It is always interesting to compare the demographics of two professions, and looking at the demographics of university classes is no different.
Last weekend, I started the A+ course at George Mason Professional and Executive Campus in Arlington. The school offers a series of continuing education classes under the label of TechAdvantage. For my first course, classes will be both Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm every second weekend. It will be 5 days long. It was also possible to do courses in a less concentrated evening form, but I wanted to take courses in a weekend format as I thought I’d be in class with more dedicated students.
The A+ course is a prep for the CompTIA 220-901 and 220-902 exams to gain CompTIA A+ Certification. As such, it is an entry level computing class suitable for those who want to assume a help-desk role. This class can then be followed by classes to gain Cisco Certified Network Associate Certification in networking or CompTIA Security+ SY0-501 Certification in security. Both are more advanced entry level certifications into the computer industry.
The most obvious difference between this and GMU writing classes is the students.
My GMU writing class consists of about 14 students. The common theme is that they are all professionals in the field of English. They are either undergraduates specializing in English, or English graduate students working in their field while they complete their master’s degree. For variety, there is one older geographer now admitted to the MFA. There is also an older woman who has spent her life teaching English. We are all English majors, since to attend graduate level classes I was required to be admitted as a graduate student in the English department. There is a mix of full-time and part-time students.
The Tech Advantage class is about 12 students. There is nothing that could even be contrived as a common profession. There are two fitness trainers looking for a change of career, one GMU graduate in criminology trying to get some career leverage, and a couple of people who have or are currently working help desk. There is only woman in the class, whereas GMU writing class is predominantly women with only three males. The sole woman is trying to transition from HR. There is also one guy who wants to learn something about computing so as he said, he can stop having to wait on the help desk for assistance. He appears to be the only one with no interest in a career in computing. Again, I am the odd duck, as I have no real goal apart from personal interest for taking the class. I am at the end of my computing career.
The TechAdvantage students are all professionals looking at transition to another profession, unlike the GMU Writing class which consists of people in their first profession.
I have found that GMU computing classes are a lot easier than writing classes. I have a lot of prior knowledge of computing, even though my knowledge is “past the use by date”. But that is not the reason that it is easier.
Writing is unbounded. It is like most creative subjects. It requires a very personal commitment, necessitating a lot of giving of the personal self. There is no end point for each exercise because one knows that they can always do better; it is an obsession.
The computer classes are bounded. We disassembled a computer on Sunday and reassembled it. It did not require any inner searching and once done, it was done.
After a weekend doing tech classes, I am nowhere near as tired as I am after 3 hours of writing classes. Writing is a sort of exhilarating exhaustion. I think I prefer it.