The Future of Technical Education
October 14, 2009 2 Comments
Some people just love to talk. I guess I’m one of those people. I admit it. But there is a time and place for everything. I’m not one of those annoying people that sits next to you one the airplane or on the commuter train that doesn’t know when to be quiet. No, I am not one of those people. At least, I hope not. But I do enjoy speaking and I’m fortunate that I get to do it in an organized setting regularly.
Different Types of Events
Over the next four weeks, I have three speaking engagements scheduled – two sessions at SQLSaturday in Orlando, two sessions at the PASS Summit in Seattle, and a session at the .NET User Group meeting right here in Music City, USA.
Combine those events with the remote User Group meeting in September, the DevLink conference, and the TechNet webcast in August, and I’ve spoken at most every kind of event imaginable. (The exception is that SSWUG Virtual Conference and I’d love to be a speaker at that one day)
The events that I’ve spoken at range from a single 90 minute session held during business hours to a full blown 150+ session conference complete with pre and post conference seminars. They range from 20 people to over 2,000 people. And they range from an absolutely free event to a hefty registration fee of a couple grand.
Here a Speaker, There a Speaker, Everywhere a Speaker
But despite the different formats and widely varying prices, there is one striking similarity in the events – the speakers. The same people who regularly share their knowledge and experiences at conferences frequently speak at user group meetings, code camps, and SQLSaturdays.
For example, this weekend at the free SQLSaturday event in Orlando, Brian Knight, Kevin Kline, Andy Leonard, Jonathan Kehayias, Joe Celko, Buck Woody, and I, among many others, are speaking. If you visit the Speakers page of the PASS Summit web site, you’ll notice that we’re all speaking at that conference, too. Brian, Kevin, and Woody are speaking at the SSWUG Virtual Conference. And the list of events and speakers goes on and on.
The Changing Landscape of Technical Education
So we, as technologist, have more choices and opportunities than ever before for education and networking with our peers. And that’s good. I’m glad we have these opportunities. Not everyone can afford, especially in this economy, to travel to a conference.
But all of these opportunities make me wonder about the changing landscape of technical education. How long can these different vehicles for technical education and networking coexist?
Some questions come to mind:
- Are these complementary events? Or do they compete for attendees? If an attendee goes to a SQLSaturday event, is he more or less likely to attend a conference like the PASS Summit?
- How long will top-notch speakers be willing to travel at their own expense to speak at free events such as Code Camps, User Group meetings, and SQLSaturdays?
- With the proliferation of low-cost regional events that draw well-known speakers, will attendees continue to find a significant Return On Investment in distant conferences with a high registration fees?
- What do attendees value more? Local and regional networking? Or networking at a global scale and with Microsoft developers and Product Managers?
- Does all this really depend on each individual attendee? Will employees of Fortune 1000 always go to larger events since their employers pay for it? Will employees of Small to Medium size businesses gravitate toward the lower cost events?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m just posing them. But, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. What is the changing landscape of technical education? Or is there one?