How to Make the Most of Online Training and CPD

Have you ever sat through online training at work – probably the one for health and safety – and thought “I’m not taking this in, at all”?

What about attending a lecture for CPD and, after an hour or so, you realise you’ve been bored into daydreaming?

Or your manager has pointed you to a confusing website and said “There, you can read about it yourself”?

In this article, you’ll find out:

  • Why a lot of in-work training sucks
  • What you can do about that as an employee (or manager)
  • How to make the most of online training and CPD
  • The most important things to consider when starting CPD or in-work training
  • How to get a first look at my new online training courses



Nearly 60% of employees say professional development contributes to their job satisfaction (source: CompTia).

66% of young workers paying off student loans would go for a job with strong potential for professional development over regular raises (source: EdAssist).

Yet nearly 7 in 10 people say their manager isn’t involved in their career development (source: Right Management).

And fewer than half of employees are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities available to them (source: APA).

Oh, and companies that spend more on employee training gain greater profits (source: HBR).
That’s why it’s important. Read on for ways you can make the most of online training and CPD by really understanding how you learn.
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There’s lots to read in this article, so click to skip if you want:

  1. In-work training sucks
  2. The way to make CPD and in-work training not suck
  3. The Four Types of Format
  4. The Two Types of Information Processing
  5. Which type are you?
  6. The benefits of understanding how you process information
  7. How to make the most of any learning format, whatever your type
  8. Introducing CPD that doesn’t suck with my new online courses
  9. Sign up for a first look at my online courses (+ freebie)


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Education at work has got a seriously bad reputation. Not surprising, really, bearing in mind some of the torturous PowerPoints, terrible animations and dry PDFs that are presented to teams in the name of continuing personal development.

Different people learn in different ways, and it’s tough for a business to manage the expectations of different learners with the constraints from the finance department. In-person training can be incredibly expensive and time-consuming, and if it’s not really clear why people are there and what they’re going to get out of it, everyone can feel like their day has been wasted.

I’m an educator, so of course I’m going to say that this is a really bad attitude to have about in-work training. Call it CPD, lifelong learning, whatever you want; being open to learning new things helps you develop as a person, and not just a professional person, so you can live and work in more interesting and fulfilling ways.

But I’m not surprised people think of CPD as this awful thing they have to do, rather than want to do, with what people are currently offered: super-fast training in a high-pressure environment, often in a format that folks can’t or don’t know how to process.

There is a way to make in-work training not suck, and it can be done by learners and trainers. You need to consider the format, but most importantly you need to consider how you process information.



There’s two big parts to training that need to be considered when you’re choosing a CPD course or even developing your own in-work training. Those parts are:

  1. The format you prefer information to be in
  2. How you process information

A lot of course providers get very caught up in the format of information without thinking about how people process information.

Understanding how people process information is essential to making sure any professional development actually works. Because you could have the most beautiful video, the most interesting personalised training, the most exciting podcast, yet if you haven’t considered how people are going to absorb the details then no-one will learn anything.

People doing it right
A while back I had the pleasure of working with Virtual College, a pioneering digital learning company who make really good online training.

When they began in the 90s, they saw the potential in learning online when everyone else was using paper or in-person training. It meant that they could reach more people and still have interaction between learners and trainers.

Virtual College have a whole team of content designers and education specialists who take all the information someone needs to learn and turn it into chunks of easily-absorbed, sensibly-structured content. They consider how people process information before they start to think about the format – the animations, the interaction levels, the sounds and words – and their courses are incredibly successful.

[Tweet “CPD is only successful if you really know how you process information.”]



Let’s talk about the format you prefer information to be in first. There are four types of format preference which partly correspond to different senses. See which category you fit into – most people are a blend of several different ones.

Visual learners prefer information to be presented in images, photos, charts, graphs and video.

Aural/oral learners prefer information that they can hear or talk about, so they respond well to radio shows, podcasts, discussion groups and presentations.

Written learners prefer information that’s communicated through the written word, like textbooks, articles and written assignments.

Kinaesthetic learners prefer information to be presented in a way they can touch and interact with, like practical workshops, hands-on activities, and testing or trialling things.

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Knowing these categories changes how you see education. Different teachers and institutions will teach with a bias towards certain types of format.

For example, primary schools tend to focus on kinaesthetic learning while secondary schools prioritise written and aural/oral learners.

You might think that this is natural; “Of course primary school kids have hands-on activities, all they’re doing is playing”. But the information you’re communicating and format you use to do so are different things. Medium and message are different.

Young children could just as easily be taught things by rote (a strict aural/oral practice) as by kinaesthetic methods, and historically that’s what we used to do. Some information does seem a more ‘natural’ fit for certain formats, but a good tutor is able to manipulate medium and message interdependently.

Lots of in-work learning leans towards visual and written formats, because people see the interaction needed for aural/oral and kinaesthetic learning as expensive. Institutions also get very excited about shiny ‘new’ formats like video or online training or whatever, so they put money into it without necessarily clocking that certain types of learner are missing out.



Really, a lot of thought and money goes into the wrong thing when it comes to in-work training.

Format is important, because at first glance learners will be put off by a format they don’t feel that comfortable with. That’s one of the reasons I struggle with the incredible but visual-leaning courses on FutureLearn.

But format is less important than the second factor: how you process information.



The format of any learning has an impact on how you ‘process’ it in the most physical sense. If you have book you’re processing with your eyes, if you have a podcast you’re processing with your ears, and so on.

Yet to really process something, in the therapeutic sense of “dealing with all this stuff I’ve been given”, it’s our brain not our outer organs which really has to work hard.

From experience, I see two broad categories of the ways in which we process information:

  1. People who marinate
  2. People who mix

This analogy was the easiest way to explain it (and I love cooking).

People who marinate take on information, let in sink in and mull it over. They create a delicious sauce and then bung it in the fridge overnight. They internalise the learning process.

People who mix take on information, throw it out and move it around. They create an equally delicious sauce and cook it up with loads of other stuff straight away. They externalise the learning process.



You might be a ‘marinate’ person if:

  • You often pause when reading complex articles to consider the ideas
  • You need to watch an educational video two or three times to get a handle on the content
  • You have always liked learning methods which involve mnemonics and other memory tools

You might be a ‘mix’ person if:

  • You often write notes and tangential thoughts when reading complex articles
  • You need to discuss an educational video with someone to get a handle on the content
  • You have always liked learning methods which involve quizzes and other back-and-forth exercises

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It’s very likely that you identified with both of those types to some degree. That’s because people are not a ‘marinate’ or ‘mix’ person all the time. Depending on their preferred format of information, and the subject, they might switch into ‘marinate’ or ‘mix’ mode.

When I was thinking about this article, I looked at my own habits. I tend to process most formats by ‘marinating’ and letting it sink in. But with visual material I often need to discuss and explore it – ‘mix’ it – with someone else. I’m also a ‘mixer’ when it comes to aural/oral learning; I love throwing ideas around with other people and learning through talking.

There’s no right or wrong way to process information; it just depends on who you are and the material you’re working with.



Knowing whether you ‘marinate’ or ‘mix’ is very helpful when it comes to choosing the type of in-work training or CPD courses you do.

People who ‘marinate’ might find self-paced courses better, because you’ll be in control of when you absorb the information. People who ‘mix’ might prefer a structured course where you take part at certain times, because you’ll get to interact immediately with the material.

For managers and tutors, knowing whether your learners ‘marinate’ or ‘mix’ is essential to developing a nurturing relationship.

If you don’t know that all your learners are quietly ‘marinating’ what you’re teaching them, you might get frustrated that they’re not asking questions or joining in. If you don’t realise your learners need to ‘mix’ to process information, you might get irritated that they’re interrupting you.



Understanding how you process information also means you can tackle different formats of learning material much more effectively.

In my own habits, knowing how I process different formats has been really helpful:

  • I need to externalise my learning (‘mix’ it) when it comes to visuals, so I make sure someone is available to answer the questions I know I’ll have
  • I set myself extra time to process written information, as I need time for it to ‘marinate’
  • With kinaesthetic learning, I’ll watch an activity from start to finish a couple of times before embarking on it myself

Being able to tackle different formats of information and learn from them has two key benefits.

You’ve got more options
To start, it’s less likely you’ll be put off by a particular format of in-work training or CPD because you’ll know how to deal with it effectively. That means more learning options are open to you, giving you even more chances to help you fulfil your potential.

You’ll shed that fixed mindset
Second, you’re also much less likely to continue with a fixed mindset; you’re much less likely to say “Oh, I don’t like reading long textbooks” or “I don’t get infographics”. Although some formats might still be tricky (like me and video), you’ll be willing to try them out, which is one of the key elements of a positive, career-changing growth mindset.



How are you meant to take your knowledge about the way you process information – as a ‘marinate’ or ‘mix’ person – and use it to get the most out of our four learning format types – visual, aural/oral, written and kinaesthetic?

Good question. Experience is key, but there are techniques to get you started.

Below is a list of ways ‘marinate’ and ‘mix’ people can make the most of any learning format. I’ve gathered these from my own behaviour, from observing other people and from working with groups of students and young professionals.

These techniques can help you approach any format of learning material confidently, whether that’s infographics, podcasts, video or workshops.



If you like to marinate:

Give yourself three times as much time as normal to really get to grips with visual material, especially multi-sensory video.

Record discussion groups to listen back to later, or ask for written summaries alongside audio material.

Get yourself some page flags and sticky notes for written material and use them to colour code ‘themes’; the visual reminder will help it settle more effectively in your memory.

For written tests or assignments, read the whole paper/quiz from start to finish first, then start answering.

Watch kinaesthetic learning closely, perhaps two or three times, before you try it yourself.



If you like to mix:

Use an audio recorder to ask questions about visual material, especially video, as you take it in. Later, play the recording back and answer your own questions verbally.

Note down off-topic questions during aural/oral material so you can bring the discussion back to them at an appropriate point (interrupting can distract your train of thought).

Reading groups and study groups will help you with written material; try joining relevant forums or groups online to ask questions if you’re an independent learner.

For written tests or assignments, structure your answers carefully to avoid going off-topic.

Pause before starting kinaesthetic learning, then do one step at a time, referring to the material before completing each step.



A lot of people get that different learners prefer different formats. But not everyone gets that processing information is just as individual.

Our educational systems tend to prioritise different formats and ways of processing over others, whether that’s play in primary school or video training at work.

That’s why one of the biggest issues we have at university is students dealing with self-guided, ‘mix’ learning where we expect them to contribute to discussions and participate in peer-to-peer teaching. Secondary school and college doesn’t necessarily train them in that; ‘marinating’ is much more acceptable as it’s quieter, more independent and less exhausting for the tutor.

But there is no right or wrong way of learning, or of processing information.

There is just your way.

It’s the role of tutors, managers and trainers to give options for learners, and the role of learners to understand themselves and make appropriate choices. Knowing what format you like your material to be in, and most importantly the way in which you process information, can help you do that.

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In my work as an educator I’m constantly looking at new ways to train people in creative, meaningful and sustainable ways.

For the future of my business, I’m developing a range of online and in-person training for anyone who wants to learn how to write well for their work and business.

You could be a blogger, a new start-up owner or a junior copywriter; anyone who wants to learn to write well is welcome and will benefit from the courses.



I’ve built the subjects of the courses around the essential components of writing for business, whether that’s developing a strong editing technique or focusing on proposals and sales introductions.

Some of the training courses I’m developing are:

  • How to Come Up with Great Ideas
  • How to Research Ideas and Make Them Credible
  • How to Write and Edit Without Stress
  • How to Write a Winning Proposal

You’ll know by now I believe in the individuality of each learner, so I’m creating my courses around small groups where everyone gets personal attention and materials which make sense for their business or project.

I’m also working out ways in which learners who prefer different formats and ways of processing information can benefit.



Sounds interesting, right? You can sign up to be the first to know about the courses here.



To make sure these courses are as creative, meaningful and sustainable as possible, I’m going to need some help.

Beta Testers
I’ll need course testers who will be able to access ‘beta’ course material for free – then point out all the flaws so I can improve it.

Team Canary
I’ll need my first cohort of learners who will get discounts on their chosen course, to show the rest of the world how safe (and successful) the courses are.

The Inventors
And I’ll need people who are really interested in learning how to write well to tell me what other elements and courses I can create to help you fulfil your potential.

You can be the first to know about the new online courses, sign up as a Beta, Canary or Inventor, and get exclusive discounts by filling in the form below.

Sign up here, and you’ll also get a unique guide on developing a growth mindset to say thank you.



My article on the one thing preventing creatives from fulfilling their potential struck a chord with people in my network.

The difference between a growth mindset, where we believe we can change, and a fixed mindset, where we think we’re stuck ‘like this’, is fundamental to our ability to fulfil our potential personally and professionally.

In that article I offered readers a free guide to help their team or students develop a growth mindset, which is great for managers and tutors. But I didn’t realise how many people want to develop a growth mindset in themselves.



Sign up to be the first to hear about my online courses, and to say thank you you’ll get a new and improved guide on growth mindset that’s specifically for individuals. It takes three core techniques and explains how to use them to improve your creative career, both independently and as part of a team.

Sign up below to:

  • Be the first to know about my new online courses in writing well
  • Become a Beta, Canary or Inventor and get course discounts
  • Get a 12-page guide to developing your growth mindset
  • Help me fulfil my potential through educating other people


Thanks for reading.

P.S. If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, I’ll be sending you details of the online courses when they’re ready. But you won’t get the personal growth mindset guide or the opportunity to access course content for free or a discount, so it might be worth signing up for training news here.


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