So, I was thinking about writing some general posts concerning daily life in IT. Not about the technical aspect (you know: this problem, that solution), but more about the other stuff. Things that happen at customers, the way I see IT or at least the way I look at the things I do. And especially, the way I do them.
From now on, these posts will be labeled as [non-technical post].
To kick things off, my first in these series:
Giving SharePoint courses
I've been giving MOSS 2007 administrator courses for over 2,5 years now. This primarily for the education center of RealDolmen. Nowadays I teach the Microsoft Official Courses 5060 and 5061 (WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007). I give those courses to customers at the Realdolmen (open courses) or at the customers offices (private courses).
So for myself, I've created some guidelines how to give a good course to customers. This is actually the first time I'll be writing them down, so maybe I'll forget some, but I'll add them later as I think of them.
- Make them feel comfortable. This can sound lame, but it's very important. Make sure they can easily get drinks when they like to, that they get enough coffee (important for IT people ;-)). But even more important, make sure they always know they can ask questions at any time, about anything and that's it's OK to ask stupid questions. (Yes, stupid questions do exist :-p)
- Be sure that they know what you are doing. In my case: my primary job is not teaching. My primary job is being a System Engineer for Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. I don't just read books about these products. I use them, install them, troubleshoot them, ... daily. I hate just theoretical stuff.
- Give your audience a proper introduction about what they are going to see in this course. You have that timeline "to be followed" in courses, well, I always exceed my time for the introduction. Let people know what they can expect. (NO, I'm not giving asp.net programming ;-))
- Give real-life examples. If you talk about a functionality in MOSS, point out what it's used for in real life. Don't leave it being an abstract term. With real-life examples, people will remember better what it is and what you can do with it. (The best example: Alternate Access Mappings. Nobody understands them immediately. I always point out their necessity when publishing an intranet to the internet through a firewall (like ISA Server)).
- Let people talk about their situation. Most students in my courses are System Administrators at their company. They are not nitwits. Most of them already have a MOSS environment (or planning to have one very soon) and are not only interested in the theoretical course, but more in how they should implement it at their company. Of course, try and give the best answer you can give.
- Be honest. Let's face it (sorry Microsoft), there is no such thing as a perfect product. Although I really like MOSS, not everything works as smoothly as it's sometimes should work. Don't let people believe they have the perfect product that will solve all of their problems.
- Give Best Practices and point them to resources with best practices. It's not only important to teach people how to "technically" use the product, but also how to use it in general. Best Practices on security, on site organisation (like multiple content databases on 1 web application), on backup, ...
- At lunch break, try talking about something different than MOSS. This comes back to point 1. Make them feel comfortable. It's a lunch BREAK. Their heads will be filled up with MOSS enough after some hours of listening to my babbling.
- Give them time to make their exercices properly. The best way to learn MOSS is by using is.
- Try to give them extras that are not in the course. (For example: in the MOC 5061, there isn't much text about backup/restore. I always talk about all the build-in stuff, but also about Third-Party tools that are available)
- Plan your course so you can end early on the last day. Plan that at least the theoretical stuff ends early. That leaves you more room for questions. Questions not just about the last module, but about the entire course. Your students now have seen the big picture, but sometimes have difficulties connecting them all together. At that time, you should help them tying all loose ends to one coherent substance.
Also: If you end with exercises, people have the choice of making their exercises or just going home early. That last option it especially popular on a Friday afternoon.
So, these are kinda my best practices. Until know, I only had positive feedback, so I'll just keep doing what I've been doing the last 2,5 years. Feel free to comment on this list. Maybe I'll do some changes if some things popup in my head.
Keep on producing