Over the years, I’ve heard customers pine for software products that have easily-accessible public courses and manuals to help their personnel better learn the systems they purchase. The reality remains that there are still few available.

General Purpose Items
As one example, I happen to belong to ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) which happens to have an enormous number of courses and manuals available to members. I happened to be going through the lists of learning materials available to me and, of any organization of which I’ve been a member, I tend to think their offerings are both the most complete AND probably the most representative of what is publicly available.

In their lists, I see manuals and/or coursework for the more general-purpose items. I can easily find courses or manuals for Oracle or SQL Server. I can find help with business analysis and project management. I can find courses on ethical hacking. These are all things that tend to be in wide use.

They even have courses available in SAP’s Business Objects, which is somewhat less widely-used than the database products I just mentioned. However, when we start to talk about the ERP systems, which are in greater use than systems such as LIMS or ELNs, there is one single SAP course listed and it is specifically a user course for a specific area of the system.

LIMS, ELNs and Other Specialized Systems
Whether we’re talking about LIMS, ELN or other more specialized systems, they don’t have the wide user base required to get training and publishing companies interested in them. Even the largest user base systems in our industry aren’t large-enough to attract training and publishing companies to develop courses for them.

In addition, these companies all privately create and sell their training because they make money off it it, they want to continue to make money off of it, and it probably isn’t worth their while to get outside companies involved to take a cut of that lucrative training income.

Even for those extremely large services companies who have developed their own training, separate from the software vendors, even though they do sell these services sometimes to customers, it is still not necessarily in their best interests to sell these training courses to outside people – basically, they would just be training their competition.

So, as we’ve seen for many years, the information flow coming from our software products is not going to be publicly available. There will be no public wiki for it nor public training courses nor manuals. While there are a select few companies that might have taken this route, our industry, in-general, has not become interested in doing this.

A Strange Twist to This
What is odd is that we view the consultants on the variety of software in our industry as commodities. Companies try to make them appear to be easily interchangeable widgets. Yet the knowledge and experience these people have is not easily transferable and there are still quite a few consultants I run into who refuse to share any information because they don’t want to help anyone gain what they had to work so hard to accumulate. In a way, I don’t blame them. I’ve seen plenty of instances where someone transfers their knowledge and then gets bumped for a cheaper, more junior person than now has had the knowledge transferred to them. Unfortunately, no-one can learn everything in a knowledge transfer like that – you don’t really learn it until you do it – that’s when it really all makes sense.

But that’s the way of the world. I’m not complaining about it, exactly, just stating that that’s how things are. When we’re more junior people, it seems unfair that the experienced people seem to get all the breaks. Then, you become that senior person and realize that you were seeing it all with rose-colored glasses.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

One Thought to “The Reality of Finding Courses and Other Learning Materials”

  1. There is an effort that has been started to provide open access courses for lab informatics. Courses without the apps being equally open access is worthless or close to it. So the plan couples cloud based apps with the courses.

    This is a long term effort but it is needed. I hope it yields more LI professional opportunities for our whole community.

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