I was chatting with a friend recently about our careers and how much we have learned over time. We are both interested in continuing our education in technology and debated how we might proceed. I mentioned that I was thinking to spend some time following Colleen Morrow’s journey to pass the 70-463 exam, which is one exam I need to complete a certification. I think that it is hard to work through a topic without having some plan for doing so, and I prefer to follow a book or another person’s plan to guide my learning.
My friend talked about their experience with Pluralsight, which I’ve also used. They mentioned that it’s exciting to get started, and you certainly can work through a number of courses over there, but at some point you’re just going through courses. You really need to stop and practice the skills you’ve listened and to and been quizzed on, otherwise much of that knowledge won’t be retained.
I’ve found that to be true as well with classroom training. A week’s worth of knowledge is too much to learn at once, and only with a lot of practice, and substantial documentation available after the training, does the class really do you a lot of good. However, that’s the way that so much training is organized in the technology space.
Ideally, I think that the best way to actually teach someone a skill is the way that many college classes are organized. Learn over time, slowly, with a few skills taught and then practiced. Repeat that for months and you’ll gain knowledge. However who has time to spend six months learning something like SSIS, a skill at a time.
You do, and I do. In one sense, our Stairway Series provide this, as does Pluralsight. These methods give you the ability to work through a subject slowly, in a guided way, at your pace. What these methods don’t do is push you to keep moving, which is perhaps the most difficult part of learning a new skill for most people.
Email reminders, pings, and all the possibilities available with technology likely won’t work for most of us. However I might suggest the best way would be to find a few friends or co-workers looking to acquire the same skills and press each other to stick to a schedule. It’s worked for exam study, and I bet it would work here, applying some pressure for you to keep up with your friends, and continue your learning.