Study group creation is very important step in the VCDX preparations. So many aspects of the defense can be addressed with a study group.
Here is a short list:
- Presentation Skills
- Skill Transfer
- Potential Question creation
- Feedback in slide layout
- Technology specific debates (increasing skill in explaining said technology)
- Presentation Run-Throughs
- Mock Defenses
- Troubleshooting and Design Scenario practice
- Design Feedback
The size of a study group is also important since it can become hard to schedule a time for large group of people. So a group of 3-4 people has been a good number for the VCDX study groups I’ve been in.
The commitment of the people in the study group is also important. It is good, if possible, to create a group with people with the same drive and available time to commit. But even if people have different drive any study group is better than no study group.
Twitter is the best tool to find a group of people who want to be in a study group. Before each VCDX session specific Google+ pages pop up to gather all those that want to be part of a study group.
It is never to late, nor to early, to join study groups. I was in a study group for the VCDX October 2014 defense before I even started creating my design. That actually gave me a lot of motivation and showed be to what caliber I needed to perform at to be successful in the defense. Starting the study groups early also give each of the member time to cover the each of the designs before submission for feedback.
The number of study groups you are a part of is closely related to the time you have to spend on the matter. I was in two separate study groups for my defense so a lot of time went into mock defenses and design/troubleshooting scenarios.
Study Group Proposed session layouts:
- General Session – do some questions (Basic, Advanced, Expert) and Skill Matrix discussions – Duration 30-60 minutes
- Mock Sessions – Design mocks – Duration 90 Minutes (75 minutes minimum)
- Presentation Session – Presentation run-throughs, improve presentation soft skills – Duration 30-60 minutes
- Troubleshooting Scenario Sessions – single person goes through a Troubleshooting Scenario. Other panelists need to have one ready before the session – Duration 30-45 minutes (15 minutes minimum)
- Design Scenario Session – single person goes through a Design Scenario. Other panelists need to have one ready before the session – Duration 45-60 minutes (30 minutes minimum)
We met every single day (or the plan was to) with the intent to cover a specific session layout. Many of the session actually just ended in just casual conversions about IT. That even helped.
I recommend buying a Webex account while running the study groups, not only will this help with scheduling, it will allow you to record the sessions and give your study group partners access to their sessions. I actually listened to many of my mocks just to find any flaws in the presentation.
For non-native-english speaking candidates the study group is the best way to train your IT specific speaking skills before the defense. You will not get extra time for being from a country where english is not the native language.
And finally, here are a short list of excellent resources for other VCDX study group tips:
Rene Van Den Bedem, VCDX 133, @VCDX133