thoughts on vilt

Over the years, I have taken (and given) a lot of training.

I’ve had self-paced tutorials (printed and electronic), in-person lectures, hand-on labs, small groups, formal classes, one-on-one tutoring, and virtual instructor led training (VILT).

I’ve seen two distinct types of VILT – good and bad. I have yet to see any “ok” training. It’s either great or horrid.

This week I took the VMware vSphere 5 Install, Configure, Manage (ICM) class to begin the preparation to become a VMware Certified Professional.

Some initial thoughts on this class:

(this class was excellent, btw – only matched by the HP Operations Orchestration 7.0 training I took 3.5 years ago shortly after the product had been renamed post-acquisition of Opsware by HP)
  • Our instructors, Steve & Rebecca, did a fantastic job both in playing off each other, alternating to keep the class interested, and presenting the material
  • Labs are always problematic – some folks are fast, others slow; some have issues, others none
    • Team / partner labs are even more problematic – making sure that both partners are learning in the process and neither is outstripping the other
  • Formal organization is good – ability to change based on class needs / interests is better
  • Engaging the class with humor, “relevant” Q&A, and other interaction is vital
  • Learning your [randomly-assigned] partner’s strengths, weaknesses, background, and expectations is important as early as possible

Other pros that should be taken and applied to all classes:

  • Clear learning objectives – stated and repeated throughout
  • Labs which directly connect with the lessons
  • Labs which logically build upon one another
  • Team labs that are still workable by an individual if there is no available partner
  • To the point slides and lectures
  • Few enough slides in each lecture to keep our attention
  • Few enough lectures between labs to be able to apply what we have just covered
  • Presenter/Lecturer/Teacher with appropriate knowledge of the material being presented
  • Remember what it’s like to not know the material

Cons from this class (which I think are true of all VILT classes):

  • Keeping attention on the lectures is entirely up to the student – it can be easy to get distracted, especially if taking the class from home (this also applied to telecommuting – a topic for another time)
  • Lab time is given on an as-needed basis … so once most of the class has gotten it done, a timer is set (eg 10 minutes)
    • For those in the class who finish rapidly, this can give a great opportunity to study, get work done, or goof off
    • For those having issues and/or who work more methodically etc, it can artificially limit their efforts
  • Because of the semi-random nature of lab length, some days can run long and others short

Characteristics of bad VILT classes I have attended:

  • Unclear objectives – if any
  • Overly-long presentations
  • Unrelated labs
  • Long separation from lecture to lab
  • Too much lab, too little lecture
  • Too much lecture, too little lab
  • Presenter with poor / non-existent knowledge of material (ie, read from slide only)
  • Broken labs (often related to poor product base, over-subscribed lab, etc)
  • Inflexibility with regards to lab and lecture start/end times


I really liked the vSphere ICM class – I learned a lot, and finally saw what I knew connected in an organized way that brought into focus my extant knowledge and helped me apply it in more useful ways in the future. Personally, I cannot recommend the trainers higher – Steve and Rebecca did a fantastic job, and I think we were fortunate to have good trainers: it made the material far more fun to learn, helped keep our focus, and made the whole week a positive experience.

Given the opportunity, I think all system administrators and system integrators should take a class like this one – even if virtualization is not in play: seeing the concepts, understanding the architecture, and learning how to design a virtualized environment will carry-over well to other arenas in the IT world.

My lab partner is a DBA for Yahoo – never saw virtualization before, hasn’t been a sysadmin, etc: but seeing how the environment works, how to build it, and how to apply architecture to systemic thinking helped open his eyes a bit to the world beyond data … and, I think, will make him a better DBA.