Manta Introduces Blended Learning to the Training Mix
January 31, 2011 Jenny Thomas
Classroom instruction. Web-based training. Teleconferences. Mix it all together and what do you have? Blended learning, a structured combination of classroom and self-study instruction with a strong component of social networking thrown in. And it’s the hottest trend in education. At least, that’s what Bill Hansen of Manta Technologies is betting on.
In today’s world, online universities and for-profit schools are churning out graduates who no longer have the time or luxury of getting an education in a traditional college setting. These students are already in the workforce, going after valuable education at night and on the weekends to boost their skillsets and increase their value within their current work environment.
Hansen and his Manta co-founder, John Todd, saw this type of education on the horizon nearly 25 years ago. Both started as computer operators and programmers who also taught IT at the college level. They eventually left college teaching to develop multimedia programming courses for businesses, creating the first computer-based training courses for IBM systems in 1985. They formed Manta in 1994 to bring their simulation skills to the AS/400 marketplace.
“Manta has a unique resource: me,” Hansen said. “I have an instructional design background and keep current with new educational trends such as blended learning. Everyone else who does IBM i training came directly from the programming ranks.”
In recent years, budget cutbacks and rising costs have forced companies to get creative on ways to provide needed training. Webinars have become a hugely popular means of instruction, and many vendors are using them as a way to showcase products to potential customers who can no longer afford to attend national tradeshows. Hansen has been both an attendee and instructor in this type of Web-based training, and he believes it is not as satisfying as a traditional class or well done interactive training.
“We still get many requests for instructor-led classes,” Hansen said. “I believe this is because some people simply prefer instructor-led classes, either because they feel that they learn better this way or because they need to get away from the office to avoid distractions.”
Hansen explained that at Manta, “blended” training means using every available tool to give students the skills they need to do their your jobs. That might involve a Web-based self-study class, a Webinar by an industry expert, or an instructor-led class.
“The whole idea of blended learning requires a synergy between traditional classroom-based courses, Web-based training, and Web 2.0 social networking,” Hansen said.
This week, Manta is announcing the availability of two new blended learning experiences: the Web Development Boot Camp and the IBM i Operations Boot Camp. Both boot camps will combine instructor-led sessions with Manta’s exclusive IBM i simulator and the Manta Training Forum to provide in-depth training and peer networking that continues when the student is back on the job.
“Students can take Manta courses at home to satisfy prerequisites,” Hansen said. “They can get away from the office to attend an intensive boot camp on the topic of their choice. During the boot camp, they can work lab problems using Manta’s exclusive IBM i simulator. Both during the class and back home, they can interact with other students and the instructor using Manta’s Training Forum. For us, it was a small step to put all the pieces together.”
By the end of the workshop, students will have the necessary skills to develop the HTML pages and forms that are used in typical e-business Web sites. They will also be able to set up the IBM HTTP Server for i (powered by Apache) to run a typical Web site. The Web Development Boot Camp is scheduled for April 18 to 21 in Denver and costs $2,395 per person.
The IBM i Operations Boot Camp is a four and a half-day workshop geared toward anyone responsible for operating an IBM i system, including both new operators and experienced operators who wish to enhance their skills. Topics covered include: basic i concepts, connectivity products, operations, system management tasks, and virtualization technologies The IBM i Operations Boot Camp is scheduled for May 16 to 20 in Denver and costs $2,495 per person.
Blended learning has some clear advantages for people looking for more training. Cost effectiveness for both the learning institution and the learner, accessibility to a post secondary education, and flexibility in scheduling and timetabling of course work are all selling points for this new trend. But it is not without some disadvantages. Students with limited computer and Internet access, limited knowledge in the use of technology, and poor study skills may not thrive in this environment, although these problems are similar to those who faced at any learning institution.
“Like all new product lines, the workshops are an experiment to test if there is a market. If they succeed, you can expect to see many more,” Hansen said. “As far as I know, Manta is the first corporate training vendor, particularly in the IBM marketplace, to offer such courses.”
For more information, contact Manta at 800-406-2682. Or, visit the Manta Web site.