News & Views
How to Get From Here to There - Professional Training
by Anthony Kuch, MSc
VP Client Services
On a recent flight to instruct at one of our xpswmm/xpstorm training workshops that we hold around the country, I had the opportunity to connect on the airline's Wi-Fi. As we crossed the country I could see that we would hit certain landmarks or points, make adjustments to our route, and then proceed on an arc of the shortest path until we were close to the destination. From the point of near arrival there were several turns as we dovetailed with other aircraft, made the final decent into headwinds, arrived at the correct runway and then proceeded to the gate.
This had me thinking about the importance of professional training and the many positive experiences I have had both as the instructor and as an occasional attendee. I can see a correlation between the adjustments on that flight path and those that happen to the students of a professional workshop. Students' experience levels vary, with some of them being further along on their journey to being an expert modeler than others. Each of them have their own perspective and takeaways of understanding to becoming more productive modelers.
They learn some fundamental principles which clarify the "why" of model choices. Being self-taught without significant reading in reference manuals leads software users to rely on observations and make assumptions on those observations. Many years ago in our technical support department I remember speaking with someone who had a model with 15% model continuity error. He mentioned that he thought it was a reasonable amount due to the amount of infiltration in the Runoff mode. He falsely assumed this numerical loss was akin to the infiltration loss. At that time I explained what the error actually was and that it is after an accounting of infiltration. However, if the person had been to a training course they would have learned the true definition, actions to reduce the error and acceptable range of error.
While that would have been a major course correction early on the journey, I have many experiences about minor corrections even from the most experienced modelers.
I recently taught at an FMA-sponsored training in southern California. The group (see photo) were very specialized in the regional approach to modeling Hydrology and Hydraulics, while my modeling background includes influence from Australia, Canada and the diverse USA. It was important for me as an instructor to listen and cater to the needs of the class since the regional focus and the experience of the class members was primarily with software specifically related to Southern California. The feedback from the class was very positive especially about two main things:
- The practical knowledge of the presenters and their experience, and
- The ability of the students to work on the model and be led by the instructor, noting that the “hands-on” approach made the learning stick and have the required depth. Using the “learned material” is very important since in modeling one of the most important aspects is the application of the model. Often there is more than one way to accomplish the task and some methods may be preferred over others.
I recently attended training as a student and welcomed the opportunity to gain insight to other hydraulic tools, to network with other attendees and also learn about software features. I was able to ask questions that I thought were unique to me and my focus but found them to have a common interest with the other attendees.
I look forward to applying my new skills and understanding. In my professional flight path, I have made a course correction and am now heading in the right direction. I will leverage my learning time and gain building better models faster so that I can pass this on to other growing experts.
The way that we choose to navigate our modeling decisions is important, and we at XP are dedicated to making sure that our users have all of the navigation tools possible so that they make corrections early and arrive at the most accurate and appropriate destinations.
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