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Fake it till you make it… not in forensics!

Before I start, rest assured this is not a sales pitch or a reason to get your email so I can spam your inbox.  My goal here is to provide thought, start a conversation and get you thinking about the education process in your field.

I have worked in the digital forensics for just over 15 years now.  My favorite part of my former role was research and development.  I love to dig into some technical nonsense and figure out how it works, why it does it, re-create it, then… Share it with others.  This ‘sharing’, knowledge transfer or training is what I want to talk about in this article.

Too often does training get cut from a budget?  I can see why…  when it costs thousands of dollars on top of an expensive software suite and then it is essentially a user manual converted to slides (shame).  Let’s address this…

I have been guiding students to learn for just about 10 years now. For software companies and as an adjunct professor at a university. I have to say, I love it as much as the research. When I am in a room of peers and we are talking geek, I always learn something.  I consider myself more of an eternal student than an instructor.

Times are changing in learning.  Travel budgets are shrinking and our time away from our office/lab kills the work pile up when we return. Hence the rise of online training. I know some of you cringe when you hear that.  Sitting 8 hours in a chair listening to an instructor show you everything on a screen, then you see it… the Facebook or LinkedIn bookmark starting at you….  Been there.

It’s getting better and some companies are reducing their fees, so don’ t be overcharged.  Let me give you a quick 101 on how some training works. Some companies control their training prices very tightly and restrict others from teaching their product in the software EULA, don’t believe me, just read your favorite tool’s EULA. This allows them to keep prices where they want as they are the only ones to provide the training for the pricey tool you just purchased… genius for them… bad for your budget. Sure, companies need to cover training development costs, etc, but $5000 per person for a 5-day class… wow,  I know, I worked in the industry. So, a classroom of 15 students is a nice $75,000 for that company… in just 5 days. Now do the math of the number of classes they hold globally in a year. Cha-Ching!

The latest trend I have seen to fight this inflation is companies like Udemy and others.  They are providing quick classes from a random person, sometimes in their living room teaching you a topic.  I am all for inexpensive training, but at what cost?  Someone who took a college course and then made a video?  Who are they?  Can you verify their credentials?  Can you verify their material (a lot of times stolen…. had it happen more than once)?  Again, I am not bashing this type of learning.  I have learned soldering skills from 14-year-olds on YouTube… no lie.  When it comes to learning how to do something that can affect a person’s life status, be sure you can verify what you are being taught.  If you can or the person is reputable.  Learn on!

Training should be fun, interactive, engaging, inexpensive, reputable and not suck.  This is the reason I started my own company (again no sales pitch) centered around media & production.  We don’t offer our own classes currently, but we build awesome training experiences for companies and organizations to deploy to you.

Face it, you need training… I have seen forensic examiners make crap up on the stand to save face!  No kidding!  You can not fake it in this industry or any when lives matter (not getting political.. just a statement).  It should be your passion to know everything you can about your role and be the best you can.  Training is essential in every field for safety, competence, gaining skills, and making you more than what you are today. Knowledge wise I mean, donuts help me become more physically.   You need to Become More.  I liked that statement so much, it is the company motto on our homepage. BECOME MORE.  Stop thinking about donuts.

Let’s look at the evolution of traditional learning;

  • Classroom – This is where you travel (usually on a day off) and spend full precious days away from the office.  Don’t get me wrong, I was in law enforcement and I welcomed this, but it is not practical in the private world.  I do admit, this is my favorite type of training due to the interactivity with others in the class and the instructor.  What??  Beer after class…. ok 🙂
  • On-Demand Training – This is called many things, Learning portals, LMS, etc.  It boils down to watching a recording of someone teaching.  Great for budgets and learning, but in the past, not the best experience (read on about virtualized software). It is also great for those with an hour here or there.  You can take the modules as you have time.  Love that, especially when they are small modular units.
  • Live-On-line – Here you get the engagement of a live (online) instructor in a webinar-based environment. Like a webinar on steroids. In some cases, you can log in to a remote classroom/computer and have the files, software, and datasets you need.  Kinda cool. OK.. very cool.
  • Virtualized software online- This is where AVAIRY is currently focused until VR and AG come around. We take software and virtualize it in HTML so it can become interactive in a web browser, mobile device, you get the picture.  You can test software, click the buttons, interact with it all without owning it.  It’s pretty cool in a learning environment.  Very engaging.  The retention rate is higher when you go through the motions.  Imagine, an instructor shows you how to do something with a piece of software, then the environment comes alive and now you can control it and do the same steps you just learned!
  • VR & Augmented Classrooms – This is the latest coming trend.  You can immerse yourself in a scene, classroom, in a donut shop… wait… that’s my immersion, but you get the point.  Full interaction with a remote instructor and other students… awesome… now if they can virtualize the beer 🙂  We are working with software and hardware currently to help deliver this experience.  Image removing a hard drive from a computer, attaching a write block, imaging all in a virtual environment or semi-virtual with augmentation. I feel ‘nerdgasmic’ just talking about it.

Advancing technologies and less need to travel to still get a great experience is the future of training.  So now you have a reason to buy that VR set for the office 🙂

My point is training is always changing.  We are always finding better ways to learn and engage people and topics.  Look for some awesome stuff to come in training.

Kevin DeLong

Kevin DeLong

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