There is a lot of interest in online Fundamentals courses for design engineers. Here are some frequent questions that come up:
Q. First, the obvious: what is a Fundamentals course? What is it not?
A. It's an online course exploring the basics of an electronic engineering or software topic. It is not a course on pushing the design or performance envelope, or getting that last 1% of performance from a design.
Q. Who is the audience?
A. The audience is the design engineer—but one who is either new to this area of engineering or is looking to add to their knowledge base. For example, it could be a digital engineer who has to incorporate a power supply into his project, an area about which he knows little.The audience also contains a segment of engineers looking to refresh their skills on a particular area, or stay on top of the current technology trends.
Q. How long is the course, and how is it presented? Does it cost to take it?
A. Fundamentals courses run 45-60 minutes. They are posted for on-demand access by the audience. There is no charge to take the course.
Q. What's the format?
A. Format is not fancy: usually around 40-50 PowerPoint slides with accompanying audio in a Flash navigation console. Not too many fancy graphics, whiz-lines, or video, unless really needed. Those can actually distract from the material.
Q. Are courses live and interactive?
A. No, the courses are entirely pre-recorded and the viewer can go over the material at their own pace.
Q. Can you give some examples?
A. Two popular Fundamentals courses are:
Q. What about sponsorship? How does that work?
A. Each course has a sponsor, usually a vendor who has some products associated with the subject of the course. The sponsorship lasts for a limited amount of time, usually one quarter (three months), which is renewable upon sponsorship expiration.
Q. Does the sponsor control the content?
A. Yes and no. The sponsor's influence on the content is minimal. The sponsor approves the outline, and the final course, but the bulk of the course material is not about them or their product.
Q. So what's in it for the sponsor?
A. If the Fundamentals course cites a product as an illustrative example, we'd most likely use a product from the sponsor. At the end of the course, the final slide thanks the sponsor for the sponsorship, and provides a link to them to any site they want. It's somewhat like a PBS series, where at the end they thank the sponsor.
Q. So, the course is not about the sponsor and their products, or how to use a particular product?
A. Correct, it is definitely not. It's about a fundamental design topic or issue, though a product may used as an example of how to implement the theory discussed, like a classic engineering course.
Q. So why would a company sponsor this sort of content?
A. It's an opportunity to be associated with quality, useful content of lasting value. It's to build up their image with the engineering audience, to get the message across that this vendor understands the issues and challenges associated with this topic and can help the designer, and therefore also have products which the designer can use. Since the course is not about specific products, it has a longer viable life. The sponsor also gets the email contacts of those who take the course.
Q. If I sponsor a Fundamentals course, how do I get a list of people who viewed?
A. We will provide you with a login to our leads collection tool upon posting the course.It is a self-service tool, so you can download your leads at any time throughout the duration of your sponsorship.
Q. How much does sponsorship cost?
A. As with some any other things, the answer is simple: “it depends”. Here, it depends on how the course fits into other marketing efforts. You'll have to work with your sales rep on this.
Q. Let's talk about the mechanics. Who provides the topics?
A. The initial suggestion can come from anyone: the sponsor, our salesperson, our editors, the sponsor's applications group, anyone
Q. Then what happens?
A. If the topic looks promising and there is a possible deal, we find a presenter who we think can do a good job on this topic. The presenter then talks to the sponsor's marketing and applications people by phone, to better understand the user's issues and areas where the Fundamental course should focus. The presenter then puts together an outline of the proposed course, usually one to two pages.
Q. And then?
A. The sponsor reviews and approves the outline, which is the working plan for the course. We then develop the course—slides and audio. The sponsor does a final review and (hopefully) signs off (or indicates changes they'd like to see). Once OK'ed, we post and promote the course.
Q. How long does the process take?
A. From initial discussion with marketing and apps about the specifics, to final sign-off, is typically 6-8 weeks. (This time does not include any up-front discussion on the terms of the sponsorship.)
Q. Who are my main contacts?
A. First, your sales rep should always be involved.Patrick Mannion supervises the Fundamentals Courses and Briana Cosofret is Production Manager and oversees the Fundamentals course catalog, and can help with any questions you may have from start to finish.
• Patrick Mannion (firstname.lastname@example.org)
• Briana Cosofret (email@example.com)
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