Online PowerShell Training – Emerging Details

We’re starting to work out some of the details for our upcoming Windows PowerShell online training, which we hope to begin sometime in July. These details are pretty preliminary and subject to change, but here’s where we are right now:

The class will be a sort of “self-study plus” program. When you register, you’ll receive downloadable class materials (lab guide, etc) in PDF format (you’ll have the option to purchase print materials for a nominal surcharge, if you want them). You’ll also receive a DVD (or set of DVDs – we’re not sure how many it’ll take, yet) with very exclusive video-based training. This will be in a high-definition format (full 1280×720 resolution) and will form the basis for the class instruction. The big benefit with this video format is that it makes screen-captures of demos really clear and easy to follow; the downside is that really old computers might not have the horsepower for playback. More on that in a sec.

Classes will meet online 2-3 times each week (haven’t nailed down the exact number yet). Prior to each online session (which will last about an hour each time), you’ll complete 2-3 hours of self-study, which will consist of watching 1-2 modules on the video and completing 1-2 hands-on labs using the provided lab guide. Then, during the online session, you’ll receive some additional instruction, review the lab results, ask questions, etc. In between online sessions you’ll have access to a private Web-based discussion forum for daily Q&A.

On each day that we have an online session, we’ll offer both morning and evening times, and you can attend either (but not both) on that day – whichever is more convenient. Right now we’re thinking something like 8-9am and 4-5pm Pacific time (GMT -8:00) as start times. Coming up with start times has been really tough – our survey results basically tell us we could run continuous sessions all day long and have 1-2 people in each one 🙂 but our trainers would probably kill themselves if they had to maintain that schedule. So we’re going to try offering two sessions each day and hope that gives enough flexibility for the most folks.

For the audio portion of the online sessions we’ll offer VoIP “dial-in” lines. We’re a little concerned about the potential for that to go poorly in terms of quality, though – Don’s seen Microsoft’s LiveMeeting service go through horrible periods witht heir Internet-based audio – so we may also offer a US toll (not toll-free) line as a backup. That way if you’re using the VoIP and it is just horrible, you’ll have a land-line option. We know a lot of folks in the US at least have unlimited long-distance calling, or can get free long-distance on their cell phones, so this will hopefully be workable for folks who might be joining from home. And by using a toll number we can allow international callers to use that option if they really need to. 

Online sessions will be recorded, and you’ll be able to review recordings for the duration of the class (which will be 3-4 weeks). You’ll get to keep all of your class materials, including of course the video portion on DVD, so you will always have that to refer to. 

Price-wise, we’re going to keep this under $500 (and we don’t mean $499), but it’s probably going to have to cost a bit more than $400 to make it all work financially. We recognize that the closer we can get to $400, the better, so we’re really aiming for that.

We’re looking hard at WebEx to deliver the online sessions since they offer a really good package of services that should give us everything we (and you) need. They’re cross-platform and entirely browser-based, so it should be pretty compatible.

Speaking of compatibility, we mentioned that the DVD-based video will be pretty big. You *will* need a screen resolution that can display a 1280×720 picture. That’s bigger than 1024×768 by just a bit. We’re going to post a demo video file you can download, so that you can do a sort of “systems check” before registering to make sure your computer can play the video, but in the meantime hop on over to Quicktime’s Web site and try to play back a high-definition movie trailer using the 720p option. If you have a 1024×768 monitor and can otherwise play the video okay, you can consider dropping $30 on Quicktime Pro, which lets you resize the video window to an arbitrary size. We’re doing the screen captures in the video with a big enough font that a slight resize to fit 1024×768 should still be legible.

The one downside is that we DO have to ship you the video portion of the class materials on DVD (maybe multiple DVDs). Right now the video is coming out to something like 300MB per 20 minutes, which is just crazy big – too big to download. We know international folks wind up paying a ton in shipping, but hopefully the DVD(s) will be light enough that it won’t be a deal-breaker. We *may* be able to offer the video online as a streaming thing, but there are some downsides to that – we couldn’t give you unlimited permanent access, for example, due to bandwidth costs, so you’d only have the video for the duration of the class. Again, we haven’t nailed down all of these details – in fact, if you have any good ideas to share, drop a comment here in the blog. We promise to read them all, even if we can’t reply with a definitive answer just yet.

So that’s where we’re currently headed. We’re still looking hard at that survey to guide what we’re doing, and we’re still very much interested in any helpful ideas you may have – drop them in the comments here, or e-mail don (at) sapien (dot) com directly if you’ve got something too long for a blog comment. We look forward to offering you a great online training experience this summer!