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He’s Drowning And I’m The Lifeguard

February 12, 2015

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It was like watching your baby get up and walk and then go dancing with a bunch of strangers.

Okay, maybe that analogy doesn’t quite capture the essence. But, being a course designer, the first time someone else teaches your course can be a very nerve wracking experience.

And today it was more nerve wracking than normal.

Courseware designers can tell you how long it will take to create a class based on how long the class is supposed to be. Typical development ratios are 40:1 for a simple class, 60:1 for complex classes.

That means if you want an hour long class it’s going to take an Instructional Designer 40-60 hours to create it.

If you think about it, that sounds absurd. And our customers complained about our dev ratios all the time. Typically the conversation went something like this.

How long will it take you to create a one hour class on setting up an Exchange server?

About a week and a half.

Are you serious? For a one hour class? I don’t want them to be able to write code, just be able to setup and install Exchange.

About a week and a half, 4-50 hours.

No way. I can pull Bill Smith off the phones and he can teach the whole thing over a brown bag lunch.

True, but can anyone else teach Bill’s course?

And that was the rub. The courses we created had to be complete enough that an instructor could teach it without an expert in the room.

That’s what led me to today. I was sitting in the back of a classroom in Charlotte, NC as the instructor, a guy named Win, (Why Don’t We Take This Outside), taught the class.

And it wasn’t going well. Win was trying to explain how LDAP, the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, could authenticate users in Exchange. He was wrong, and worse, if he didn’t correct his mistake students were going to be completely lost when they got to the next lab.

I always try to be present the first time an instructor teaches one of my classes. I call it “lifeguarding.” My job is to let them swim, but throw them a lifeline if they get in too deep. Win was in WAY too deep.

Hey Win, don’t you mean that the LDAP protocol won’t do that?

No Rodney. I meant what I said. This is how Lap-D will work in this environment.

Okay, but if you have a Exchange on the same server as the Domain Control won’t that change it?

It would. I knew it would, but I really wanted to avoid telling my instructor he was wrong in front of his class. My job is to keep him on track, But also, reassure the students.

Not really, Rodney. It doesn’t matter if Exchange the Domain Controller are the same computer or not.

Well, now I’m a little confused. And I think it’s a really important point. Maybe your co-teacher could take over for a minute and you an show me where I’m mistaken.

I wasn’t mistaken, but I needed to get him away from the students so I could explain to him where HIS mistake was happening.

We stepped out into the hall.

That’s not how it works, Win. If the Exchange server is also a Domain Controller then it’s going to process the request differently.

No, I don’t think it will.

Win, I’m not positive this is the way it works. If you don’t make this point, the students are not going to be able to complete the next lab. Trust me it works this way.

No it doesn’t.

What makes you so sure?

Because right here on page 143 of the book it explains it and it agrees with the way I’m teaching it.

That book?

Yes, the instructors guide for the course.

Win. I WROTE that book.

He eventually taught it correctly, but it took a while for him to come around. The other interesting thing about that class was that it was a Beta class. I took notes all the way through class and updated the final version. In addition to explaining the LDAP section better, I included the phonetic spelling for LDAP (el-dap).

Win called me when he got the final version.

Rodney, why did you include the phonetic spelling for LDAP?

Just so that people would know how to pronounce it properly.

Don’t you think it’s a little condescending to spell it out like that? I mean who wouldn’t know how to pronounce LDAP?

I didn’t. It was tempting but I managed to hold my tongue. He never mispronounced it again.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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