Stereotypically, when considering how an individual can engage with CPD to enhance their knowledge, class room based learning would be what is thought about. However, there are now a number of ways for individuals to now engage with CPD due to the increasing use to technology and innovative ways to learn. There are a number of ways in which everyone can learn and develop their skills, whether this is for personal and professional reasons. This can include coaching, mentoring, workshops, distance learning, guided reading, secondments, on the job training and much more. However, there is always going to be advantages and limitations of all learning methods depending on factors such as the individual learning styles and levels of motivation, what is being learnt and how accurate the information being transferred is. The two learning methods that will be analysed is mentoring and distance learning. According to Manchester Metropolitan University (2019) mentoring encompasses the concept of an individual with specific knowledge helping people to develop their own skills. It is a relationship with the goal of building confidence and provide the opportunity to control their work place development. Manchester Metropolitan University (2019) further specified that mentoring is importantly different to training, teaching and coaching and the mentor does not have to have any specific qualification related to teaching or one that clarifies that they are a professional within their field.
There are many advantages to using mentoring within the workplace to aid an employee’s learning. A mentor needs to have the ability to listen to their protégée and ask relevant open ended questions to ensure that learning is taking place with a clear direction. One of the significant advantages of mentoring is that the person can learn while they are on the job. They do not need to necessarily engage with external training which can cost precious time and money and potentially may not be as relevant to the organisation as on the job training. According to Gaille (2016) mentoring in the workplace is extremely useful as it encourages consistency. Gaille (2016) clarified that a successful workplace requires to be consistent in order for the productivity to be predictable and manageable. This is particularly relevant when a new employee is integrated which can potentially be a cause of disruption as it can take a long time to have their skill level up to the necessary standard required for consistency. Therefore, in this respect, mentoring a new employee when used effectively can significantly shorted this time as the employee gains knowledge and experience to carry out their jobs as expected by following their mentors lead. Furthermore, Gaille (2016) suggested that companies have their own methods and jargon which may not make sense to new employees. A mentor who has been integrated into this system for a substantial time can work with the employee to explain the language that is being used so communication is not affected. Being a new employee can be a scary time, especially if they are not understanding the language and phrased being used. Therefore, the mentor can not only increase their efficiency they can also help improve their confidence and well-being. However, a mentor must be wary that they are mentoring in such a way that that they become dependent on their mentor. This in itself could cause problems further down the line as the protégée may well lose their ability to work independently and find it hard to function without the support and advice from their mentor. This could cause an increased strain on the mentor with the added pressure and also negatively affect company productivity with certain employee’s dependant on others.
A large part of mentoring is the ability to create a mutually beneficial relationship and mentoring can provide a very successful support network when used effectively, therefore the mentor’s ability to create strong relationships is crucial to this process. Reddy (2016) illustrated that it is vital for a mentor and their mentee can develop a mutual trusting relationship and must crease mutual goals which they both want to achieve during the mentoring period. In this respect, if they are not actually in sync with what they want to get out of this process, the whole point of this process must be questioned. Therefore, there are pros and cons to using mentoring as a way to develop within the workplace. If a mentor is able to develop a relationship where both parties feel appreciated and respected and able to both agree on goals this can be extremely useful to learning. The mentor can significantly help the mentor in their early stages and make their time within this programme an enjoyable, engaging and satisfying process. However, this is assuming that the chosen mentor actually wants to be the mentor and will do their best during the process. It has also got to be considered that if a mentor is forced into the position they may well make the employee feel under pressure, feel they are a nuisance, not want to ask questions or feel like they are a burden and generally feel very negative and upset about the experience. This is a very negative side to this method of learning and ideally the mentor would be changed where possible, but in a smaller organisation, this may not always be possible. Reddy (2016) reinforced this danger in using mentoring as a learning method as there is a lot of potential for frustration to be developed from either party. For example, a mentor who is lacking in patients may get frustrated with the mentee if they are a slower learner. On the other hand, a mentee who is keen to learn quickly and get involved within the company, but may have a disinterested or preoccupied mentor may also hinder development as the mentee may feel they are being held back by their mentor. Both of these situations would not create an effective relationship and the mentorship may be not actually be effective and conducive to learning. Furthermore, the learning experience is only as good as the mentor providing the experience. If the mentor is motivated, knowledgeable and patient, the mentee will probably have a very positive experience and gain a lot of knowledge and confidence through this process. However, there is always going to be a danger that a mentor may not actually have up to date and accurate knowledge and this would be passed onto the employee who may also then develop incorrect and out of date methods. However, unarguable, if a mentoring programme is implemented correctly, it is a very positive learning method, but it does rely on having a competent mentor.
The second method of learning that will be analysed in Guided Learning. Guided learning generally refers to a learning programme where you do not have to actually attend the learning centre but you can study from home, usually through internet direction and activities. There are many advantages to this style of learning, for example, The Cambridge University Press (2020) gave the example that to study a MBA full time for one year using face to face methods can cost £30,000. However, studying via distance learning methods over three years can cost £16,795. This is a significant benefit to distance learning as it allows learning to be less ‘elitist’, making it more possible for people who want to learn to be more able to afford the tuition fees. The cost of the face to face methods may significantly decrease the number of those able to afford to learn in this manner.
The Scholarship Position Team (2014) suggested that distance education has many benefits that will help the wellbeing of the learner. This includes energy levels and time being increased and maintain significantly through distance learning. The learner will not have to worry about commuting to the centre, the worry of being punctual which can therefore decreasing anxiety and stress. This in itself is a significant benefit if it can actually increase an individual’s wellbeing during their learning and make the whole experience positive rather than unenjoyable. Another over riding positive related to distance learning is the flexibility it provides to the learner. This method allows the student to learn and gain qualifications in order to develop but with the flexibility of balancing a family, their job and generally a busy schedule. Being able to successfully manage many different elements of life alongside studying is a very useful life and professional skill to master which involved time management, internal motivation and the ability to prioritise. Skills that all lend themselves to a successful career. However, although distance learning may work extremely well for certain people, those who are not self-disciplined and driven to complete their studies without someone pushing them to do so, may find this method of learning extremely difficult. In these circumstances, face to face, classroom based study may be the better option if they find it difficult to stay motivated without assistance. In a similar, way certain learners may enjoy and benefit from physical interaction which class room based learning lends itself to, where they can gain social benefits from the tutor and their peers. Therefore, certain students who crave this interaction may experience even less motivation when trying to engage with distance learning as they feel too isolated. Nevertheless, class room based learning can be impossible for certain people and leave people who are willing to learn without an option to develop their skills. For example, certain areas may not cater for certain skill development, whereas distance learning allows anyone in the world to access learning. Therefore making it achievable for all socio economic backgrounds and localities to develop on an equal platform as those who can afford or live locally to an education facility. However, although there are clearly benefits to distance learning, there are just some skills that cannot be acquired by this type of method, for example practical base activities that require physically practising the skills. Furthermore, it is more difficult to practise social interactions via distance learning than it is in class room activities for those careers that rely on good communication skills.
In conclusion, both mentoring and distance learning can be extremely effective as a learning method, however, there is also limitations to their effectiveness. Mentoring is an excellent way to become fully engaged within an organisation and as long as they have a knowledgeable mentor, the learner can gain valuable experience and confidence from this technique. However, this largely depends on the quality of the mentor, a poor mentor can cause more damage by providing the mentee with a negative experience with little productivity. Nevertheless, this is a very good way to learn practical skills and fully understand a company which they are new to. In a similar way, distance learning can be a lot more inclusive and more attainable for those who cannot afford formal education or cannot access the facility. It is also an excellent way for individuals to learn and gain qualifications while they are working and balance a busy lift alongside studying. However, this method will not work for everyone as you do require to be self-motivated and be able to prioritise their life around studying. This will not be achievable for everyone as some people would need a lot of encouragement to achieve their goals through face to face tuition. Furthermore, depending on what is being learnt, this method may not be at all appropriate, for example in an industry where a practical skill is required, such as a nurse being able to take blood tests would not be considered competent by only engaging with distance learning. Therefore, methods of learning are effective but must be appropriate for the person involved and also the activity that is being learnt. If the method is an appropriate match to that person and skill, it can be hugely effective. However, if this is not an appropriate match, learning will be limited.