Future Media Concepts (FMC) recently released a schedule of 45-minute "crash courses" in programs ranging from Photoshop, Avid, After Effects, the Mac Snow Leopard OS, and more. The difference between these classes and pre-recorded sessions found on websites like Tuts+ and Lynda.com is that these classes function as live webinars. This opens up the window to question and answer sessions with a skilled instructor and added value within the "virtual classroom" setting.
The strong point of FMC Training, and really the reason why you will prefer FMC over Lynda.com or other pre-recorded tutorials is its live functionality. Run on the Adobe Acrobat Connect webinar platform, FMC offers 45 minute crash courses on particular aspects of program functionality. The three classes I attended were based on Photoshop CS5, a program I use on a daily basis. The classes focused on specialized features of the program, in this case, (Actions, Smart Objects, and Effects). With this in mind, it's safe to say that the classes are geared toward intermediate users who would like to brush up on their skills.
There is a high level of user interactivity. In the 45 minute period, the topic was discussed in depth with real world examples. Plenty of time was left over for Q & A and discussion via instant message or live chat after that period.
With this live functionality, the value of the class lies with the talent of the instructors. My instructor, Luisa Winters, was highly competent (and brassed with some stellar accolades, to boot). Each Photoshop class went over each feature in depth. What really blew me away was the power of observing this instructor's workflow that happened to be highly different than my own. It opened up some new ideas and introduced me to some features that I previously glossed over. For example, I have never used Photoshop's Actions feature. So, needless to say, a 45-minute primer on the topic has opened my mind to all the great automated functions that I've been missing out on.
Given the live aspect of FMC training, reusability is not really a strong buying point for these classes. I was given 30 days to review a video of the training after the fact. The 30-day active link to the training session was useful since much of the information was worth another watch.
That being said, of course the reusability of a live class is not as prominent as say, a DVD training. But that's like saying that you won't attend a college class because you can't take the instructor with you. (Of course, college classes do give you "hand outs" and printed tutorials that you can reference in the future after the classes have concluded. A special .PDF download with some of the high points as a refresher would be a smart way to boost memory and re-use of the content by the students.)
The benefits of working and chatting with an expert is a high-level experience that is worthwhile beyond the experience of "reusability."
To my surprise, Luisa left her email address with me in case I encountered any problems or had any questions about the lessons. I found that to be a nice touch on the part of Future Media Concepts and hopefully one that they will offer all of their students, not just press representatives.
To me,$45 to brush up and learn new skills with a program that you use everyday is perfectly worth the investment. The real judgement on the part of the user is to weigh the time it takes out of your day to attend these classes. Since most of the classes happen at intermittent times throughout the workday, it may be a challenge for some to attend these classes.
It's also worth noting that if you are a user who is highly proficient with a certain aspect of a program, don't plan to gain much out of a class focused on that same aspect. Although the instruction was stellar in all three classes, the 45 minute format is only enough time to touch on a few topics.
My final impression of FMC Training is mixed. Is there a definite need for live instruction in today's tutorial marketplace? Sure. Will I rush to get into every class that I can? Probably not. The scheduling involved to attend live is a bit of a struggle, and there are some topics that don't particularly interest me. I'm sure each aspiring designer will have their own take on the the topics offered. However, if you do find a class that you might be interested in, feel confident that you will be getting top-notch, advanced instruction with an experienced professional in that field.