Reflecting on the Linux Administration Master Course

Now that we’re a few weeks into the Linux Administration Master Course, it is time to review how it’s going.

First of all, I have lots of fun sharing my knowledge and experience on Linux system administration, and the feedback I’m getting from the participants gives me additional motivation.

The number of the people who are actively taking part is only a fraction of the total registrations. That wasn’t a surprise to me; when you offer a free course, people will happily sign up without much consideration if they will actually have the time and energy. All the more I’m happy that I’m now teaching a group of students who are motivated, collaborative, and, last but not least, fun to work with.

I knew before launching that course that it would require time and effort. However, I find myself putting much more time and effort into it than I had planned; and what’s worse, I’m not happy with what I have to show for it.

Editing and uploading the weekly live lecture recordings adds about their net duration on top. Given that I’ve been gradually extending the duration of my live lectures to speed up our progress, this adds up to about 6 to 10 hours of work every week. And that’s not counting the weekly tutorial calls. Even if after the editing process, the lecture recordings summarize the course material well, they’re still just that: summaries of the existing course material. Even though I’m always adding my own viewpoints and going on side tracks if I deem it useful, I feel like I’m not adding enough valuable information to make my time expense and my students’ wait worthwhile.

What makes matters even worse is that I’m probably slowing everyone down. At my current pace, it’ll take us weeks to just finish the first of the three volumes of “Using and Administering Linux”, our study material. Would they study and practice completely on their own time, most of my students were probably be far ahead already. The only way for me to churn out lectures more frequently would be if I made this my full-time job. While that is my dream, it’s definitely not the time for it yet.

This realization is a good opportunity to remind myself of my initial goal: Turn my students into great system administrators by handing them good course materials, and using my experience to help them when they’re stuck or have questions. The main tool towards that goal was supposed to be the “flipped classroom” method that emphasizes self-study and frees the teacher to take time away from lecturing and put it into tutoring. And I think I still can achieve my goal by applying the flipped classroom method beyond the weekly hour or so in which we have our group call.

After pondering this issue for a while, I came up with the following idea: I’ll turn both the live lecture stream on Thursday afternoon and the group call on Thursday night into tutoring live streams. I’ll keep announcing the required reading ahead of each week, but now the number of chapters will be aligned with the time that a student can likely invest into studying the course material, not the time I can spend only repeating it. With two tutoring slots on different days at different times, I’ll be able to work with the same number of active students that turned up until now, or maybe even more, and definitely more effectively.

I’ll divide the tutorial streams into segments:

  • A short summary of each chapter,
  • my own comments and addenda on the course material, and
  • an extensive Q&A section in which I actively help my students with understanding the materials better and getting unstuck.

I’ll propose this change on the course channel on our Discord chat today, and I’m curious about the feedback.

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