A Course is for the delegates .... but it's really nice if the tutor gets a little out of it too. And usually I do!
I run private courses at Company's offices on a regular basis - about 30% of my teaching time is on the road. I always ask my delegates to complete course evaluation forms as they provide such valuable feedback to us, but it's unusual for me to be asked (in turn) to evaluate the facilities and delegate group provided to me. That's understandable, since in many cases I'm providing a "one-off" training course for smaller companies / groups who don't have the size and infrastructure to undertake the "reverse" evaluation, nor to make practical use of the feedback it provides to them.
However, on my return from Germany a "Course Review" has popped up in my mail box. And I am delighted to provide feedback. Here - but revised / expanded / anonymised to be in the context of a published diary piece - is the gist of my comments.
Comments about the students:
As I was just running a single course on Perl, in was natural for the delegates to come from a very wide background - ranging from very little prior programming experience through to having written a considerable amount of Perl code before. This is not unusual for a single company private course, and everyone does get a lot from the course - but some delegates may report "slow at first" and others that they struggled with the latter subjects. However, the group interacted / helped each other well and the course provided a great deal for all of them.
Commercially, it probably made sense with a group of this size, all looking at similar projects and with just a handful of delegates at a more advanced level, to run a single course rather than spend a lot more money on splitting the course in two and extending the training program.
With 21 people in the rooms, with 21 laptops and a projector, it got very hot indeed and that made it difficult to concentrate at times. I do not live in [place], and I understand that the weather was hotter than it has been all year. Open windows only helped a little, and had to be closed because of noise elements while grass was being cut outside.
Once again, our training courses tend to be a non-routine use of the customer's facilities, and there will be a degree of compromise. With the one exception of the heat, (and that could not have been forecast at the time of booking!) the setup was excellent. All delegates had a clear view to the projector, and had good table space available to them for their laptops and books.
How can we improve the program to make it more valuable to you as an instructor?
The purpose of the course - surely - is to make in valuable for the delegates not the instructor. However - I thank you for the question and the thought. The delegates group was friendly, interesting and helpful and happy to talk about the sort of use they were going to be making of Perl, and that helped to make my role much more enjoyable and allowed me to tailor the presentation to suit their needs.
In hindsight (had I been aware ahead of time that many of the delegates were not based in the office where I was training, but rather were staying in a local hotel), I would have looked to co-ordinate to stay in the same hotel. In part, that's a selfish thing as walking out in the evening / wondering whether to sit at pavement cafes alone is less than fun to me and I would have welcomed the chance for inclusion. I also noted one of two very earnest members of the class who I'm sure I would have enjoyed talking "Geek" with in the evenings to our mutual advantage.
How can we improve the program to make it more valuable to the students?
As a single course, with 20 delegates, this was at the upper limit of the number of delegates for a single tutor to look after during practical sessions. However, the delegates interacted well with one another and it worked well. For an even larger group, I would suggest that it be split into two, possibly different courses with different prerequisites and perhaps with one of the courses covering some more advanced tutorial material, but covering the basics somewhat faster.
What (if any) organizational issues did you observe during this program?
It's interesting to note that I had no more than a street address for the office where I was training, and researched it (and how to get there from my hotel) myself (illustration shows the U-Bahn which I enjoyed using each day). Having said that, I didn't ask for any instructions, and I enjoyed the planning myself; I am certain that advise - if sought - would have been forthcoming.
The course was very well organized. Please pass on my thanks to the organizers in [place].
(written 2010-06-14, updated 2010-06-18)
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