The latest training I delivered this week was for a client in the embedded software industry who were changing their version control systems from CVS to Subversion. First, I'll just plug the course content a bit, then say a bit more about how it went.
I've updated my business website with details of the course. For the full curriculum visit the Subversion course page. Broadly speaking, the course covers:
- Subversion's architecture and philosophy
- Clients you can use to interface with the Subversion server (especially command-line, TortoiseSVN or Eclipse integration)
- The basic workflow
- More advanced concepts
- And numerous tips and tricks to make life easier.
In this case, the course was customised to cover certain topics in more detail, in particular the philosophy (because the participants were converting from a version control system with rather a different approach to things) and externals (because the company had another branch in the USA where important software libraries and components were maintained).
The training went well in my opinion. The participants managed to grok the fundamental changes from CVS to Subversion; they all got hands-on experience playing around in sandbox repositories, trying to solve tasks I gave them; and they all seemed very curious, chatty, and generally engaged in the course.
In fact, this last point taught me a little something as a teacher. Most of the teaching and training I've done before has been for large companies and universities, places with teaching facilities like large rooms or auditoriums, where I stand at the front of the room with my pointy stick and the participants sit at individual desks. In such cases, it all feels very much like I'm lecturing to a group of students. This time around however, there was no such venue available and the training was conducted in a meeting room (albeit a typically technical one with a projector and Ethernet cables and so on).
So there the participants were, not all facing me like in a schoolroom, but sat with me around a table, more like a meeting or a seminar. I still presented a series of slides, but the conduct of the lesson was much more relaxed and casual. One effect this had was that people seemed much more willing to ask questions when they didn't understand something. Another (and the really cool one, I think) is that there was a lot more self-teaching going on. When one participant asked a question, another participant sometimes beat me to it and started to answer them (occasionally with one eye on me, as if to ask silently "Am I getting this right?") Thus, my role there was not so much to lecture them as it was to help them teach themselves -- which, by the way, has always struck me as the most effective way to learn a topic.
I think this looser and slightly chaotic approach worked really well. Until now, I wasn't so insisting on where a training took place. From now on, I think I'll consider a round-table approach to teaching much more carefully, even when an organisation is lucky enough to have grand lecturing facilities.