Writing 10961: First Module in For Review

PowerShell for Admins

Microsoft course 10961, which will be a 5-day course on PowerShell 3.0, is officially in development! We received signoff on the outline this week, and I've submitted a first module for review. A big part of that review is making sure I'm using the template properly, as the authoring tool is fairly complex. It does, however, offer (more-or-less) one-touch publishing of the student manual, instructor slide deck, OneNote trainer pack, Lab Answer Key, and other documents, so it's worth a bit of complexity.
The outline process, along with the actual details of the writing, has been challenging. I pored through the feedback for 10325A, and the only consistent thing I took away was a general feeling that students and instructors worldwide are really, really different!
Some European instructors cautioned against running class longer than 3 or 4pm. US instructors pointed out that a short day ending at 3pm often left students feeling shortchanged. Er. To try and accommodate both crowds, most days in 10961A will end in a significant lab, letting folks kind of free-form the end of the day however they want.
Many folks pointed out that they liked to get into variables early in the course, not so much for scripting purposes but to simplify command-line stuff. Other instructors suggested I avoid variables too early, since they created the impression of a programming course, which scared off some students. Again... er. So I'm officially waffling on that one: I don't formally cover variables until fairly late in the course (well, midway), but I introduce them quite early. It means students can potentially see and use variables on day 1, although I don't get into all the details about how they work, naming rules, and so on. The way I'm writing them in, instructors also have the option to just gloss over them or skip them entirely if their students aren't ready.
I asked a few MCTs to look over some of my draft material and give me a delivery time estimate. I had pacing ranging from 2 minutes per slide to almost 8. Er. So I'm going with fairly simple slides that have minimal bullets (always, in most folks' opinion, the right thing to do). Instructors can then decide how deeply they'll cover the material based on their class' needs. It does mean the instructor will need to be familiar with the material in advance - this will be a tough course to just pick up and teach ad-hoc. As, I believe, it should be.
If there's a theme here, it's that you need a good instructor teaching you. As a courseware author, all I can really do is provide raw material, and an instructional design that leads most students through a sensible learning progression. But the instructor's value-add is to be able to switch things up to meet the specific needs of their class. Every time an instructor tells me, "oh, I always move Module 11 to the second day of class," I don't take it as a sign of bad instructional design - I take it as the sign of a good instructor who hopefully is making the change to benefit his class. But classes vary widely, and I kind of have to write for the worst-case scenario. That can sometimes make a course seem overly timid - but that's why the instructor is there, to add their own value, experience, examples, and demonstrations to further instruct and clarify.
So the one thing I'm keeping in mind as I write 10961 is to leave room for the instructor to shine. Don't fill the course so full of information that the instructor has no wiggle room. Give the instructor the ability to go slowly and less deep for classes that need it, and to go faster and deeper for classes that need that. Provide instructors with notes on what can be skipped if necessary, and what's absolutely critical, so that they can triage. I'll be doing a prep video to help provide even more context to instructors in that regard, and to let them know that customizing the delivery is absolutely okay, provided they're doing so with an understanding of the original instructional design.
Fingers crossed.

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