How Much Can You Learn?

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item How Much Can You Learn?

  • I agree that learning without immediate use appears to lose a lot of what a great amount of effort was spent to attain.

    This makes me focus on skills that I believe that I will have a chance to use. It doesn't always pan out that way but it is beneficial when it does.


    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • I think the other important thing for me is that the practice is rarely much like the training. Much as it would be nice to directly implement what we have been trained on, I don't find it happens like that. For instance how we were trained in ASP.NET MVC, when we took an initial course of a few days just as a kick starter some years back was fine, but a long, long way from the pattern we later put into production.

    I guess my point is that training only gets a familiarity with what is possible. You need the experience to decide what is desirable for your circumstances. A way of doing things that does not meet your needs or is overly cumbersome is just not going to work. Maybe that's not the case for some technology, but I've never used the exact patterns I've trained on in real life with anything complex.

    Admittedly most of my training has been self taught though...

  • One way of learning I've found is to reach out and ask colleagues to shadow their work or when you know there are some specific activities planned. Example being a DBA who used to work at the same place and was performing upgrades which I hadn't done before. It meant staying late a couple of evenings but the real world demonstration had much more value than a book or any classroom based session could have given. Also the chance to ask any questions in a kind of 1-2-1 tuition situation was great.

    On the point of finding things hard to remember if you don't practice, there's a website called memrise where I took online Spanish courses and it had some great stats and demonstrations on the relationship of information remembered based on repetition or practice.

  • I prefer to learn from several different sources depending on how urgent the need is, and how much I already know.

    Classroom and workshop based courses are a great way to go from zero, as you can ask lots of questions and fill in the holes in your knowledge. Maybe this isn't the best method if you are very self concious about appearing foolish, but I always console myself with the truism that a fool wouldn't ask to begin with. The interaction with other people, most of whom are in the same boat as you, is also encouraging, as seeing other people struggle with difficult concepts helps make you realise that you are not alone in your labours.

    Books and on-line reference sites (such as safari bookshelf) are great when you need a comprehensive reference, or need to access the knowledge Right Now. But if you are missing the foundation knowledge necessary to understand it, they won't provide it.

    My least favourite are video tutorials, I tend to zone out if all I have to do is be a passive recipient. To this end I have been trying to use them, so that my learning skills don't atrophy. It can be a struggle, and I find I have to replay sections that I have missed. These have become very popular recently, but the quality of the knowledge, and presentation, can vary greatly between providers.

  • I have recently used edX and Microsoft Virtual Academy[/url] and can confirm that the content quality can vary hugely. On edX I had to provide some errata for statements on C# and the basics of classes that were fundamentally wrong. There was zero response to my highlights of incorrect info. Not even a change in the course when it was rerun. Shocking...and I provided feedback saying so.


    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • Gary Varga (4/8/2016)

    I have recently used edX and Microsoft Virtual Academy[/url] and can confirm that the content quality can vary hugely.

    I have tried Microsoft Virtual Academy[/url], which is free which limits my right to complain somewhat, but I found the chatty informal style to be very irritating, but i'm not a fan of the informal chat show style news program either. I preferred the videos at Safari[/url] as they seemed to be better targeted as teaching tools, but you do have to pay for it. Companies are, unfortunatly, more likely to respond to feedback if you are paying them and have the ability to withdraw that payment.

  • I find the informal style is not best. That is a question of preference. Incorrect learning material, however, is just wrong. Anyone not in the know, i.e. almost all students, leave believing something that is untrue.


    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • We use a wiki to learn and document process and references at work.

    Learning something new is often project driven, and we usually let the desired outcome drive what we will learn next.

  • I learn as the need presents itself. I stepped out of IT development at my former place of employment and took on an operations supervisor role for almost five years. That is a regret I live with today. Prior to that I have been working in IT for almost 20 years, but IT changes so quickly that now I am faced, as a .Net Developer, with having to learn the things that have changed in those five years. My new job, a senior programmer, at a non-profit has new challenges. I had not worked with SharePoint that often and now I find myself faced with developing for SharePoint 2010 and now we are going to be migrating to SharePoint 2013 online soon. I am trying to teach myself oData, REST, javascript, and the like.

    I do need to actually use what I am learning soon or I will lose it. I also tend to do better when I am "forced" into learning something because then I have to actual have the hands on training. Just watching YouTube helps, but for me is not the best. Recently I did have a week long online interactive training course using SharePoint 2013. It was a great experience that had an instructor and as students, we each had access to VMware and a server so we did get some hands on training.

  • Learning, then a pause, then revisiting has been a common pattern for me (though I hadn't thought about it until you wrote the editorial!). Maybe it's two patterns. One is when I first learn something, I like/need to then go away from it, then return weeks or more later to see what stuck and what didnt. The other is several times I've changed career focus for an extended period - 1 to 2 years - and when I returned it felt like somehow I better understood the work. The latter one may be wishful thinking/skewed perspective of course.

    We all prefer different learning styles. I don't like the verbose ones with a lot of distractions. When I'm learning, I'm working/serious. A bit of fun here and there is fine, but more than that and I'll change venue. I don't suggest my preference is the only way to do it, or even the right way, just my preference.

  • In addition to learning a little and putting it into immediate practice, which most everyone has mentioned, I find it useful to draw on the same point from as many sources as possible - books, this fine site, technet, msdn, colleagues in person and through their code. All this and more give you multiple ways of seeing how others have approached the same topic.

  • The value I got out of the original SQL Server 6.5 courses (admin & developer) was largely due to the trainer who was 26 but looked 46. He'd been through the trenches and taught the course and then the stuff you really needed to know. This made the course very relevant and ignited my passion for databases.

    I find retention without continual practice is difficult, especially when learning something completely new as opposed to extending knowledge in a field I know well.

    What I do find is that I get a sense of deja vu with a lot of the newer technologies. I remember one grizzled veteran whizzing through some NOSQL training faster than the young enthusiasts. "Well, its just COBOL flat files all over again isn't it" he said!

  • Same for me. There is a lot about SQL Server that I want to learn. The learning process is the easiest part because I have access to tools and resources. The problem is, as you stated, acquiring the skills. You cannot "acquire" the knowledge if you don't put them to real-world practice.

    The whole landscape of learning looks something like this:

    Learn --> Practice --> Acquire --> Practice --> Retain

    I never had any problem learning. Now, retaining knowledge is a challenge.

    SQL Server Database Administrator

  • I just learn through cravings. This past week, I wanted to refresh on C++ and the C11 standard. I picked up a book, jumped on Ubuntu and started coding. Now I've coded a service that is connecting to an API. My next challenge is integrating R into my service.

    This is brute force learning. I love it.

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