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Building Virtual Round Tables

Moderator: Idajean M. Fisher

Summary by Idajean M. Fisher

A few days prior to USENIX, a conversation kicked up on the sage-edu mail list centered on possibilities for technology-based mentoring and training environments for system administrators in the field. The concept of a virtual round table was thrown around along with ideas regarding possible implementations.

Because the discussion took place shortly before USENIX the list members decided to throw together a Birds of a Feather session to discuss the concept and to find out what applicable experiences or suggestions we might be able to draw from the field. The actual discussion wound up relatively far from the original concept but was quite interesting nonetheless.

The group started off by attempting to decide exactly what mentoring is and if electronic and network-based tools are sufficient to meet the traditional definitions. Many of the attendees held that the term "mentoring" is characterized by direct personal contact. There was also some contention over the semantic differences between mentoring and training in general, with special consideration given to noninteractive or static reference forms of training.

Some of the attendees shared experiences and examples from their current environments. Dave Kunkicky (Florida State University) gave some examples of how his group handles training issues as well as some useful insights into quantification and results tracking. Terry Slatery (Chesapeake) discussed some issues related to traditional standup courseware and presenting static reference material. Bruce Alan Wynn (Pencom Systems) described some Web-based training methods that he designed for use internal to his company and detailed how online exercises and end-of-unit tests are helping to quantify results and determine progress up a learning curve.

The conversation ended with a discussion of various degree programs popping up in the field of systems administration. Programs at Grove City College, Florida State University, and the University of Colorado all entered into the conversation. Several of the attendees also huddled at the end of the session because some of them are hoping to collaborate on one of this years' SAGE-sponsored Short Topics publications (on Education).

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Originally published in ;login: Vol. 22, No.2, April 1997.
Last changed: May 28, 1997 pc
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