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Article -November 2002
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John J. "Jack" Mc Gowan, CEM EMAIL INTERVIEW  John J. "Jack" Mc Gowan, CEM & Ken Sinclair

John J. "Jack" Mc Gowan, CEM is author and Vice President of Energy Control Inc., an Energy Service Company and System Integrator. Mc Gowan has worked on numerous multi-million dollar projects in every capacity from design through financing as an end user and ESCO. He has published 5 books including "Direct Digital Control" on Fairmont Press. The Association of Energy Engineers named him 1997 "International Energy Professional of the Year", and he is listed in Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Millennium edition, Marquis Press. Mc Gowan sits on the Energy User News Technical Advisory Board and is a Contributing Editor with www.automatedbuildings.com.


On-line Training - The Key to Understanding Internet Digital Control

Newsweek Magazine did a feature article two years ago and predicted that 90% of all four year Universities would offer Online courses by 2002. By all accounts that prediction has come true, and just one example of the demand for this approach is that the University of Phoenix has 130,000 students enrolled in Online coursework!

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The challenge is to determine how and when professional training will migrate to the Online media. Self-paced training via video and CD Rom based programs has been around for a few decades, and with the advent of Internet based training, these approaches are being modified for the Online venue. The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), AutomatedBuildings.com and the University of Wisconsin, among others have established a base of Web-based training that offers the best possible preparation for those who want to understand Internet Digital Control. 

Sinclair:   What type of training is needed to master Internet Digital Control?

Mc Gowan:  Great question Ken, my latest seminar really targets those basic training requirements. Over the years I have found that the knowledge required to be successful in the Building Automation market continues to expand. The core requirement is always an understanding of DDC and HVAC control, and that has grown to include some knowledge of Fire/Life Safety and Security Integration requirements. Clearly, that sentence covers a tremendous amount of ground and, in a world that demands specialization, there are two or three areas to which a person could devote an entire career. In the real world however, the industry expects more and there is more knowledge required. After mastering Building Automation, it is critical to then understand data communication. The dramatic amount of attention that this industry has paid to developing standards for networking and communication has resulted in a host of BACnet™ and LON™ compatible products, but it has also been the price of entry for the industry to embrace Internet Digital Control. So the third key area of knowledge for Internet Digital Control is to understand the Web and the underlying technology and software that make it possible. To that end, automatedbuildings.com and others are revisiting these key areas of information and offering new Web-based training.

Sinclair:   That makes sense, but why would anyone retake some of the basic training?

Mc Gowan:  I don't advocate retaking training, though a refresher can be of value for all of us. The driver for the training though is that the industry keeps changing. This is particularly true for those that may be facing a need to understand new elements of building automation systems. For example, consider the person who has worked with one type of legacy system for the past 5 years. This person understands all the hardware and software requirements to install and commission a system, but introduce a new component like a gateway to a chiller controller or a new BACnet™ system and this person faces a completely new challenge. Given that many of these Online Training Sessions are also covering aspects of systems that contractors and users did not have to understand in the past, it may make sense to sign up. Of course the other factor is that our industry is once again seeing a tremendous influx of new people, who come from the Information Technology business and elsewhere, and they really need to understand the building technology side of the equation.

Sinclair:   Is Web-based training a credible form of professional development?

Mc Gowan:  We discussed this once before, but it is well worth revisiting. First, remember that this approach is seeing tremendous growth in popularity for Higher Education, so it clearly makes sense for all forms of professional development. The credibility is improved now because AEE, AutomatedBuildings.com and others are offering Continuing Education Units (CEU's) for Online training. This is the universal standard for professional training and these units are in great demand for renewal of certification and professional licenses.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair:   What options exist for Online training environments?

Mc Gowan:  There are two basic options: Asynchronous and Synchronous. The real benefit of Online training, as with other virtual offerings, is to create a virtual classroom that students can log in to anytime, anywhere. Think of the traditional classroom as synchronous, everyone must arrive at the same time and participate for learning to take place, and to pass the course!

Online training has traditionally used Asynchronous environments that rely on some type of virtual meeting space, like a chat room, that participants can log on to at any time. Lectures, messages and other posting information will be there from participants to read and respond to, and therefore it is possible to have an ongoing open-ended dialog. Even though the full group does not sign on simultaneously, they are able to create dialogs on topics and comment on both course materials and real world data.

The University of Wisconsin and some other Online Training venues are also now using Synchronous training Online. This approach is one that combines a video track that may simply be a PowerPoint presentation with an audio track that allows an instructor to talk with participants. This approach requires everyone to be Online at the same time, but it is quite attractive right now because travel is eliminated and expenses can be kept to a minimum. We will be watching this approach to see how it is received.

Sinclair:   How do professionals take online training from automatedbuildings.com?

Mc Gowan:  The first step is to register for an automatedbuildings.com training seminar online and order materials. There are three courses available right now and based upon my answer above, they offer a great breadth of core training for the new building automation industry and Internet control. These seminars offer a course book and a reference text. The course book is a reference document and also includes assignments. This form of training is self-paced in terms of time, but the seminar materials provide a detailed outline of the reading and written assignments that must be completed along with the dates that these will be due. The participants will post a bio in a public venue and on a regular weekly basis will sign on to the public virtual environment. Participants will read and if desired download topics from the public classroom and interact with other seminar members. This is an excellent opportunity to share with some of the seminars greatest resources, other participants. As written assignments are due, participants will submit these to the instructor's personal email. The instructor will provide feedback or grading on written submittals, and at the end of the seminar issue a Certificate of Completion with Continuing Education Units.


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