Winter Blues and Online Classes – AU Virtual

Wow!  It’s been very long since I posted something!  Do you care?  Possibly.  If you do, that’s very sweet of you.  Winter is always tough; I don’t like the sun setting right after lunch.  And to top it off, I didn’t even get to go Vegas this year for Autodesk University.  Luckily, Autodesk brought the best parts of AU to me!  (Note: well, maybe not the BEST parts, but some pretty good parts)

According to this article, attendance at AU was down about 30% this year.  That’s physical-in-person-I-can-touch-you attendance.  Now stop touching me.  This was also the year that Autodesk introduced AU Virtual, which (according to the same article) was “attended” by about 20,000 folks.  First off, this number is hard to quantify and verify.  However, I’m not gonna argue with it, because I bet it was a LOT of folks who watched some AU classes online.

My experience with online classes has been hit or miss over the years, mostly miss.  The content is sometimes questionable (no, not inappropriate, just not what I was hoping for – get your mind out of the gutter.  And I told you to stop touching me!) the presenters are not always engaging, but the worst part is the format.  You are stuck staring at someone’s screen, quite often a PowerPoint, and you hear them talk.  That’s it.  You stare at the screen for an hour listening to someone else go on and on and on.  Eyes glaze, minds wander, snoring ensues.

I haven’t done much research into how the human mind learns and how it assimilates data, but I bet staring at a screen with someone talking at you is low on the list of effective ways to learn something.  Luckily, the folks at Autodesk agreed with me.

A+ to the format of the AU Virtual classes.  You have a screen on the left showing a PowerPoint presentation or an application, and on the right is a human.  A real live human being.  Looking up at the camera and talking.  This tiny little human addition made the learning far more engaging than most other online classes I had seen.

Another issue with most online classes is, man, you REALLY want to show something to someone afterwards, but you can’t record the presentation!

A+ to letting folks download the ENTIRE screencast and “handouts”.  This is an absolutely remarkable feature.  If I could do a backflip, I would.

I won’t put an overall grade on the presenters or the specific classes.  I will say this – the large majority of the classes we watched were very much worth our time and the presenters were clearly knowledgeable.

The only drawback was the selection of classes.  I’ll give this a C.  I imagine this was being handled on a more tentative and experimental basis, but there were certainly many more “real” classes that I would have loved to have seen “virtually”.

Lastly, A+ to the price.  For those folks on subscription, the price was very very low.  I don’t want to use the word “free”, because that’s a big check I cut every year to Autodesk.  Having AU Virtual as complimentary for the subscription folks made the value of subscription much greater, however.  And frankly, I sometimes scratch my head as to what exactly why I am paying for subscription fees (aside from the license agreement), wondering what extra I am getting from this.  Bonuses like this make me scratch my head a little less.  It is my understanding that the cost wasn’t crazy for non-subscription folks.  I bet well worth it.

Obviously, there are features to the “in-person” conference that just cannot be experienced online.  I have attended twice now and I look forward to going again, even with the excellent option of seeing the classes online.  And no, not because it’s just Vegas.

So, a big kudos to the team who put together AU Virtual this year.  If you missed it this year, be sure to take advantage of it next year.  Hopefully, Autodesk will continue to expand the offerings and keep the excellent work they did for the first AU Virtual.  Hopefully, they will keep the same cost for subscription users, or have a VERY low cost to offset some of the expenses.

And hopefully next year, I’ll get to back to Vegas.