Steve Rissi, CEDIA Director of Technical Training The philosophy behind CEDIA’s new approach to education, and the coursework built into the new CEDIA Academy During my 20-year career in the technology integration industry, I have observed that most companies tend to take a very utilitarian approach to training new staff members. Utilitarianism is basically a philosophical framework that emphasizes the immediate benefit, advantage, or pleasure that an object or action can provide. Many training programs are built with the idea that if there is some area of knowledge that cannot be proven to have a direct and immediate benefit or specific application to completing a required task, it therefore has no value. On the surface, this seems to be a reasonable approach that removes the unnecessary and improves efficiency. Unfortunately, in my experience, when this philosophy is at the core of training and development, it does not prepare technicians, or staff in general, for long-term success. Building the Foundation Applying utilitarianism as a starting point almost always skips over essential and foundational principles that may not be strictly speaking “necessary” for a technician to connect cable A to slot B. However, knowledge of the underlying principles that dictate how a certain type of signal travels over cable A and why that signal needs to be received with a particular voltage at slot B, becomes invaluable when that same technician needs to troubleshoot problems with signal quality. Here’s an example: I’ve been asked why I still teach students about CRT displays. Why teach an essentially outdated technology? Current technologies are all still based on the fundamental principles of video signaling that were built around how CRT displays worked. By explaining CRTs, it gives context and meaning to later learning opportunities. Specifically, when educating learners on the functionality of scan lines, it is placed in the context of how an electron beam would excite the phosphors on the display one line at a time to make an image. This holistic approach supports a learning experience where the idea of scan lines can be much better understood, and the entire video system makes more sense. As the learning continues, this foundational knowledge can later be applied to HDMI functionality and advanced system verification and troubleshooting. The Learning Gap Another offshoot of the utilitarian attitude is that it tends to promote a somewhat minimalistic viewpoint regarding the educational process as a whole. It supports the notion that it is fine to achieve only the minimum amount of knowledge to obtain an immediate benefit. The outcome is commonly a decision, veiled in a false sense of efficiency, that the necessary knowledge can be obtained by watching another technician. Subsequently, much of the training process ends up delegated to other technicians. This can create multiple issues. First, the new technician will learn whatever habits, good or bad, they see performed by their partner. Second, while able to perform the tasks they observe, they aren’t challenged to understand why they are doing what they are doing and therefore, cannot properly evaluate systems or apply knowledge to synthesize solutions to malfunctions. Third, there becomes a clear limit to the ability to learn, because most techs will only ever be as good as the person in the van next to them. The biggest issue, though, is the example this sets within the company culture. If a technician observes that their supervisors are only willing to invest the minimum required in his development, eventually they will most likely learn to provide only the minimum work required to keep receiving a paycheck. The best technicians are always the ones that are passionate about the industry and the technology. Those who love what they do are the same ones who are willing to go the extra mile and provide the attention to detail to do the job with top notch precision and results. For these reasons, minimalism is toxic to long-term productivity, project efficiency, and business growth and sustainability. (As a quick point of clarity, this is not at all to diminish the need for on-the-job training. OJT is an invaluable component to education, especially in a skilled trade requiring hands-on work, but in most cases, it simply cannot provide a complete education for the learner.) In contrast to minimalism, which only looks to the very next step, a holistic model views the success of an educational plan with the long-term goal in mind. The CEDIA Academy With that backdrop in mind, CEDIA has completely redeveloped our educational programs with a holistic approach at the core of the new learning model. All the courses offered through the new CEDIA Academy have been built from the ground up by subject matter experts with extensive industry experience. These courses include both the foundational knowledge, as well as real world recommendations and examples to aid in getting technicians up-to-speed quickly and boosting confidence on the jobsite. This comprehensive education has been built in parallel with the upcoming improvements to our certification program and offers learning pathways that will not only provide for effective exam preparation, but also success in the field. The holistic philosophy that undergirds the new CEDIA Academy will provide learners not only with what they need to do the job today, but also a comprehensive education built upon the foundational principles necessary to promote further learning and ongoing success in their career. Check out the new CEDIA Academy at https://cedia.net/education-events/education.