After more than fifty years, TTi’s continuing education training business is expanding with an ever-wider range subjects offered. The new courses are being well-received.
The same subject matter can be found, to some degree, in local colleges and universities, so how do we manage to compete with these university presentations? The disadvantage of taking a university course is that the courses are usually presented in the evenings, spread over a semester or two. It requires a long commitment to complete a course. The course material is usually presented in a mathematical format and is theoretical in nature without practical application examples. The instructors are generally college professors with little or no industrial experience and they “lecture,” rather than teach.
There are many advantages of attending a TTi short course. Here are just a few:
In many ways, obtaining training can be compared with shopping for software. The typical computer user understands that for his/her particular computer needs, there are some features that do not seem to be available in the commercially available software. There may also be features that the user will never need. The user would prefer a custom software package that includes all the features he/she does need and none of those he/she does not need. However, the skill, time and cost involved in writing, checking and maintaining custom software is extremely high compared with the cost of “off-the-shelf” software available from commercial software companies.
Similarly, in the case of training, individuals sometimes feel that in the short course they attend, some of the material covered does not directly apply to their particular application.
It would be impractical for any organization to generate the many different courses needed to exactly fit the dozens of different applications of the topics in TTi curriculum. Courses must be developed that are within the price range that industry is willing to pay for training and to appeal to individuals from various industries.
TTi's method of developing courses is to select a topic where there seems to be a demand or lack of viable training opportunity and generate a course where the basics of the subject are covered in sufficient detail to provide the student with a good foundation, then extend the material in as non-mathematical a form as possible to teach how the topic is implemented in industry. Examples are given for specific applications, but these methods can be applied to other situations. TTi recruits skilled instructors who have a broad base of experience, but who obviously cannot be experienced in every industry, to develop and present the courses.
TTi instructors do not lecture, they teach. They have a finite time, usually twenty one hours, in which to present the course material. They may decide that the majority in a particular class has no more than a passing interest in certain items, in which case those topics are covered in less detail than items that seem to be of more interest to the group as a whole. Class attendees are reminded that it is their responsibility to understand the material being presented and they are encouraged to seek assistance from the instructor, either in class or at lunch time or after class where greater detail or further clarification is required.
Another factor to be considered is the variation in educational background of the participants. In each class, there can be students whose engineering discipline vary; Electrical, Mechanical, Structural, Industrial, Chemical, Physics etc. The formal education of the students can range from high school diplomas to degrees as advanced as Doctor of Science. All our students have the same objective: they want to learn and understand the topic under consideration. In a given class, there may be people who feel that the mathematics is too “hard” and others who feel that too much time is spent on basic concepts. So, like the software example described above, without spending considerably more money than for a TTi course, allowances have to be made for the requirements of others.
In TTi courses, a relaxed atmosphere is established at the beginning so that the participants do not lose time getting used to the classroom environment. Responsibility for understanding the subject matter is clearly defined to be that of the student, who must ask for clarification when needed as the course proceeds. Participants are reminded that the course is fast paced and intense so they cannot wait until later in the course to ask questions. The material is presented as a series of highly interactive lecture/discussion sessions usually lasting about 60 minutes followed by a short break to enable the participants to stretch their legs or visit the restroom.
At the start of the proceedings each participant is asked in turn for an introduction as to educational background, experience and what each one hopes to achieve by attending the particular course. This provides the instructor with a basis on which to decide what topics need more or less detail.
Emphasis is placed on basic principals and addressing "real world" applications. Mathematics concepts are reduced to a minimum. Problems for individual or group solution are interspersed throughout the course to act as training aids and to evaluate the class progress. Many courses have an on-going class project which is addressed at various intervals throughout the course as the specific material is covered.
The material is presented to the class via a computer projector, with students following in their textbooks. From experience we have found that using equipment as demos in the classroom uses up a lot of time in such a fast paced short course. The attendees usually have access to equipment in their everyday work, so instead we use video where appropriate and slides to illustrate various applications of the material. Each student is provided with a spiral-bound course workbook, and 6-month access to the electronic course notes, which contain all the slides used in the classroom presentation.
As each topic is developed in class, the instructor adds his or her own personal experience of the application and interaction between the students usually triggers additional information based on their experiences. Special interest discussions are encouraged outside of regular course sessions. Participants are expected to review the day's proceedings and sometimes to complete homework assignments in the evening. A self-graded test/quiz is usually administered at the end of the presentation, so each participant can identify areas where further study or review may be needed. Each participant is requested to complete a critique of the course. TTi appreciates these responses. It provides information, from the participant's point of view, as to which areas may need modification. It also provides a review of the instructor’s knowledge, presentation and responsiveness to student questions.
At the end of the course, participants are ready to return to their everyday work quipped with a better understanding of the subject matter and to apply one or more concepts learned to improve their work.