Remote training
By Delicious Insights • Published on Apr 20, 2020

This post is also available in French.

Delicious Insights has long wanted to put together a comprehensive remote training offer, allowing ever more people to access our training classes from anywhere. The Covid-19 pandemic that started sweeping France in early 2020 forced us to put this effort in high gear, as you would expect: the administrative closure of most public spaces, including training companies, was quite the wake-up call.

We now have a solid, appealing remote-training story for you, possibly opening up our entire catalog for you or your company when it would have been impossible in-room. Learn all about it below.

TL;DR

  • 🎥 Interactions are as rich and fluid as in-room (full A/V duplex with everyone, multi-directional screenshares, whiteboarding, etc.)
  • ⁉️ You can ask questions just as easily on-the-fly, be it by just uttering them or by writing them down in the embedded chat.
  • This does not require broadband (1Mbps is enough, 5Mbps makes HD easy, anything above that is a bonus)
  • Fully-remote sessions can use easier scheduling (e.g. 3hr/day across days that are not necessarily adjacent)
  • 🎁 This’ll be even cheaper than in-room (−25% most of the time)
  • 💰 (French employees) This can leverage all the usual financing options (OPCO, AIF, “training budgets,” etc.)
  • 🎉 Our entire training catalog will be available for remote training (you can even seat remotely in otherwise in-room sessions, up to a specific seat quota)
  • 💻 You don’t need a powerful computer (the client software isn't even mandated, and our tech stack are not CPU-heavy)

How about a quick overview?

You all have quite a few questions and concerns, and we have a lot to cover here. 😁 So there’s the fixed summary on the left hand side, but here’s the same thing, annotated, to help you find your way around this mammoth of a page:

Just like in-room… only better?

Remote, online training is still a marginal thing in France, but trainees worldwide share pretty much the same concerns about it. And indeed, depending on the infrastructure your training company went with, and how well the trainer manages it, the overall experience can vary greatly in perceived quality.

We audited the market's main solutions, both open-source and proprietary, free and paid, and for now are going with the well-known Zoom. Yes, it's proprietary and paid (by us, not by our trainees), but it also offers excellent overall quality of service, and all-in-one feature packaging that suits our need. We do reserve the right to switch to other, similar offerings though. BlueJeans, LifeSize and others seem like strong alternatives.

  • Excellent audio/video quality, even on rather low-end internet connections. When you do have a sufficient connection (city-based DSL, broadband, etc.) everybody can enjoy HD streams.
  • Interaction quality is preserved: every trainee has every other trainee’s A/V streams, which helps replicate the general feel of in-room sessions where everyone is sitting around a large table. Anyone can choose to temporarily mute their mike or shut their webcam, “raise a hand” to get noticed more easily by the trainer, chat on the public or private chats with specific people, and so on. We also plan to use more and more ancillary features (such as polls, quizzes, curated Q&A) in the future.
  • Screensharing / window sharing: anyone can share either a specific window or their entire desktop, with either the whole group or a specific person, which greatly helps with unblocking people or reviewing code. This works even for iOS devices connected to your machine through USB (and auto-masks some stuff; this doesn't feature Android devices yet but this can be made up for using tools such as Vysor).
  • Whiteboarding: the screensharing feature lets us share a collaborative “whiteboard”, so we can work together on diagrams, recaps, brainstorming, etc. Even during screenshares, there can be collaborative drawing and annotating on top of it!
  • Low technical requirements: the Zoom client is available for free on Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS and Android, and doesn't require a powerful device. A zero-install web client is also available (although it seems to have less features). As for bandwidth, thanks to adaptive encoding (a la Netflix), it works decently well on a lousy DSL or even 3G/HSTA!
  • No travel expenses: sure, our trainees in the Paris area or even Île-de-France region are not very impacted when coming in, but people from elsewhere in France or abroad have to shell out significant expenses on travel, hotels or Airbnbs, dinners, public transit, etc. This sometimes stretches their budgets too far, but remotely all of this evaporates!
  • All from your cozy little place: your cozy spot, your favorite drinks, your pets, your super-comfy outfit you wouldn't necessarily be happy wearing in public… Remote training is also about these little comfort bonuses!

In short, the only downside is you don't get to enjoy our awesome restaurant selection, our friendly breakfast and our home-made, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies for the afternoon break. But hey, that doesn't weight much compared to all the benefits!

What does it look like in practice?

This all sounds wonderful, but in practice, how does that roll?

Prepping

Just as with our in-room sessions, our summons e-mails will reference our setup guide (English version forthcoming), to prep all the necessary software (sometimes course-specific) so you can have a fluid, nitfy training experience. Most of the time that boils down to a modern browser, Git and VS Code, with sometimes a few extra specifics (e.g. Node.js and MongoDB).

In a remote context, you probably want to install Zoom, which doesn't even require creating an account with them. When you first launch it, you’ll get toured through setting up and testing audio and video to avoid later surprises. They have a getting-started guide.

General schedule

  1. One week ahead of the training, you’ll get a detailed summons e-mail, with tons of info. This will include an automatic join link to the “recurring meeting” that materializes the session in Zoom. This authenticated link will connect you automatically when the time comes.
  2. Every morning during the training, the trainer connects slightly ahead of opening time so you can, using the link you were provided, land in the waiting room. When the opening time comes, your trainer gets you in the “training room” proper. You’ll be there for the entire training slot of that day, but you can dash in and out of the waiting room during breaks, especially the lunch break if the schedule spans the entire day.
  3. Inside the meeting, you’ll see the video streams of trainees who enabled theirs (which we highly recommend), can open or mute your mike (and your video, if need be), chat on the… chat (public or private), look at the shared screen (slides, code editor, terminal, whiteboard, etc.) and react at any time by speaking, as you would in-room. You can also, when the trainer invites you to, share your own windows or desktop with them or even the entire group.
  4. Every time the day’s work ends, the trainer disconnects everyone (“closing the room”), and we start again on the next scheduled day, using that same link.

In practice, 100% remote sessions (no in-room trainee) can enjoy vastly adjusted schedules, as we’ll discuss farther down.

Not just during the pandemic…

Training remotely obviously makes a ton of sense, and becomes pretty much mandatory, during the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic. But we absolutely intend to retain a remote offering for the long-term, as a complement to our more traditional in-room offering. When the situation crawls back to a sort of normality, remote will be here to stay.

  • For single-client sessions that couldn’t happen in-room, be it because the team is too geographically distributed, or the cost related to in-room is too high (more about this farther down).
  • For some multi-client sessions that will be scheduled as 100% remote from the get-go (no in-room trainee). This would also help us hold more sessions in parallel, as we would not be constrained by the amount of available training rooms at given specific dates.

That begin said, during this pandemic, French employers have an even bigger incentive to train their team with us: when employees are under a partial-activity regime, the cost of their trainings can be 100% funded by the government (link in French), and given our pricing, the vast majority of applications would be fast-tracked for approval. Quite a great deal! A former measure raised the government refund of the off-work stipend to totality, but this training-oriented replacement is a lot more advantageous most of the time!

Hybrid seats: remotely attending in-room sessions

We strive to make our training offering affordable to ever more people, and remote training gives more people an opportunity to access our trainings (if only by shedding travel expenses), so we decided to allow up to 2 (two) “hybrid seats” for every in-room session, effective today (April 20, 2020).

When an in-room session features at least one remote attendee, we’ll put a passive laptop with a webcam at the back of the table, so the remote trainee(s) can view all in-room trainees and the trainer circulating through the room, from a vantage point pretty close to where an in-room trainee would be, in order to allow everyone present and remote to see each other and interact (otherwise remote trainees would only see the trainer when they’re at their laptop, and not see in-room trainees).

This type of attendance is made explicit on our training pages, in our Terms of Sale and training contracts, and will require a specific application when requesting the contract. We reserve the right to refuse remote attendance should the grounds for it be deemed unsatisfactory. We’ll make sure to document the reasons we regard as valid everywhere relevant.

Adjusted pricing and scheduling

Fully remote sessions (no in-room trainee) are expected to make up only a minority of our multi-client sessions, but are allowed for any single-client session request. They will systematically carry a −25% discount. The “hybrid seats” of in-room sessions will carry a −10% discount, much like the first layer of volume discount for in-room trainees.

Here are a few examples based on our Modern Web Apps training, using the pricing grid as of April 20, 2020:

Context Discount In-contract volume In-room Remote
multi-client 100% remote −25% 1–2 (€1,800) €1,350
multi-client 100% remote −25% 3–5 (€1,620) €1,215
multi-client 100% remote −25% Loyalty pricing (€1,530) €1,148
multi-client 100% remote −25% 6+ (€1,440) €1,080
multi-client hybrid −10% 1–2 €1,800 €1,620
multi-client hybrid −10% Loyalty pricing €1,530 €1,377
intra 100% remote −25% Flat rate (FR) €12,000+EFR* €9,000

*Expense Flat Rate, which vanishes for remote training.

What time of day?

For a hybrid session, the usual schedule of an in-room session automatically apply, which are roughly 10h–12h15, 14h–16h and 16h15–18h, on 2 to 4 consecutive days. (For our US friends, these are 10a-12:15p, 2–4p and 4:15–6p.)

For a fully remote session, things are much more flexible. In a single-client session, we can tailor timing to your constraints. For instance, we could imagine a 3–4 hours per day rhythm, which avoids locking a company’s entire production team for too long at a time, and opens the way to optional assignments, “homework,” etc.

During this pandemic specifically, we’re thinking about timetables that make life easier for those of you who have to cater to their young ones at home, something like 13:30–16:30 (1:30–4:30p), which roughly aligns with nap and snack times, stretching the calendar of a given session. As an example, for a Modern Web Apps 28-hour curriculum, it would stretch over about 9 business days using that rhythm. A 3-day, 21-hour session (such as 360° Git or 360° ES) would span 7 business days.

A golden opportunity for small-size / far-away single-client sessions

We often get requests for single-client sessions from SMBs all across France or farther abroad. Such requests can be difficult to fill:

  • If we come hold an in-room session, they need to pay for the training’s flat rate plus our Expenses Flat Rate (EFR). When there are only 3 to 4 people to train, the cost can seem overkill (a 3-day 360° Git session in regional France with a bit of tailored content, for instance, often goes for a total of about €8,500 excl. VAT).
  • If they elect to attend an in-room multi-client session, they usually do get one level of discount on the seats (−10% to −20%, depending on volume), but need to cover the travel expenses for their staff (travel proper, housing, dinners), which quickly adds up to a bare minimum of €600, for a grand total of €6–8000 for just 3 to 4 people. From a strictly financial viewpoint, this isn’t such an improvement over single-client!

Offering remote single-client is a useful third way: no EFR (the trainer has no expenses, really…) and −25% on the training’s flat rate. To continue with our example 3-day 360° Git course, it falls down to €5,625 excl. VAT, which for 4 people is a discount of −34%, and a cost/hr/trainee of barely €67, making it pretty appealing.

We thus also offer that new format, from now on, for our single-client sessions.

Answers to your other questions

It’s not gonna be as good, is it?

Wrong on all counts! Some might even like it better: check out the first section, “Just like in-room… only better?”, for details.

What will I need?

  • For now, and ideally, the Zoom client software. It is free, does not require an account, works on Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS and Android. A web-only, zero-install client also exists but appears to be a tad more limited.
  • A computer of decent specs (it needs to properly run Zoom with up to 12 people in the “meeting,” in addition to your favorite code editor / IDE, a terminal and a modern web browser). That device needs to sport a webcam, a mike and a sound output. You absolutely do not need high-end audio gear: Zoom is good at damping down feedback noise and keyboard clicks the embedded mike might be too enthusiastic about. If you do want to get better sound, a simple mike-sporting headset will do, the kind you might want to use for gaming.
  • An internet connection that allows Zoom through (basically lets HTTPS through and doesn't suffer from an overly aggressive proxy that would blacklist Zoom's domains, notably zoom.us).
  • A reasonable bandwidth. Again, in practice, the bare minimum would be 3G / HSTA or a 512kbps DSL, but ideally you'd go for at least 5Mbps. DSL in cities over 10,000 inhabitants and broadband / fiber-based lines usually don’t even notice it. In France for instance, as of March 2020, the average mobile bandwidth is 45Mbps (4G is dominant), and average bandwidth across the board is 139Mbps, as broadband and fiber are getting very commonplace.

What courses are available remotely?

Our entire English-language catalog is available as in-room, hybrid or fully remote:

What are the possible financing channels?

This is more towards French employers with an international team; as you surely understand, we are not aware of all the country-specific financing options worldwide.

For French employees, all the usual financing channels apply, as remote training (“FOAD”) is an accepted—some would say encouraged—modality since the reforms of lifelong learning enacted in 2015 and 2018. You can thus keep financing these seats with your “training budgets” (e.g. Plan de Développement des Compétences) and your professional training tax (Cotisation à la Formation Professionnelle), notably through mediators like your OPCOs. Pôle Emploi also works (through AIFs mostly). This all applies equally to “hybrid” seats and seats in a fully remote session.

Check out our video courses! 🖥

Our screencasts are the ideal, affordable complement to our tech articles and in-room training courses, tackling Git, JavaScript and other topics. Check out these high-quality, affordable courses that are specially crafted to take on your biggest pain points and roadblocks.