Practice, practice, practice - the key to training effectiveness

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Setting time aside for post-course trainees to practice their new skills has a huge impact on learning, according to a survey by an IT training firm.

Happy Computers said that practice time, together with training tailored to the individual, saved learners considerable amounts of time once back at work.

Overall, students on a one-day course at the company estimated the time saved at 26 minutes a day, or over 100 hours a year. For those who set time aside to practice, this average rose to 32 minutes a day but for those who didn't, they estimated their productivity increases at just 12 minutes a day.

"This is a crucial finding," commented Happy Computers Chief Executive Henry Stewart, "and one we should not ignore. We've always known that it was important to have practice time, but the size of the impact is remarkable. Too often students leave with the best of intentions but get buried in their work, including the backlog from when they were on the course. Our aim is not just to deliver training but to maximise the impact. All training companies need to take responsibility and persuade our customers that, to get the full benefit from their course, they need that time set aside. Its not an optional extra but a key part of the learning."

The second factor was whether "training was personalised and the trainer helped me see how I could use what I learnt in my job". Those strongly agreeing again saved over 32 minutes a day. Indeed, for those who strongly agreed with this statement, it didn't matter how much time they had to practice.

Factors that did not correlate to actual impact included being clear on what your personal objectives from the course were and whether their manager knew they were attending and was clear on the benefits.

Previous studies had indicated the importance of managerial support for training and the Happy survey at first appeared to show this as a factor too. However statistical analysis revealed that the managerial impact was purely related to its effect on having time to practice (as it increased the likelihood of that happening). If that element was removed, there was no correlation between managerial support itself and time saved.

The survey was completed by 544 students who attended end-user training courses at Happy Computers between October 2006 and March 2007.

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