If you come on a Well House Consultants Python course
, you'll be taught by the guy who actually wrote the course, and who wrote and developed the Python course material. The same comments apply for a Perl
or a PHP
or a Linux
or a MySQL
or a Tcl
But developing a course and material is an expensive business. It's said to take 10 days to develop material for one day of training. So is our current policy the correct one for us, or should we consider buying in course materials? An email and a telephone call the other day from IT Courseware
on one hand showed me some excellent alternative material, but on the other hand lead me to review, and confirm that we can still offer a very much better product using our own materials and knowledge.
What do we gain from writing our own material?
The ability to cover subjects that our particular customer base wants to be covered in the way that they want it covered.
The ability to use our style on the notes. For example, most training course notes are pages of "bullet" points whereas ours are much more of a "learning to program in Python" manual that will be useful later too.
The ability to "localise" our training - provide a Python course that's exactly what people want in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England.
The ability to update the notes rapidly (overnight if necessary!) to reflect new sofware releases, new technology uses and security issues amongst other things.
The ability to provide a tailored course to meet an individual clients's needs.
The look and feel that we choose is consistent throughout all of our courses, and is suitable for Open Source Programming topics.
We can format our material into A4 binders rather than using the nearest American size too ;-)
Staff Skill and development
Our staff know the subjects we teach anyway, but actually writing the material quickly resolves any obscure areas that they're not sure of before they every present a course, and it clarifies in their mind exactly how a subject can be presented to learners. Better to get this worked out before the students arrive rather than in front of them, at their expense.
The ability to accept bookings and tailoring up until the "last minute". It's not common, but we have accepted bookings after normal close of business one day for a course that starts on the next working day.
What would we gain by buying in material?
Cost and easier systems
I'm going to dispute cost! I think that buying in material would only be a cost saving for the first two or three courses given on a subject - the ongoing license fees for notes would then increase our costs. We're a bit of an "oddball" on this - we write efficiently and do so very much in unpaid overtime - as a hobby, you might say - so that the metrics for Well House Consultants are different to the metrics for other training outfits.
It would certainly be easier to order up (say) half a dozen sets of Perl notes a week ahead of a course that to have to print and bind them ourselves ... ensuring paper and toner stocks, backup systems in case of hardware failure, binder, etc ...
We could choose to advertise and present a course on a subject that we didn't really know, or on a subject that we couldn't be bothered to write about. We wouldn't do this, though!
So why might others be tempted to buy in material when we don't
Because they don't have skilled technical authors
Because they don't know the subject well enough to actually write the course
Because they don't have graphic artists available to make a good presentation
Because it's much easier (admin wise) to buy in the materials
Because they don't have the printing / binding resources
and the costs would be lower for them if they lacked enthusiastic efficient writers or if they were only going to be using the material once or twice.
Further information on our courseware
Download centre, including training note samples
Free coursenotes on Java (written 2005-07-30, updated 2006-06-05)
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A year on - should we offer certified PHP courses - (2005-07-28) 
Theft of training material - (2005-08-09) 
Writing up new C / C++ notes. - (2006-07-09) 
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Notes from the white board - (2006-12-14) 
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How long should a training module be? - (2009-01-27) 
Copy writing - allowing for the cut - (2009-05-21) 
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