Friday, 30 August 2019 12:43

Share your skills and make money

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Pluralsight chief experience officer Nate Walkingshaw Pluralsight chief experience officer Nate Walkingshaw Stephen Withers

If you have mastered the technology you use every day, you might consider becoming a courseware author.

"There is some prestige in being a Pluralsight author," Pluralsight head of content Gilbert Lee told iTWire, And they are paid well in exchange for giving Pluralsight exclusive access to their content.

The company looks for great teachers and speakers, then leaves them to write course outlines and scripts, and then produce the video.

Only a small percentage of Pluralsight content is developed internally, and employee authors still have to be regarded as experts in their field.

During Pluralsight Live 2019, iTWire spoke to author Jonathan Mills, who by day is an executive consultant at technology service provider World Wide Technology.

Mills has worked in software development for 22 years, with experience in Mumps, .Net, Java and more. He has been a speaker at conferences and community organisations for around a decade, and was referred to Pluralsight by an acquaintance.

He can reach anywhere from 35 to 300 people at a time at speaking engagements, but "my reach has expanded exponentially" with Pluralsight, he told iTWire. Some 400,000 people have viewed his JavaScript and related content on the platform.

It typically takes him between 40 and 80 hours to write a new three to five hour course, even though no research is needed because he uses the technology every day – it's just a matter of getting the information out of his head, he said.

Most of his material consists of slides and screen-captured code demos, plus a voiceover. He includes pointers to related resources, and suggests useful exercises for the student to try.

The frequency with which a course needs to be updated depends on the exact content. JavaScript changes slowly, he said, so his 'Design Patterns with JavaScript' course is rarely updated. But React (a JavaScript library for building user interfaces) is much more dynamic and so the course is frequently updated to reflect those changes. (During a main stage presentation at Pluralsight Live, Pluralsight chief experience officer Nate Walkingshaw pointed out that there has been 13 React releases in the last 12 months.)

Course changes can be as small as updating version numbers in the slides (in cases where the new version doesn't otherwise change the content), but most courses need significant changes every year or two.

"There is definitely a review process," said Mills, so other authors may suggest that something is missing or should have been presented differently.

"We have the credentials to back up our opinions," and this highly collaborative process is "sometimes contentious, but in a positive way."

He also gets feedback from students, both through the platform and via channels including Twitter and LinkedIn. "I'm open to having them reach out," he said.

Mills encourages people to share their expertise, although he realises many are reluctant to do so. If you've done something you're proud of, there are probably lots of people who would like to know how you did it, he says.

If you are keen to author material for Pluralsight, CXO Walkingshaw (Lee's boss) told iTWire there is room for more Agile and user experience content, among other areas, but their nature is such that courses have to address the cultural aspects as well as the technology and tools.

"Our library has to address all these issues," he said.

One of Pluralsight's big advantages is its Iris engine that allows the presentation of just a short clip from a longer video where that is all that's required. "We're miles ahead in the personalised learning experience," Walkingshaw said, adding that further improvements are coming in early 2020.

The object is to deliver the morsel of learning someone needs, and get them straight back to work. One way this will be achieved is through forthcoming out of the box integration with IDEs (integrated development environments) so those morsels can be delivered just when they are needed. Pluralsight does provide APIs that customers can use for integration, but actually delivering the integration sounds like a significant improvement.

Disclosure:The writer attended Pluralsight Live as a guest of the company.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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