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Distance Learning

From time to time, I'm asked about providing "distance learning" for Perl, PHP, Ruby, Python ... and it's an excellent question. It's something we're considered, reviewed, and no doubt will review again in the future ... but here's my views and our decision on the subject at present:

We don't offer distance learning in any of the subjects that we teach. We present our courses in the same room as our trainees. We are then being around to assist them during practicals and the whole group talks about the issues involved.

Our "conventional" training techniques lead to an excellent success rate amongst our students which it would be very hard, in my opinion, to achieve through any form of distance learning program. For a small minority of well motivated trainees, and for certain subjects, I know that such a scheme can work well - but it tends not to for the majority of trainees. Why?

a) Although our trainees are well motivated, they come from a diverse background so that it's very hard to make any assumptions at all about the starting point for a course. A good tutor, in the same room as a small group of students, can identify a "glazed look" very quickly and can fill in gaps in the background of individuals which would otherwise leave them severely disadvantaged for the rest of the course. [Link - example of facilities offered on a course]

b) With programming especially, the subjects taught on a course each form the building blocks for subsequent subjects, so it's essential that each subject is understood. We don't have the luxury of being able to say "oh - never mind - look at some other material later" or "you have reached the end of the material on this subject" as can happen with less personal groups and distance learning.

c) If you're programming (or learning to program), you need to be able to concentrate, and to be using a workstation that's loaded with software in a standard way known to the tutor. We can control the environment that we use for our public and private courses, but we have no such control over distance learning facilities where there may be constant interruptions, noise, and software that's not fully or properly installed or is an outdated version. Being away from / out of your office is a huge help.

d) As well as learning from the tutor, we find that our trainees also learn from interaction with fellow students which is not possible under most distance learning schemes. Even on a "conference call" setup, you don't SEE everyone.

e) We encourage trainees to bring along their own data / discuss their own requirements / write sample programs - exercises - that fit their own needs and this pro-active input from the students is (I think) difficult to achieve using a distance learning scheme.

I am aware that a distance learning program can be lower cost per student starting the program, and it can save on travel expenses too. Such savings are nullified if the trainee gets very little from the program, or drops out, and I believe that - at present - a classroom / conference room type environment offers the best training, and also the most cost effective. That's why we provide such a service, and concentrate all our resources on doing so to a high quality.

Footnote

About five years ago, it was forecast that the conventional training market would be decimated by distance learning - but that simply hasn't happened. If cheap computer based training (CBT) really worked, then all the big employers would long ago have switched to it. I think they've come to the same conclusion that we have. If you're interested in a little further reading, we have an exchange on this in our forum archives


(written 2004-10-31, updated 2008-05-11)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Y105 - Python - Functions, Modules and Packages
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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