Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Accelerated Learning Takes Off

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Accelerated Learning Takes Off

Article excerpt

Accelerated Learning Takes Off

The basic challenge for many corporate training departments is to produce well-trained, productive employees and reduce the amount of time it takes to train them. The trainers at Bell Atlantic's C&P Telephone Company, which serves Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC, found an answer to that challenge in the principles and techniques of accelerated learning. In the bargain, they created a learning atmosphere that was fun, efficient, and beneficial to everyone involved.

After testing the water with a pilot program, the company allowed the training department to convert two of its customer-service-representative Training courses--courses that produce the company's bread and butter--to the accelerated-learning format. As a result, the costs of one course were reduced by 42 percent and the other by 57 percent. In addition, the satisfaction of students and trainers greatly improved, as did their job performance. Those facts were reflected in the supervisors' overwhelmingly positive evaluations of the new graduates (Figures 1 and 2).

This article provides a brief report of what Bell Atlantic did and what results it achieved.

Basic principles and


The purpose of accelerated learning is to provide effective training in a short time. The methods are interactive and treat learning as a collaborative effort of equals, rather than a hierarchical relationship between teacher and pupil. The principles for the learning environment are that it

* be positive and accepting;

* provide a natural, comfortable, and colorful setting;

* exalt rather than trivialize the trainees;

* help people eliminate or reduce any fears, stresses, or learning barriers;

* be supportive of both trainer and trainee;

* provide a multidimensional approach to learning;

* accommodate different learning styles, speeds, and needs (rather than force people, assembly-line fashion, through a uniform process at a uniform speed);

* make learning fun rather than serious and overbearing;

* provide for group-based learning;

* present material pictorially as well as verbally.

The first steps

From the outset, accelerated-learning methods seemed intuitively sound, but the company wanted to make sure that the methods would work effectively when applied to critical customer-service-representative training courses, and that the costly conversions of those courses would be worth the money.

The company started out by providing the training manager with a week of training in accelerated learning. A few key trainers in the organization also received training, and short in-house seminars gave the other company trainers a foundation in accelerated-learning concepts and techniques.

The company had the training department test the techniques on a 12-day technical course, a course that was historically unsuccessful and that most people found complex, confusing, and tedious. The course was redone completely in an accelerated-learning format and delivered to new trainees. The results were overwhelming: training time was cut by more than half, trainers and trainees were happier, and trainers found that trainees learned more than from the 12-day course. That was all the proof the company and the training department needed, and they were ready to work on some of the company's larger, longer, and more costly courses.

Taking on the big courses

They selected two customer-service-representative training courses for conversion to the accelerated-learning format: a six-week one in private-residence order taking and a four-week one in private-residence billing. The courses were long and costly, but absolutely essential to the company's business. A large number of employees relied on them for initial training. …

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