Shawn Wallace, Applications Engineer, EDAX
Over the last month or so, I have spent quite a bit of time training people on our systems. Between a workshop, the Lehigh Microscopy school, two webinars, and two in-house training courses, I have interacted with all levels of users. This had me thinking back to my experiences, years ago on the other side of the desk in the EDAX classroom and what I learned from the courses. With that in mind, I began thinking about what our customers/students can do to get the best out of our training sessions.
The biggest thing they can do is to spend time familiarizing themselves with the general operation of their complete system: their SEM, our systems, and most importantly, with their samples. Sit down, fiddle with things and just learn how different settings interact; Amp time and Deadtime for EDS, Camera settings for EBSD (see my ‘Camera Optimization’ webinar). The main thing this does is makes you start thinking about what these settings are doing and how they work with your samples. While you do this, you will start to formulate questions in your mind. For some of these questions you will be able to come to an answer. Some will be directly answered during the course. Others will click while you listen and make connections to your work and I will see that ‘Aha!’ moment on your face as you figure out, why that little trick worked or possibly failed miserably. By spending the time to figure out things on your own, you are getting in the right mindset to come to our courses and ask questions.
This leads to the second biggest thing you can do: Ask me questions! That is why engaging with your system is so important. You are setting yourself up to ask pertinent questions about your samples and your systems. You are finding your natural work flow, but our job is to help you to optimize it, to help you to understand what you are doing, and most importantly help you to understand why you should do it that way. This is why running your system with your samples is a very important thing to do before you come to our courses.
Another reason for asking questions is that you need to be an active learner and engage with your instructor (aka me). Ever sat in a college class and had the teacher just talk and talk and talk for hours on a subject as you sip your coffee to try to keep yourself from dozing off? Ever taught a class and looked at the faces of people sipping their coffee as their heads do that little nod as they fail to stay awake? It’s not fun for either person. I always start my training courses by saying that I want questions. I want you to be engaged and thinking during the entirety of my courses. I want it to not be a lecture, but a conversation. I want that instant feedback to help me understand what concepts you are struggling with and what topics are clicking, so that I can dive deeper into subjects that I need to.
That’s it. That is all you need to do to come to our courses and get the most out of them. Be prepared and be engaged. You will absorb the information we are giving you and you will be able to take it home and put it to use to get better and faster results, while understanding what the system is doing at a much deeper level.
With all that said, there is one more important step. You should never stop learning. Luckily for you, the applications team here at EDAX is always creating new resources for our customers to use to learn with. Sometimes it is quick blog post about some neat new feature we have implemented, at other times it’s a webinar covering the most difficult aspects of microanalysis.
I hope to see you soon on the other side of a desk. Happy Learning in the meantime!