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COMMON evaluates curriculum

The iSeries user group COMMON recently surveyed members and non-members to find the future trends in IT education and get a better idea of what that audience wants. The survey included 900 iSeries users, of which 561 were COMMON attendees. The results of the study were published in the user group's internal newsletter, COMMON Connect.

Though reluctant to offer many specific details for 2006, especially regarding education around V5R4, COMMON president Beverly Russell discussed what the organization has learned about learning with in a recent interview.

What was the most surprising result from your recent survey?
The results of the Education Needs Assessment were not really surprising but confirmed the suspicions we had. This spurred us into action and focused our planning on dealing with the changing needs of the community we serve.

Last year, we went into our strategic planning sessions with hard facts about what we do well and where we really don't meet our members' needs. This allowed us to establish goals and action plans to address the challenges.

In 2005, we began phasing in some of these initiatives -- one-day seminars, Webcasts -- while continuing to enhance the conference experience. Is there anything you learned from this report that you're planning on implementing for the next session or in the near term?
We learned a great deal from this study and we indeed plan to implement some additional education products in the future. In the study, we learned a few of the primary reasons individuals are not able to attend COMMON conferences is because of the time away from the office that's required and the direct expenses -- mainly housing costs. As a result, COMMON piloted one-day seminars in five cities in 2005. All five seminars were well attended and we received excellent feedback. Because these events have proven to benefit our member needs, COMMON is planning to hold an additional 10 such seminars in 2006. Free, on-demand, Web-based educational courses seemed popular among survey participants. Is this something COMMON currently offers?
Yes, the desire for on-demand, web-based, seminars came through loud and clear in the findings. As well as to piloting the one-day seminars in 2005, COMMON also piloted a Webcast program. In 2005, COMMON piloted three successful Webcasts. We feel both, one-day seminars and Webcasts, compliment our current educational offerings and help us to better serve certain

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members who are otherwise unable to attend our semi-annual conferences. Is COMMON planning any educational tracks around V5R4 for the coming conference?
COMMON is renowned for offering relevant, timely, and in-depth education. With that said, we will continue to offer education in the latest -- or most current -- release level for i5/OS that is available from IBM at the time of the conference. What is the biggest challenge in putting together the COMMON educational curriculum?
COMMON's educational curriculum is put together by the COMMON Education Team, subject matter experts, a number of other volunteers and staff. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, has always been to provide relevant, in-depth education that meets our members' needs in a world where the education dollars must be stretched as far as possible. Not to mention, fitting all that information into a 5 day period!

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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