Teach Your Class to Fish, and They'll Have Food for a Lifetime

Location: D138
Average rating: ****.
(4.29, 7 ratings)

You have so much you want to teach, how do you structure it so that your training course is both interesting and challenging? How much theory can you squeeze into an hour before your attendees have forgotten where you started? How do you structure your course to account for classes which move slower or faster than average?

Whether you are designing a class to be presented in person, a tutorial to be worked through on-line, a practical book on how to do something, or even if you’re writing extensive user documentation; correct structure makes a huge difference to how memorable the information is.

Burn-out and full brains are a major problem for anyone attending any intensive learning activity. At university, a student attends many classes all on different topics, but only has to learn one hour of material per class per day. At a conference, an attendee may sit through many hours of interesting talks, but they have the freedom to choose how much they participate in each. In an intensive training course, a student has to learn, understand and fully absorb 6 hours of material on the same topic, every day for several days in a row. Worse, each of these hours builds on the one before; requiring a level of alertness and participation not usually needed at educational institutions, conferences or in the workplace.

Make your training experience truly stand out by structuring it to help alleviate burn-out. These techniques are essential for a multi-day training course, but will provide you with a solid background for single or even half-day sessions as well.

This talk will describe what Perl Training Australia has learned about course structure for technical courses involving lots of hands-on programming exercises. We will cover answers to the questions above, as well discussing other issues such as cognitive load, learning fatigue and ideal classroom set up.

Photo of Jacinta Richardson

Jacinta Richardson

Perl Training Australia

Jacinta Richardson runs Perl Training Australia, a micro-business offering courses throughout Australia. Both as part of her job and a massive free-time sink, she is involved in running conferences (linux.conf.au 2007, Open Source Developers’ Conference (Australia) 2004-2011, Australian System Administrators Conference (SAGE-AU) 2008-2009), attending conferences, writing perl-tips, speaking at Perl Monger meetings whenever she’s in the right town, participating in on-line Perl forums and promoting women in IT. For her work in the Perl community, Jacinta was awarded the White Camel Award in 2008. When away from the computer, Jacinta enjoys scuba diving,
cycling and baking.

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Picture of Jessamyn Smith
Jessamyn Smith
07/30/2011 4:56am PDT

Great talk, well presented, and very useful information!

Picture of Jacinta Richardson
Jacinta Richardson
07/29/2011 5:44pm PDT

For those who haven’t spotted them, my slides can be found attached on this page, above the abstract.

Mel Chua
07/29/2011 11:14am PDT

Good points on simultaneous time and material management—plan for breaks, put hardest material first, etc.

The talk structure itself was a great example of practicing what you preach, and the Thursday afternoon positioning was fortunate because Jacinta didn’t have to explain to the audience what “cognitive overload” felt like (we were all suffering from it before her talk began).

I do wish all OSCON tutorial presenters were required to watch this talk before getting us for even 3-hour workshops. ;)

Picture of Joshua Timberman
Joshua Timberman
07/28/2011 2:32pm PDT

Brilliant talk, chock full of great ideas that I’m going to put to use straight away for our training materials/courses.

Picture of Christopher Neugebauer
Christopher Neugebauer
07/28/2011 9:59am PDT

Excellent, practical concepts for running training courses, and well-structured slides. Structure was not immediately obvious from the start of the talk, but it made sense by the end.