Learning is light, or how to organize a master class in 2 days

Training new users and developers is one of the main tools to popularize your product or technology. A few months ago, our company began to open the curtain on its technology and attract new developers to the platform on which we develop original applications for 3D analytics. Naturally, we were faced with the need to train beginners.

In this article I will describe the experience of our company in organizing training for a new development team or, in other words, how to assemble an educational program from improvised materials.

How can an article be useful to you?

If you are faced with the task of preparing a training program in a few days, then you can use this article as a step-by-step instruction. A list of artifacts that should be prepared for the successful organization of the "transfer of knowledge" is also described here. If your technology or product is not yet ready for “tearing itself away from the bosom of the mother,” but you have plans to attract new followers in the future, then in the article you will find several ideas about what documents you should start preparing and what to describe.

Our training program consists of 2 stages: a master class and online training.
In this article we will consider conducting a master class. I will write about remote online learning in the next article. Therefore, please leave your comments under the article, and I will definitely take them into account when writing the second part.

A little background

Without false modesty - we really make an original product using our own technology. Interest in our platform is stable enough, but limited by our ability to expand the team and transfer technology outside - to new development teams.

One of our strategic goals is to attract new external development teams on our platform. We carried out preparatory work to tear technology away from our team, documented the main things (more on this below), “tinted our lips” with our UI and went to a partner company with a proposal to take a short training course on our technology. The partner company is interested.

The goal - no less than - after the training, beginners should be ready to join in a full-fledged project on our platform with real terms, the customer and all the consequences.

The goal is quite ambitious, but we believed in its attainability, in fact, this is where the real story begins.

Baseline assessment

The platform has been developing for several years and during this time the team held a number of workshops for both domestic and foreign partners in Russian and English, respectively. Each of them gave certain food for development and left a series of presentation artifacts.

Therefore, despite the fact that our project is, by and large, a startup, we still had some training experience that needed to be scaled up a bit and switched from a separate workshop to a comprehensive training program.

In an application to a specific situation, this meant the following: the partner is interested in training and a training date has been set, by which you need :

  1. Form a training program
  2. Define a coach
  3. Prepare training materials
  4. Prepare a room for training
  5. Allocate time for leading developers to prepare for the master class, which coincided with the project deadline.

From the pros:

  1. Developer Initiative
  2. The ability and desire of a technical team to communicate with customers
  3. Extensive knowledge of technology by leading developers
  4. The ability to make and implement key decisions “on the go” without long coordination with all authorities
  5. Willingness to take on new and non-standard tasks
  6. The ability to quickly create working prototypes

As you can see, the pros, of course, overlap with the shortcomings - the team is ready to take on the case, there are enough competencies. For the flame to catch fire, you need a spark or, in other words, a vision of “how everything should be.”

The formation of the plan

“When you don’t know what to do, copy the best practices.” I do not affirm the absolute truth of this thesis, but in our case it helped. Over the past couple of years, I was fortunate enough to take about 10 online courses, choosing the best teaching methods from this experience and multiplying them by my own teaching experience at the university, I had a certain concept: “How it should be”:

  1. Training should begin with a personal acquaintance and a review presentation. The personal factor in such a case cannot be overestimated.
  2. At the presentation, participants must touch the platform, and as a result, each participant on the computer must have their own assembled application.
  3. Training should take place remotely through the network. This immediately gives several bonuses: scalability, since we have big plans to attract third-party development teams to our technology; training takes place on the territory of students; The involvement of our employees will be as effective as possible.
  4. Training must have a final course deadline. It focuses.
  5. Training should take place in a mode free for training at a time convenient for them. Since students work at their main place of work and study in the background.
  6. Training should consist of both theory and practical tasks. The need to combine theory and practice is not even worth discussing.
  7. For our part, there must be a coach who encourages, sets the atmosphere and pace, encourages students to go through the entire training cycle. The human factor is very important (below a little more about this).
  8. Based on the successful completion of training, a certificate with a level assignment should be issued. It motivates.

As you know, the success of the business is only 10% based on an excellent strategy and 90% consists of its skillful implementation. Read about the implementation in the next paragraph.

We begin to implement the plan

Evaluating the vision from the previous paragraph, the development of history emerged in 2 stages, each of which can be considered as a separate completed project:

  1. Master class and its online broadcast
  2. Remote Online Learning

Let me remind you that the purpose of the training was to include a remote team in our project for full development, of course, a 3-hour master class was not enough for new developers to master at least the basics of technology, so, in fact, the need for the second stage appeared.

However, a preliminary agreement with a partner existed only for a master class, therefore, guided by a wonderful proverb that says that elephants are eaten in parts, we decided that it was necessary to organize and conduct a master class so brilliantly that the decision on further training was made by our partner as a matter of course.
And we really managed to interest colleagues who made decisions on passing distance learning right after the end of the master class.

Master Class

At the master class, we agreed to show a case on which we visualize the xls files sent by the partner with Rosstat data for the regions of the Russian Federation.

Surely many of you have been to various workshops: hand-made, how to make a Christmas toy, how to draw a picture of Van Gogh, singing yodel, Zen-style yoga, etc., etc. The essence is always the same: a more experienced and masterful presenter shares skills with the participants, participants practice in mastering this skill and with good organization at the end of the master class you have something tangible in your hands plus a well-fixed skill: Christmas tree toy, picture , the ability to sing in a special style or to take a difficult yoga pose.

The concept of our workshopabsolutely duplicates this approach: our specialist shows how to implement a specific functionality on our technology (in this case, three-dimensionally visualize data), then the participants consolidate this skill in practice, independently writing an application with voiced functionality.

There is an understanding. It remains to settle organizational issues.

At the beginning, we agreed on the number of participants and the date of the meeting. In our case, 6 partner developers and a team leader were supposed to be present at the master class. Date - in a week.

The head of the partner group expressed his wishes for the content of the master class - we took them into account and the following lineup was formed :

  1. Business presentation. For this purpose, we took a fresh presentation prepared for a recent conference.
  2. The leading developer creates an application in front of the audience, commenting on their actions. Naturally, we invented and created the application in advance, maintaining a balance between ease of implementation, a comprehensive demonstration of the platform's capabilities, the ability of students to repeat our actions and the intuitiveness of the resulting data visualization.
  3. Participants are given training access to the platform, and they, under the supervision of the facilitator, repeat the demonstrated actions.

Our assets collected at previous workshops and conferences already had a certain number of presentations and demo applications, so there was something to form a training program from.

At the same time, “every time as the first” and many things needed to be edited precisely for the upcoming case.

The request of the participants was to visualize data from Excel, and we already offered visualization options. Here we went as far as possible along the path of using ready-made solutions.
They remembered which cases we had in our assets and chose those that may be applicable to the available data. There were 2 of them: an application with a map of Russia, almost ready for delivery, and an application with a 3D histogram that was once shown for another workshop. These options are perfect for the purpose of comprehensively showing the possibilities and not invest heavily in the creation of a training case.

As a result, three forms of data display were chosen: a table, a map of the Russian Federation, and a 3D histogram. Figure 1. 3D histogram created at the master class Figure 2 Map of the Russian Federation created at the master class

Good advice number 1 . Make the most of ready-made materials: presentations, demo cases, etc. You can assume that you are already ready for effective training of new users at a time when you can prepare a master class from existing materials.
The preparation of the training case took us about 2 days of background work with data cleaning, setting up queries, decomposing the code into several files, and setting up the application.

 I note that during the entire preparation period, which lasted several days, we maintained close contact with the participants by e-mail and informed about the content of the master class. Thus, on the one hand, we fueled interest, on the other, clarified their wishes, and on the third, we had to be sure that the master class would take place. After all, the decision to hold it could be changed by the participants at any moment, which categorically did not suit us.

The following informational occasions are suitable as letters that communicate well:

  1. Discussion of cases to be demonstrated, preferably with screenshots
  2. Warning, what additional software must be installed and configured before the master class
  3. Warning what equipment you need to have with you: laptop, etc.
  4. Features of how to get and go through the reception.

So, the date is set, passes and access to the internal wi-fi are ordered, the conversation is booked, an instruction with links, passwords and some tips is written and pre-sent to the participants.

From our side, the workshop was hosted by two people: a leading technology developer and I, as the acting account manager of our partner and part-time coach, or whatever it is called, because this role does not have a specific name.

Responsibilities were divided very transparently: event planning, organization, communication, preparation of presentation materials, their presentation, answers to common questions and support of high motivation from partners - from me, and the preparation of a demo case, its presentation, answers to technical questions and technical support - from the lead developer.

Preparation for the master class is described in sufficient detail and if you have any questions or comments, now is the time to write about them under the article, if possible I will try to answer each of them.

I don’t see any sense in describing the master class itself, firstly, the preparation took several days, and the master class took several hours, and secondly, with good preparation and a positive atmosphere during the training, the event takes place in one breath, as it happened and in our case.

On-line translation

Our team was well prepared for the master class, we were sure of its success, so we wanted to broadcast it, and we organized a WebEx broadcast, sharing a link both within our company and with everyone interested (you know that every company has lack of communication, so internal mailing is very useful). During the WebEx conference, the main screen was broadcast, on which the presentation was demonstrated and then the application was developed, as well as the sound of comments.  
Good advice No. 2. Invite the maximum possible number of listeners online and do the most extensive mailing (all internal employees, Facebook friends and a CRM database with pre-filtering of those “who are not at all interested in”) announcing both the start of the broadcast and notify you in a few days. about the upcoming broadcast.
It should be noted that the online broadcast of many interested and significantly expanded the audience of the master class. An interesting fact is that WebEx provides various broadcasting options, including the possibility of hearing an audio version by dialing a specific phone number - the CEO of our company used this method and listened to the broadcast through the phone while in a traffic jam while driving his car.

In addition, we recorded the broadcast using WebEx, and now we plan to mount a stripped-down version for distribution to other clients.

Good advice number 3. You just need good human contact with the audience. Training is a rather complicated project and requires both strong managerial qualities and pedagogical skills. But the most important thing in training is a simple human contact. Help the participants of the master class relax and feel comfortable, show them where the toilet and coffee machine with buns are, ask the banal question “how did you get there”. The perception of new information largely depends on how comfortable a person feels.

What could be improved

You can always improve something, so here are some tips on what could be done more professionally in organizing:

  1. Wishes were expressed even more in advance to warn about the planned master class and broadcast. We really sent out a broadcast notification only on the day of the broadcast, and it was worth making a few warning mailings.
  2. Have all the contacts and a clear idea of ​​how many people will come to the master class, try to meet them at the reception and start the master class when you are sure that all participants have already arrived or received confirmation from the absent that they will not come. One of the participants was late for us and he had to go through the reception himself and look for our meeting room.
  3. I advise you to book a meeting room of a slightly larger size than planned by the participants, firstly, it will be more comfortable, and secondly, at the last moment the number of people who want to listen to the master class can unexpectedly increase. Ours was fully occupied plus extra chairs.

Result and Conclusions

In conclusion, I summarize a few thoughts. If you want to attract followers of your technology, learn how to teach them . Well-known frameworks and services are becoming popular not only due to the perfection of implementation, but also due to the huge number of high-quality tutorials in all types: videos, texts, presentations and live master classes.

Microsoft, Google, Facebook, giants and startups - regularly organize face-to-face congresses of their users. There is no need to talk about the number of online training materials and courses; without them, no technology takes off.

A well-constructed system for transferring knowledge about technology is the key to its successful dissemination to the masses. The growth of users is due to the ease of acquaintance with technology.
The goals of the workshops can be different: gathering contacts, first meeting new customers, receiving feedback and ideas from users, etc. For example, our goal was to interest the partner in our solution so that he wanted to learn the skills of working on the platform.

Plus, nice buns: PR-effect of the fact of holding a master class, raising the status of the project among employees, an endorsement from the management, gaining experience in conducting training and preparing materials for the replication of this activity, etc.

In the next article I will write about the online training that followed for the master class: her curriculum, online testing, stages, tools and rakes.
Good mood, strong nerves and new ideas. And remember that continuous learning and self-development is the key to an interesting life.

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