Saturday, September 30, 2006

Technology Traning

I just attended a special training class, on Java CAPS, set up by Sun which actually collapsed 15 days of training into about 6 days. This special "bootcamp" was meant to get attendees up to speed on the Java CAPS product and involved a fair number of hands on labs. We had so much material to cover that we actually spent most of the time working with the product. While it wasn't perfect, it was a much better learning experience. We skipped the inevitable boring Powerpoint decks and dove right into the technical details and working with the product. I think everyone in the class learned a lot. I guess people have different learning styles but I can't imagine that the typical corporate training modality is better than actual hands on work. It's like learning a foreign language. Is the best way to watch someone stand up in front of a class room and watch them speak the language and show writing examples on a slide projector, or is it better to jump in and try to have a conversation with the class. The former is a one-way information flow and not much signal gets picked up by the receiver. The latter is two-way experience probably fraught with mistakes, mispronunciations but I'll bet that at the end of the day you can say, "Bon giorno!" So what I'm wondering is since most corporate IT training is not like my recent experience, how much time are US IT staff wasting in slow paced, mind numbing, powerpoint-fests? I would say quite a bit. Take this class for example. If I were to take all three classes that would be 15 days of time (not including travel) that I would be out of the field. There is the cost of the plane fare and hotel but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the loss of revenue my company gets from me being out those days. Multiply that by all the companies and training programs out there and pretty soon you're probably talking about a good chunk of domestic GDP. My suggestion to Sun on this training is to keep it compressed. Keep the information flow two-way and alter the basic material in the following manner. Instead of having disjointed labs that expose each feature have a self-contained project that the students can build upon every day and make them actually complete the project, or at least each phase, every day. I think students, and their management, would be getting their money's worth in that type of class setting.

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