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But locating an IT training center that will offer you the best learning experience can be difficult. Following are some ideas for evaluating facilities and staff to determine which center is right for you.
Inexperienced/inaccessible instructors: Ask to speak to the instructors. Interview them at lunch time or after class. Sit in on a few classes prior to enrolling. "Look for subject matter expertise, good presentation/training skills, and good classroom management skills," said Rachel Cheeseman, executive director for the Information Technology Training Association (ITTA) (http://www.itta.org/). "Make sure instructors are currently vendor-certified in the technologies they are teaching. If you can find instructors with real-world experience, grab on with both hands."
Poor classroom management: Observe several classes. Although teaching styles may vary for different instructors and by subject matter, the presentation should be clear, interesting, and well organized. Adequate time should be allowed for student participation, hands-on training, and asking questions. In addition, instructors should make themselves available after class to discuss problems and answer questions.
Inadequate facilities: Since most courses are over five days long, creature comforts are not just luxuries. "Make sure the environment is comfortable for you and your learning style," Cheeseman said. "A large class isn't a problem, but you need your own physical space, good lighting, and breaks scheduled every 2 hours or so."
Outdated equipment: "Make sure the equipment meets the minimum configuration specified in the instructor manuals," said Ann Beheler, the former director of certifications for Novell, who currently is the director of product line management for Raytheon Professional Services, a training and consulting firm (http://www.rps.com/). "As centers add new technology, they might not do as well with it. If the equipment is below standard or at absolute minimum, you will want to shop around."
About the author: Linda Christie is a freelance writer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.