30 January 2008

Stay Sharp - Free College Courses

I'm really floored when I hear about the lack of reading and self-help effort that the average engineer does after graduating. I recently saw a survey that showed most engineers read one technical book per year. Wow. That's incredible - how can an engineer survive? I know, some (most?) will say that they get their info on the web and who has time to read a book? But didn't you become an engineer because you have that drive to learn, to make things better? What happened?

I'll never forget a meeting about 12 years ago with department heads and the VP of Engineering. The topic was upgrading the office PCs from Windows 3.11 to this thing called Windows 95. We had the budget to upgrade but no funds for user training. I was an unknown geek at the time and spoke up "Why don't we buy a few books and let the users learn on their own? Windows 95 isn't very difficult". The VP glared at me and said "These people are adults, we can't expect them to learn on their own". Floored. I was absolutely floored by his comment. I kept my mouth shut and the company stayed with Windows 3.11 for another two years. That experience though has stuck with me. Too many adults think they need a training class for everything. Very
few are willing to try a new application on their own. Is it fear of failure?

This fear also stops many from bettering themselves by taking random college classes at local schools. I love to look thru the current catalog and see if I can fit in a class. Last year I took a robotics class and an advanced design patterns class. My job will pay for tuition if the class is even remotely related to my job. And if a passing grade is obtained. I know a few engineers that won't take a class because if they don't pass, then they're out of the bucks. What an attitude. Take the class, participate, learn, and it's darn near impossible to not pass.

I'm trying to encourage people at work to take a few of the free web classes that many great schools are sharing. I know a few guys (including me) that have recently taken the excellent Java Passion on-line courses. I've been saving off the links to these web classes in my del.icio.us education tag but now that I've stumbled across Online Education Database's wrap-up post Skip the Tuition: 100 Free Podcasts from the Best Colleges in the World and 200 Free Online Classes to Learn Anything, I think I have enough to keep me busy.

For the past year or so, I've trying to watch/listen to at least two class sessions a week of the various free web courses. This isn't hard to do. I rarely watch or listen to one straight thru. Usually start one late at night and then finish it in bits and pieces over the next day or so. The key is just do it and make it fit into what time I have available. Right now, I'm doing a few from MIT's Aircraft System Engineering course which was put together by shuttle astronaut and MIT Professor Jeff Hoffman and Professor Aaron Cohen, who was the Space Shuttle Orbiter Project Manager.

Many people have said to
me "I'm too busy, how can you find the time to do those?" I always want to reply "How can you afford not to?"

If you enjoyed this post please use the links below to add it to StumbleUpon, Delicious, or Digg
stumble upon | delicious | digg

No comments: