midrange-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

>   5. Time to get serious (Jim Hawkins)
>
>1) What skills should students have upon completing the program?

(Assuming basic computer/programming skills as a foundation) I can't think of 
anything more important than how to read IBM manuals/web pages and to convert 
that data into programming constructs. I'd be setting up quizzes and projects 
that _required_ reference manual research multiple times. Nothing in college 
programming classes has served me better (except maybe the original wiring of 
logic boards for old unit record machines, but...).

>2) How much focus should be placed on RPG II and the cycle?  How much is 
>it being used in your shop?

As mentioned by others, this is perhaps necessary to mention but definitely 
end-of-course wrapup stuff. Use it for advanced, extra-credit perhaps -- 
research of history and foundation. Supply a couple 20-line program examples 
that illustrate the concept and do it on one of the last days. Maybe compare it 
to the implicit "cycle" that's part of the set-at-a-time concept in SQL and 
explain that the specs in a RPG cycle program kind of describe what happens to 
a single transaction. Then drop it. As for RPG II/III, just tell them to 
convert it to RPG IV -- done.

>3) Should there be more emphasis on RPG IV and ILE?

Perhaps only for 98% of the course. More emphasis than that could be overkill, 
but you never know. No, 99%.

>4) How would you assess a recent graduates skills, aptitude?

Skills -- are learned. They can be assessed by direct questions, anything from 
multiple choice to true/false to essay questions including construction of 
actual programs that address specific problems. Skills are easy to assess.

Aptitude -- is more innate. A whole bunch of aptitude gets tied up with 
"attitude". I believe that this is far more subjective than skills assessment. 
Without knowing the actual work environment, I wouldn't know enough about 
assessing aptitude for employment. When considered in a school environment, I 
suspect aptitude can only be inferred from the grades that have been 
accumulated over the course duration. Taken together with the personal 
evaluations from instructors, I'm not sure anything is better. Wish I could put 
it in objective terms, but it just feels more like an art.

>5) How important are specific languages verses the ability to learn 
>languages and understand the business processes?

Important for...? Obviously, if the goal is immediate employment in an average 
AS/400 shop, knowledge of RPG and CL is far more likely to be important than an 
ability to learn new languages. If the goal is instead a programming career in 
IT and a progressive iSeries site is the beginning, then multiple-language and 
business-process abilities become more important.

Fortunately, in some ways, RPG, CL, REXX and Java are already four languages 
available on just about every iSeries. SQL can also be included via QM and 
RUNSQLSTM even if the SQL DevKit hasn't been purchased. VisualAge for RPG gives 
an event-driven slant and GUI/IDE to the normal procedural view. That's a 
beginning on the 'multiple languages' part.

Business process can be made part of the education by operating the classrooms 
and labs in a business-like fashion. It doesn't have to be additional courses 
nor even part of the course outlines. If it's simply an aspect of the 
educational environment, it will be absorbed regardless or the student will 
fail in that aspect. (Aptitude assessment by instructors will bring that to 
light.)

>6) Any other thoughts?

a) This is a _great_ idea... Asking a list attended by a wide range of existing 
industry professionals gives everybody a chance to DO something, to affect the 
future of our industry segment. And it's such a simple thing.

b) Secondary elements such as WDSC and iSeries Access, including iSeries 
Navigator and its features, need to be considered.

c) Along with (b), general introduction to the various host and TCP/IP servers 
should be included. There's no reason a class in VisualBasic shouldn't be 
communicating with your AS/400 on the backend. Use ODBC and OLE DB and 
demonstrate the AS/400 as a remote server.

d) Break course participants into sub-groups at the beginning of the year. Have 
each group focus a bit on a different aspect of the system.

One group might be given the task of investigating security mechanisms. Another 
could keep an eye out for performance tuning. Another might be networking. 
Another, user or system administration. Another, ILE, APIs, etc. Have each 
group give a presentation on whatever bits they've picked up perhaps at 
mid-term and again at the end. Areas such as these are broad enough to cover 
any platform in general, yet can be specific enough to keep iSeries focus 
overall.

e) Find one or two students in every year and push them to their limits. (As 
many as possible, of course, but the practical limit might be small at first.) 
Then get them placed in solid positions. Every success will bring attention to 
the whole program and feed the "cycle". I'm sure you already know this, but we 
on the outside ought to think about its importance too.

f) Solicit extra-credit ideas. Who knows? Maybe somebody out here has an idea 
that could use a bright student to give it life. I've got a bunch of things I'm 
sure I'll never have time to flesh out and I'm sure a lot of others do too. 
Maybe there's a future in it.

g) Bring successful graduates back to talk about their experience.

h) Get everything you can from IBM. Example -- look over their DeveloperWorks 
stuff for downloads and ideas. Look over what their Custom Technology Center 
can contribute. There are some very useful freebies to be found. (Class project 
assignments maybe -- have students do it.)

i) Ummm... let me think... I'm sure there are others...

Tom Liotta

-- 
Tom Liotta
The PowerTech Group, Inc.
19426 68th Avenue South
Kent, WA 98032
Phone  253-872-7788 x313
Fax    253-872-7904
http://www.powertech.com


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