by C.J. Meidlinger
A typical day for a lab proctor is pretty long. The lab room is often open for business before the first lecture session of the day and there are always a few hangers-on at the end of the day trying to get the last few steps of an exercise completed before they leave. In addition to the lab operating hours, some proctors arrive early -- really early -- and some stay late -- really late. Even though the labs are functioning properly, there is always room for improvement and it's nice to be able to run eight simultaneous experiments to see which tweaks make for the best improvements.
The lead up to the long days at Pulse begins in the summer prior. At that time, lab proctors will submit their proposals for lab exercises. The process continues through the fall with approving proposals, selecting a common lab platform, writing the lab exercises, and testing. Although there are many other things that are happening in parallel, these are the things that a typical lab proctor will focus on in the months leading up to Pulse.
While looking forward to Pulse 2013 is the lab proctor's primary task right now, looking back at previous Pulse conferences can provide insights on what makes a good lab experience. Here are three areas that I personally address in the development of Pulse lab exercises:
1. Shorter labs -- A two hour lab needs a two hour block of time to perform it. A thirty minute lab needs a thirty minute block of time. Which do you think is more common in a Pulse attendee's schedule?
2. A Wider Range of Testers -- The easiest testers to recruit are the colleagues on one's own team. My teammates are fantastic people and very thorough testers, but we all share a common vernacular. Instructions that are functionally correct and clear to us may not be as clear to people in other disciplines or job roles. It's important to recruit testers from outside one's discipline.
3. Better notes/comments -- Even when the lab instructions are clear to everyone, the purpose of individual steps is sometimes lost. Completing an exercise successfully is great, but if it's not clear what was done and why it was done, we have an exercise in following instructions, nothing more. These kinds of questions have come up in previous Pulse conferences and one of the jobs of the lab proctor is to explain the reasoning and purpose of the lab exercises. But with several people waiting to ask the same question individually, better notes throughout the lab guide can take care of the common questions and leave proctors more free time to answer the uncommon ones.
The Pulse lab proctors try to make the lab experience the best as it can be for every attendee. If you have suggestions for us, please add your comments below.
C.J. Meidlinger has been with IBM for twelve years developing and delivering Tivoli training. He is a veteran of multiple Pulse conferences and has contributed to the design, development, and deployment of many aspects of the Pulse lab offering.