Technical Training For Teams

This post looks at the various options that are available today to keep yourself and your team updated on the latest technologies. I touch upon 4 options available today and why I feel that Online Courses are best placed today.

Ask any author about one of the biggest frustrations of writing a technical book and chances are that they will mention that by the time they finish writing the book, a new release of the software is available. There are other reasons why technical books while they will continue to have some market will not be able to keep up with the current movement towards online content.

So this blog post is tackling two things : what is a cost effective and effective way to keep yourself and your teams updated with latest frameworks. It even applies to ramping up a team for a new project and also inducing new team members into a particular project.

At a high level, I would like to believe that we have 4 choices available. All of them are useful and relevant in a certain context and I will discuss that.

  • www
  • Paper and/or Digital books
  • External Training via A Human Expert
  • Online Training Courses

World Wide Web

wwwWWW is what I am referring to as the Internet and at the end of the day it is an excellent resource to do your research. While there are gems all over it, you will not be able to go about in a structured fashion. One link will lead to another and it would be tough to get material that will be focused and teaches you a topic within a few hours of your time. To me the Internet is a great way to search for specific problems that I might be facing but not more unless I have the luxury of spending hours trying to gather some links. Remember that time is money and when it comes to building out a structured approach to make teams of people learn about a technology, you can’t just tell people to go to the Internet and search for tutorials.

Paper / Digital Books

paperThese have been a favorite over the years and will continue to be so for some time to come. Nothing like sitting with a definitive reference on the topic written by a subject matter expert. Physical books have evolved with time into Digital form and with mobile technology it has made it easier to carry them around. Mobile Applications have reached the sophistication that they don’t just allow you to flip the pages but also annotate sections of the book, share notes, look up additional reference content and other nifty techniques that humans have developed to take maximum advantage of a physical book.

Those of us who have grown up with physical books can easily understand why the medium is not effective anymore when it comes to technical content. A few of the reasons are:

  • Books take a long time to write.
  • The content is likely to get outdated in many areas at the time of release of the book itself because of the sheer pace at which things are evolving.
  • Books are not cheap. I fully support the fact that an author needs to be rewarded and having written several books myself, I want that to happen but pricing books at like $50 is very steep.
  • Audio and Video are two mediums that have seen a huge acceptance as more effective mediums to communicate. Physical and Digital eBooks lack that and in my opinion that is going to be their weakest link.

External Training via A Human Expert

techtrainingThis is the preferred way in most organizations and has tremendous value. It is best suited in niche areas where you will be quickly looking to ramp up your team on a certain technology. Having done training over the last few years,  I can see the immediate impact on the participants at the end of the course.

However for most organizations this model is not scalable from various angles. There are several limiting factors. Good trainers are hard to come by. They are expensive too. Not always available when you need them, especially over a short notice. Scores of organizations claim that they hold regular external trainings but in my opinion, they are not effective.because the quality of trainers is at times not up to the mark and it is not clear how to effectively assess that the participants understood things and tried out the exercises.or not.

Some organizations in search of a solution, ask some of their employees to teach internally, create material and so on. Except for a few stray cases, these programs usually fizzle out because organizations seldom realize that training is a part of the culture, should be a well thought of process, planned in advance and should not be a task assigned to individuals. Last but not the least, only people who have love and flair for teaching can succeed.

Online Training

Unless your head has been buried in your books ( which is a good thing by the way) , you would have noticed the proliferation of online sites that help you learn technical stuff and so on. The movement has taken such a life of its own, that it also has its own Acronym, Massive Online Universities.  However for this post, we shall focus on the sites that allow us to learn about technical topics.

pstam_code_school_video_1100

Several of them have come up and some of the key ones are given below. Even if you have other preferences for online course sites, that is fine. We are talking about all of them.

I am sure that there are more but these are ones that I have found useful. They are best suited currently to various Web Technologies that you want to learn but you do find courses across a breadth of technical topics. Look at some of the advantages that they offer:

  • Wide variety of topics available
  • Study on the move
  • Place and time of your choice
  • Cost-effective
  • Always Available
  • Standardize on Content and don’t depend on Trainer and his knowledge.
  • Validate if participants took the course and completed the assignments.
  • Material if updated is available immediately.

Pricing is much more convenient than other mechanisms and ranges from $15-$25 per month. Yearly and team discounts are available.

Are any of the above ground breaking changes? Not really, it is simply bringing the power of the cloud to remove inefficiencies and be in-sync with changing nature of our lives.

itunes_overview

I believe at this point in time, if you are able to find a course and its content online, you will be best served by an online course. For organizations, if they are able to identify particular courses that they can standardize, it is great way for them to encourage learning and ensure that everyone is at a certain level. They will also be able to do it a fraction of a cost. And they should augment that with external training via an expert to get the best of both worlds.

My recommendation would be to find out an online course and augment that with external training as needed.

There are challenges to online training also. If you expect people to access material from anywhere and anytime, then we are talking about multiple devices and high speed internet. This is more easily said than done, especially in countries where high speed internet and tablet devices are considered to be a luxury. But fast forward a few years and there is no doubt in my mind that this will be common place, affordable and like other things in life, we will remark as to how we even got this far without these facilities.

And finally I would like to add a small but very important part of trying to ensure that your training strategy works out for you. Training can only be a catalyst or a way to propel someone towards a path. An old saying says that “you can lead a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink”. At the end of the day, the winners will be those who will use the launchpad of training to go into the depths of the areas that interest them. In other words, the success is as much dependent on the participants as the content and trainers.

I would love to hear your comments in the blog. Do share what has worked for you and what has not.

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