At the last MVP Summit I had a crazy idea of taking leave and doing a TFS 2013 course to explore the latest courseware and experience the concept of being a “remote” student. While the ALM Rangers are a geographically distributed and experienced with remote and virtual teams, I was a bit sceptical of the remote classroom experience.
Well, my dear colleague Anthony Borton did not think the idea was crazy and asked me to register for the ALM Solutions Using Visual Studio TFS 2013 course, which he and QuickLearn Training regularly host in Seattle.
concept of remote classroom
Conceptually Anthony could be hosting an in-classroom course in the USA, while users from Canada, UK, Brazil, South-Africa and India could join the classroom remotely. In fact, you could joining from the Moon if you could establish a reliable Internet connection to the classroom
For this adventure I was a crisp 41 hours and 4 minutes walk from the classroom, but may as well have been sitting in the Swiss Alps or the Karoo in South-Africa.
I received an email with the necessary links to connect to the course meeting, download the materials and access a remote machine a few days in advance.
On Monday morning at 06:46AM I was looking at my two monitors at home as shown below. While watching the timer clock down I must admit that I wondered if Anthony was Australian (as he claims) or Swiss (as the precise timing indicated).
Other than sitting at home I never had the feeling that I was not part of the class. Anthony made sure that the remote attendees were included in the round of introductions, discussions and feedback. The DHL drones dropping lunches and cookies have not yet materialised for the remote attendees, but attending from home ensured the kitchen and left-overs were close by.
Even the labs felt no different to doing them in-class or at an instructor-led lab at events such as TechReady. We worked with crisp exercise instructions in the daily PDFs, a virtual machine located in the actual classroom and Anthony hovering in the background and taking over control when and as needed,
Day 1 focused on Team Development, giving a great overview for new and seasoned Team Foundation Server users. A lot of the information discussed made me dust off a few dated brain cells and perform an in-place upgrade, as well as explore MSDN documentation I have taken for granted (and forgotten) for a long time.
Day 2 covered TFS Administration, a tough challenge knowing that Anthony had to compress a 3-day administrator course into a 1-day high-speed exploration.
What made me smile a few times is the reference to ALM Ranger solutions, such as the TFS Planning and DR Avoidance Guide and TFS Upgrade Guide guidance, as part of the courseware. We are definitely making an impact!
Looking forward to Managing Projects, Agile Development and Agile Testing topics covered in the next 3 days.
This is what the actual classroom looks like …
… while I am “virtually” sitting in the front row. Hmmmm, I guess Anthony wants to keep an eye on me
would I do it again?
Absolutely … but, I would ensure that my mobile phone, working laptop and other interruption devices are turned off, or located on another planet for the duration of the course. Working remotely can make the mind wander and it takes a lot of personal discipline. It also requires a brilliant and engaging instructor, like Anthony, who is experienced with in-class and remote students!
A huge THANK YOU to Anthony and team for this unique opportunity and experience! Hope I can remote into another course again soon Perhaps the new Build, Release and Monitor Software with Visual Studio 2013 course might be on the agenda.