Coughing, Sniffing, and Learning Thanks to Lynda.com

I don’t know how many of you have done online training before, but I have. The organization I work for offers it — a GOOD thing –, and I’ve taken advantage of it on more than one occasion. They even keep records of the training and give you credit for it — another GOOD thing. Unfortunately, the training itself is a bit… how do I put this..? ..lacking. There are more than a few reasons I find the training lacking, but I’ll just mention a few:

1) The presenters seem to be paid readers reading a script. Now, as someone married to a lady who sometimes does professional voice work when she’s not managing projects, I’m sort of torn. There’s a part of me that says, “More power to you.” But then there’s the IT professional in me that says, “Uh, you have a nice voice and all, and you read very nicely, but you don’t really sound like you know what you’re talking about.” That’s a BAD thing. If you’re going to teach an online course, you’d better at least seem like you know what you’re talking about.

2) The user interface is crumby. The last thing any user wants to contend with is an interface that makes you wish you never sat in front of the computer to begin with. Unfortunately, the last time I took an online course through work, I had this very experience. Signing in wasn’t as simple as it could’ve been, and when I did finally sign in it was using a password that only Kim Peek could remember. Then I wasn’t even allowed to change it to something somewhat memorable. Next, when I got to what I believed was finally the screen that would activate the course, I found I had to take up the pop-up gauntlet from the deep before I could begin. All these were very BAD things as well.

3) The connection’s a bit iffy. THIS is anathema! Now, I have to be fair and say that the organization I work for is one of the largest in the world with geographical challenges that most companies couldn’t imagine. Our e-mail network alone must cause a lot of folks a lot smarter than I am some sleepless nights. Nevertheless, if you’re going to offer something, don’t roll it out until it can do what you claim it can do. Loss of connectivity in the middle of a course is unacceptable. While it hasn’t happened directly to me, I was the Sys Admin who had to explain there was a connectivity problem for one of the users at work. She was very understanding and patient, as Swedes tend to be, but she was also required to finish the course as a prerequisite before flying to take a instructor-led course. And she said that it had happened to her several times before. NOT good.

Unless I MUST take a course (as a prereq) online at work, I don’t. And that’s too bad, because they offer some seemingly good course. It’s just that, in my humble opinion, they still have a ways to go. I don’t like having to wait on chances to learn something new. Like most IT types, I need continuous stimulation and learning. Reading’s good, and I do quite a bit of it, but a GOOD online course now and again would be great!

Then along comes lynda.com.

These folks offer training at $25 or $250 a year. I’m currently signed up for the monthly fee, but I may have to change that. Their list of online courses is extensive to say the least, and they also offer video on CD, books, and bundles.

So why am I raving so much about them? Well, first of all, let me say I’m NOT getting paid to do it. I blog for the love of blogging. It’s just that these folks are so very good at what they do. Specifically:

1) The presenters know what they’re talking about. I’m currently taking an OS X course (surprise, surprise!), and the presenter is flat out knowledgeable. His voice and tone tell you he’s been teaching the material for some time, but you also get to see his cursor moves, hear the mouse clicks, and keys being typed. Any serious computer-user knows when someone isn’t sure about where they’re going on a desktop. They hunt for the right icon, double-clicking where they should’ve knowingly single-clicked, and so on. That’s not what I’ve experienced on lynda.com. Now, if this is all just edited in afterwards then kudos to them for a great production, but it wouldn’t really make much sense.

2) The interface is simple. When you initially log in, you have the option to change the password to one not configured by NSA. This is a GOOD thing. Then you select the product/course you want from a drop-down menu that takes you to a table of contents. Once there, you click on the section you want begin in. If you want to start at the beginning you can. If you’re already familiar with the material, just jump down to what you don’t know. Once you decide and click, a pop-up window, the ONLY pop-up window, opens and you’ll likely see a desktop with icons related to what you’ve decided to learn about.

3) They’ve always been up. Since signing up, they’ve been up each and every time I logged into their site regardless of what time it was. Granted, they’re surely not the size of the organization I work for, but they do what the advertise.

4) The price is reasonable. Say what you want folks, but $25 a month isn’t much for all that’s available. A week long instructor-led course can run you $1000 on up easily for most courses. Having 24/7 access to a plethora of courses is a steal in my opinion.

I could go on and on, but I’d like to get back to my course and find out what else I can do with the OS X dock. If you have time, take a quick tour on lynda.com. If memory serves me correctly, you should be able to click on at least the first chapter of a course for no charge at all to see what they offer. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. In the meantime…

Laterz.

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