IT training gets an extreme makeover

From movie-like videos to hands-on hacker contests, fresh approaches to skills development have gussied up the world of IT training.

By Cindy Waxer, Computerworld |  IT Management, gamification, training

But for every fresh-faced college grad enamored with training videos, there's an IT professional whose learning style is best suited to hands-on experimentation. Rob Wittes is that type of learner. CareerBuilder's manager of business intelligence development, Wittes recently graduated from the company's Leadership Development Series, a three-year, part-time program that offers training in finance, law, sales and marketing. Whereas traditional training courses are typically taught by in-house personnel, the Leadership Development Series, held in CareerBuilder's Chicago headquarters, is led by professors from institutions like Booth University College and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Class size is limited to 30 students, and courses consist of a lecture, lab time and peer review. But it's the program's hands-on approach that makes it unique, says Wittes. Many class exercises involve breaking into groups to create a new product or service, and then devising a strategy for bringing that offering to market as a CareerBuilder competitor.

"There isn't a portion of these classes where you don't get hands-on work," says Wittes. "Everything is taught in a collaborative way that gives you exposure to other areas of the company and other employees."

Getting your hands dirty with real-world case studies and marketplace scenarios is critical to any IT professional's continuing education, according to Lee. "The one thing that is most important for IT professionals is to have hands-on time," she says. "Training that is mostly listening just won't work with techies."

Reaching for the Clouds

Providing techies with a crash course in business principles is one thing. Offering them hands-on training in areas such as app development or Web design, however, requires plenty of processing power and valuable IT resources. But cloud computing is changing all that, allowing trainees to experiment without draining IT resources.

"I can teach a class, Ruby on Rails, for example, and people can then deploy their application on the Internet using cloud resources," says Eric Presley, CareerBuilder's CTO. "Training for technology professionals has moved beyond theory. Now they can actually try it, touch it, feel it and push it out for other people to see."

CareerBuilder has gone so far as to give IT professionals a day off -- and a financial incentive -- to experiment with new technologies. Every quarter, the company holds a "hack day" in which IT employees are given 24 hours to work on anything they want outside the scope of their regular responsibilities.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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