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More Options for Learning

Three days ago I outlined some of the changes that are coming for the North Dallas .NET Users Group. Two days ago I wrote about the change from listening to a more active learning environment. Yesterday I wrote about mentors and curriculum. Today is my last post introducing the changes, a short discussion on creating more options for learning. In particular, I’m discussing this bit of the announcement.

Provide more ways of learning for people in each meeting. Our gatherings will usually no longer be one-size-fits-all. Rather, we’ll use the nice facilities that we have to be able to break into multiple groups, hitting topics useful for people at different levels.

One explicit goal in this regard is to provide more opportunities for younger developers. As an industry, we don’t do a great job of mentoring and helping those who are young in their career. This is not something we can solve, but is something with which we can help. Of course there will be material for the more mature developer as well.

The goal: help a wider range of people improve their development skills.

I view this as a very useful stretch goal and one that’s possible if we execute well on the other parts I have already discussed.

The Problem

The problem is fairly simple. Almost all of our meetings are single-topic, so they will only be interesting to those that are interested in that topic? Right?

What’s so bad about this? Not a lot, really. There’s no reason why a meeting must cater to different groups at the same time. Problem is not the right word.

The Opportunity

Yes, “opportunity” is better. If we have enough mentors and write good materials, we have the opportunity to provide mentoring for people in different places in their career or cover multiple subjects. What if we had an awesome set of lessons for .NET Core aimed at the professional developer? What if we also had an awesome set of lessons for those trying to learn their first programming language? What if we also had some programming activities for kids? What if we did these at the same time?

Our group almost always caters to one of these groups, the professional developer. That’s a good group to cater to, so no complaint. But perhaps we can do more, giving more people the chance to write materials, to teach, and to learn.

Of course the combination can be different than mentioned above. You could have two courses for professionals, maybe one on Ruby Motion and one on Sql Server. Whatever. And who gets to decide? The primary deciding factors should be the interests of the available mentors and the learners.

Workload

This sounds like more work! At first it will be. Later on, if we do this right, good curricula can be re-used and refined instead of re-created new each time.

Once again, running parallel sessions is more work too! But we’ve done this in the past with kid’s activities, so I don’t mention parallel meetings naïvely. It is more work but if we have the interest from mentors and learners, it’s very doable.

Despite all that though, I feel like I need to caveat this point. When a meeting is run by one person, then one person has to do all the prep work. There’s a lot more sharing here. But we’ll see how it works out in practice.

Enough!

That’s enough of the big idea. We will come together to discuss Wednesday. Bring your questions, your critiques, and your ideas. Most of all, bring your enthusiasm! And RSVP!

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