Advanced Training

I’ve done a couple of training courses recently (as a delegate)(I try and do 2-4 weeks a year). One trainer in particular struck me as superb. He was an ex full time developer, but still actively involved in banging out the code as open source.

On the most recent course some of the delegates were recounting their ‘advanced’ Excel training course. The trainer had limited real world experience, and often turned to other delegates to answer questions the trainer could not.

Now its a fact of life that when doing advanced training there is a high chance that some of the delegates will know more than the trainer in some areas. This is great if it can be leveraged to help other delegates, but it can damage trainer credibility if not managed effectively.

But anyway thats not the point of this post. I am wondering if anyone has ever heard of good quality, worthwhile, advanced Excel training?I think most of us here are self taught to a large extent, but I’m wondering if there are any good advanced Excel trainers out there? and if not why not? (note I do a bit of training, but dont push it as a service)

I suppose I should define good: able to communicate effective working practices so that delegates understand and can use the course content.

Training is a funny business, especially developer training, there are so few actual developers, or recent developers providing training. Why is that? Training seems to go hand in hand with authoring (and speaking), but rarely developing. Is it a personality type thing?

I enjoy training and developing pretty much equally, but financially, training in Excel/VBA/Access, and even .net type stuff just does not make sense compared to development.

I wonder if this apparent lack of high quality training has an impact on the numbers of people going forward to do advanced training?

Or is it all happening in-house as on-the-job training apprentice craftsman style? (I hope so, that is a great way to learn).

What’s your experience of the situation where you are?



13 Responses to “Advanced Training”

  1. Dick Kusleika Says:

    I’ve never been to a computer training course and felt it was a good use of my time. I’m not bothered by the cost of the course, it’s the eight or 16 hours I could have been doing something productive. I’ll pick up a couple nuggets here and there, but never enough to justify the time.

  2. Just Mohit Says:

    Rima Chai (who conducts such courses as part of Learning Tree UK) is brilliant. She has a thorough knowledge of her sunject, and a great sense of humor.
    I took a course by her, and must admit to being fascinated even when the areas eing discussed were those in which i had mastery!

  3. Biggus Dickus Says:

    I think it’s a big disappointment that training as a whole has slipped off the radar and particulary advanced Excel training. There is a huge “need” for this but the problem is “demand”. I know of zero corporations (including MS themselves) who appreciate how much the lack of good Excel skills is costing them.

    I also have loved teaching VBA in Excel as well as Access training (which is a lot of fun). Like you Simon, it is more profitable to “cut code” than to teach (when you take into account the amount of time it takes to prep for a course and the amount of work training actually is). It’s too bad because I thought trainiong would always be a part of my offering and it is now nothing.

    It sucks as we say over here ;-)


  4. Jon Peltier Says:

    “I’ve never been to a computer training course and felt it was a good use of my time.”

    The most useful computer class I’ve taken was a 2 day Excel VBA class. It was not itself very productive, because half of my classmates couldn’t find the right mouse button with both hands. However, it was an excuse to stay away from my office and phone for two days with a computer and with an instructor that I could monopolize while the rest of the class did their Hello World exercises.

    Ive given a few classes, and find that I enjoy it. I may even start marketing it as one of my company’s services. I’m sensitive to the level of the participants, and try to make it hands on while using examples they’ve brought to class.

    In a class about VBA Charting, I spend a lot of time on the VBIDE, showing many of the tools I’ve discovered by mistake, or that other programmers have told me about years after I started programming. Immediate Window, Locals Window, utilities like MZTools and the Smart Indenter (thanks, Stephen!) and the Code Cleaner (Thanks, Rob!). I talk more about general VBA coding than about code related to charting, because for me the largest barrier to programming charts was programming, and I’ve found it the same for others.

    I also try to send the participants away with something they can use right away. I’ve taken a few classes on Access, for example, and got it while I was in class, but then didn’t use it for months, and by then it was lost. The delay between learning and doing is a killer.

  5. Will Riley Says:

    “The delay between learning and doing is a killer.”

    Which is why we all tend to learn more from our peers (either directly via the newsgroups or indirectly via google) when searching for a solution to an immediate problem/objective.

    I will always maintain that for software such as Excel, the internet is the best learning resource. I am not discounting reference books and training, I just think that it’s less effective :)

  6. Simon Says:

    Dick (K) – spot on about the real cost being lost time.
    Dick (M) – yep I thought I would be doing a fair chunk of training, in reality the closest I get is coaching/mentoring of consulting client staff (which is great btw).
    Jon – well done on getting a trainer who could answer your VBA questions, and spot on about the delay between learning (well seeing in class anyway) and using being a killer. I think there was some research published a while ago and its a bit like a half life, but after a few weeks retention is down to 5% or something (about 2 hours worth out of a weeks course).
    Will – peers are indeed a great resource, especially at the higher levels, I’d say.
    For me sometimes I just have 1 or 2 total barriers that stop me going anywhere, a bit of formal training, and a bit of monopolising (?) the instructor and the barriers are lifted.
    One trainer explained to me the meaning(s) of ‘static’ in C which had confused the hell out of me. It was like someone turned the lights on. In this case the other options hadn’t worked because it is used in several quite different ways.

  7. Jon Peltier Says:

    “… the internet is the best learning resource.”

    I tell people that my two favorite programming tools are the macro recorder and Google. When I need something specific right now, these serve me well 90% of the time.

    When I need to develop something more involved, Google helps, but I find I get more coherent support from books, especially Professional Excel Development (Bullen, Bovey, Green); but also the Excel 2000/2002/2007 VBA Handbooks (Bullen, Bovey, Green, etc.); and John Walkenbach’s Power Programming.

  8. Harlan Grove Says:

    I took a course on Paradox back in the late 1980s. The only benefit was finding out the address of the local users group. The trainer had no experience as a developer, so I learned little more than I would have from a Getting Started guide. Fortunately my employer at the time paid for it.

    The only worthwhile course I’ve taken was a university extension course on SAS a LONG time ago. It was pretty good because the instructor was a PhD in biostatistics and had a day job with a pharmaceutical company. Nothing beats instructor’s own experience as a predictor for the quality of such courses.

  9. Marcus Says:

    I used do a lot of corporate training work. When Windows 95 first came in companies were herding staff through courses like cattle. All did the ‘Intro’ courses (Windows, Word, Excel), some did the ‘Intermediate’ courses. Few did the advanced, even less did VBA (macro) courses. Most attendees in the advanced courses commented about the relevance of the topics. What was relevant depended on their job requirements.

    I think that relevance factor against the ROI (including opportunity cost) is a big deterrent for me to attend formal courses. I have attended 2 – peer-to-peer networking with Windows 3.11 (yeah, me too). The second was a five day SQL Server course of which my own reading and tinkering before the course crossed-off about half the course’s material. I think I would have been better of paying a SQL developer for one or two days to cover all the gaps.

    Then there’s the whole Catch-22 thing. Do I really want to spend all that money (and lost revenue) on a course unless I know I’ll be able to get a return on the investment. Or do I wait until I get a requirement for that technology, at which point it’s too late to do a course and you have to learn using the ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ method?

  10. sam Says:

    I have been conducting trainging on Advanced Excel for the last 6 years (over the weekends) The course is very well received.

    Form Jan this year I went in to training full time…

    What really helps me in these sessions more than the knowledge of Excel is the 11 years of professional experience in Sales, Procurement and Project Management.

    I am able to present situations / sample problems close to real life situations faced by the participants… they relate well to that…..

    Regarding training in general I always found I learnt a lot more from a person than I could ever learn from a book….or through the help files …or through the internet….I am not discounting the learning from these sources….Its just that a person brings an extra dimension of experience…. which at times is missing in the printed medium…

    But then I havent attended a training program on excel myself….

  11. Biggus Dickus Says:

    “”I used do a lot of corporate training work. When Windows 95 first came in companies were herding staff through courses like cattle. All did the ‘Intro’ courses (Windows, Word, Excel), some did the ‘Intermediate’ courses. Few did the advanced, even less did VBA (macro) courses. Most attendees in the advanced courses commented about the relevance of the topics. What was relevant depended on their job requirements.””

    I could have written EXACTLY that !!!! Don’t forget all the POWERPOINT courses I taught – aaaagggghhh!

  12. Marcus Says:

    ‘training… just does not make sense compared to development”

    Agree totally. I also enjoyed training but saw the rates start to shrink. At that point I only took courses where there was less competition (from other trainers) and the rates were more stable (PageMaker, CorelDraw, VBA). But the writing was already on the wall and I focused on training.

    When the If the financial incentive is to pursue development (not that there’s anything wrong with that), then this alone has an impact on the “apparent lack of high quality training”.

    “POWERPOINT… aaaagggghhh!”

    Yup. It was painful trying to drag this out to be a 2 day course. By the second day I used to show course participants tricks and techniques that weren’t in the book.

  13. Simon Herbert Says:

    What about other alternatives to Advanced Training in a classroom?

    There seem to be a few more “User Group” seminars / conferences popping up now – amongst others, Office User Group, Excel User Conference, possible PODA events in the future…

    Do these events replace traditional courses and provide ways for advanced users to share knowledge and experiences amongst their peers?

    I have always found it difficult to get the costs for training signed off, which then means using up leave and paying out of my own pocket…

    I would imagine that others have the same problem.

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