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Accelerated Learning Takes Off

The trainers and Bell Atlantic found a way to make employees productive in half the time of traditional training methods. In the bargain, they created a learning atmosphere that was fun, efficient, and beneficial to everyone involved.

By Dave Meier and Mary Jane Gill

1 | 2 | 3

Learning accelerators

Collaboration rather than competition is important for accelerated learning. Trainees were encouraged to help each other in any way they could. At various times throughout the course, they formed ad hoc learning groups or reinforced each other's training in pairs. They were responsible not just for their own learning, but for the learning of everyone in the class as well - everyone was a student and a teacher simultaneously.

One important collaborative learning technique is learner articulation. To his or her partner, the learner describes, out loud and in detail, the material he or she just learned. This articulation of newly learned facts, ideas, and procedures (with demonstrations where possible) helps speed the learning and make it stick.

Many other kinds of learning accelerators were built into the course - some subtle, but most quite obvious. Here's a partial list:

Of course, different accelerators work better for different people. The environment has a lot of diversity, and people can pick from a smorgasbord of options and choose learning methods and materials that work best for them.


Training courses that employ the techniques of accelerated learning are now a standard part of Bell Atlantic's training program. Trainees, learning advisors, and supervisors all positively evaluate the results of the new courses.

Trainees give the course excellent evaluations in most cases and often remark how stress-free and enjoyable the learning is. Most find that the learning was easy and fun, and many report a high level of job confidence as a result of the class. The drop-out rate from the course has declined from 20 percent to 5.5 percent; in addition, it seems that people are less likely to drop from the accelerated learning course because of learning difficulties.

The learning advisors like the new courses also. At the start they worried about their loss of control in an environment that stressed learner independence and mutual collaboration. But once they were involved in it, they found that their teaching was easier and more effective than before. And, they say, because they allow themselves to step out of the role of dogmatic instructor, they (like the trainees) go home at night relaxed and energized.

Supervisors give the graduates of the accelerated classes higher grades for job performance, as shown in Figures 1 and 2. Compared to graduates of standard courses, the new graduates, they say, have greater confidence, problem-solving ability, and team spirit. They can work better without supervision, provide customers with more accurate information, and produce better sales results. They also work more speedily with reference materials.

For Bell Atlantic, the payoffs of converting to an accelerated format have been significant. Compared to the results from previous courses:

Employees are productive sooner
Job performance is higher
Training time has been virtually cut in half
The new courses are easier to update

The learning process is less tedious and more humanly enjoyable for students and instructors, improving the work atmosphere.

Bell Atlantic has discovered that accelerated learning technology is a powerful all in meeting today's challenges to do more with less. In an era of limited resources and increasing need, accelerated learning has proven to be an instructional technology whose time has come.

This article originally appeared in the Training & Development Journal, January 1989

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