Focus, focus, focus

We've been doing technical training a long time, and we've discovered a general rule of thumb: the fifth day of a five-day class is generally worthless. Students are burned out, concentration has waned, and that is coupled with the fact that the last day is usually the most complex topics. All of which, taken together, means that information is just not usefully transmitted on the final day.

The other major issue is the length-of-course to primariness-of-focus ratio. Some technologies are complex enough to warrant long courses on the merits of the technology alone, but are not the main job of anybody on the team. Neal Ford once described these as "condiment technologies". Maybe Ruby, or Java, or C#, or Clojure is your hotdog; these technologies are the mustard. Even if the mustard is really really really good, nobody wants to spend a week eating just that.

We're trying to address this through the introduction of our new one-day training classes. The idea is to harness the power of programmers to focus insanely well for a short period of time. Instead of fighting against ADD all week, let's harness the obsessive power of the programmer's mind and hit one topic, really hard, for one day. We think that the energy expanded will have a higher return for the students, and the information will be retained and used.

Our first offering in this space is our jQuery course. jQuery is a perfect candidate due to its nature:

  • it's a library, not a language. While it has general purpose features, the programmer will be presumed to understand them before attending the class.
  • it has a limited application scope. It is used to build interactive web pages (DOM interaction, Ajax, general JavaScript extenstions)
  • it has some deeply interesting technical aspects. Is it a monad? How does it embody the ideas of functional programming? Is it different from raw JavaScript?

We think training courses like this are going to be more effective for a variety of technologies that programmers are being exposed to these days. Instead of making one massive course that programmers will have a hard time sitting through and concentrating during, pick one interesting topic and hammer it mercilessly for 8 hours. Sound familiar? That's pretty much how we work around here. And it plays into our other belief about technology training: it should be about inspiration and getting launched, not about exhaustive minutia. One day on jQuery is plenty to get productive and be inspired.

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