Manta Technologies: Your Resource for IBM i Training
Manta offers a complete library of courses for programmers, operators, system administrators, and users of the IBM i operating system, which runs on IBM Power Systems.
All of our courses are web based and run in all popular browsers.
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During the COVID-19 crisis, most training vendors replaced their classroom-based courses with what they called "virtual training." This involves using Zoom or other online tools to present their PowerPoint slides over the Internet. Unfortunately, many vendors have stayed with this delivery method, finding it to be a cheaper way to support their diminishing audiences.
The few of us who have been offering Internet-based training for 20 years or more would call much of this "talking-head videos." As you may have heard from your children or grandchildren, re-purposing materials designed for another medium can be boring and not very effective. Manta has a better idea.
From Manta's founding in 1994, the design of our IBM i Training Library has followed certain design principles that make it a superior way to learn IBM i skills. These principles include the following:
- The overall library is an integrated collection of courses that can be taken in various combinations to satisfy the training needs of IBM i operators, programmers, and system administrators. The overall design is modular, in that students can select different paths to meet their personal needs and the needs of their organizations. A new operator, for example, could learn the text-based (green-screen) interface within a few days to become productive in a traditional environment. Or, the operator could learn the web-based interface (IBM Navigator for i) to perform the same tasks. Similarly, our RPG courses provide routes for programmer who will be coding traditional RPG IV programs or using the newer free-form version. There is even a "differences" course for student who only need to bridge that gap.
- The concept of providing multiple training paths continues down to the course and session levels. It is common for a Manta course to begin with a review of prerequisite skills, but provide a way for the student to branch around these sections if desired. A pre-test is often used to help the student decide which path is best.
- Like good eLearning courses in other fields, Manta does not assume the student is a sponge, willing to sit there passively and soak up the information coming down the Internet fire hose. Instead, our courses are highly interactive. The presentation of material is always followed by — and frequently intermingled with — exercises in which students can evaluate their own progress and review, if needed, before continuing with the next topic.
- Each course has a corresponding Competency Exam, which tests the students' mastery of all objectives published in the course catalog. Students who do not pass all sections of a course are directed to appropriate material for review. Reports are also available for the organization's training administrator to review student progress and exam results.
- Students are in control of their own learning. They can take breaks, when necessary, and even run off to deal with those installation emergencies that cannot be avoided. When they are ready to continue, they can return to the point where they left off at any time of the day, either from work or at home.
- Manta's task is to provide the student with skills that will lead to success on the job. Because students learn by doing, rather than be watching, we try to design learning experiences that are as close as possible to real-world conditions. Operators are presented with actual IBM i screens at which they enter commands, select menu items, and so on. Programmers write code. All of their actions are checked by the Manta eLearning software, which provides feedback much like a tutor looking over the student's shoulder.
For other advantages of the Manta product, see Why Manta? elsewhere on this site.
Manta's "Flight Simulator" for i
When a commercial airline pilot moves to a different type of aircraft, he or she spends many hours training on a flight simulator that was designed to mimic the behavior of the aircraft under all circumstances, from routine flights to emergency situations. The pilot in training does not use this device like the simulators you can buy for your PC, which are designed for entertainment. Instead, they are programmed by the pilot's instructor to present various scenarios to the student, such as losing power to the right engine at 4 hours and 32 minutes into a trans-Atlantic flight.
Two points are obvious, but they are worth repeating. First, this is a better test of the pilot's abilities than a series of multiple-choice questions. Second, this process is certainly cheaper for the airline than letting the student take out a $200M airplane and see what he can do. In contrast, unfortunately, multiple-choice questions and hands-on training are far too common in the IT world.
While many software packages let trainers show students how to use a computer's interface, Manta's eLearning software is the only one that lets the training designer set up situations that require the students to respond as they would on a real system. In an operator course, for example, we can show the student an IBM i green screen or a Navigator for i screen and give the instruction "Take the steps to run Job B followed by Job A." At the extreme, we have even been know to unplug cables from our own machine to have the student diagnose an "I/O error" message.
On a green screen, this requires the Manta software to consider the student's answer not as a fill-in-the-blank question, but as a combination of filling in one or more blanks and pressing a key such as Enter, Tab, F3, F6, etc. For a graphical interface, our software must consider what was entered in a field, what key was pressed (if any), the position of the cursor when the mouse was clicked, whether the left or right button was clicked, and whether a single- or double-click was used. Recognizing the correct answer is the easy part of the job. The software also lets the course designer provide unique feedback for each possible combination of data entries, key clicks, mouse clicks, etc. As a result, every "wrong" answer can be a teaching moment.
One answer-analysis function that we are particularly proud of is used when the skill being tested is the entry of a CL command. Just like IBM i, we accept both keyword and positional parameters. Our rule for commands entered by students is that "if it is accepted as correct on a real IBM i system, it will be accepted as correct in our simulator; if IBM i will reject a command, our simulator will treat it as a wrong answer AND tell the student exactly what was done wrong.
We are sure you'd agree that this approach not only leads to the best training experience possible, but also saves the organization from common student mistakes that can occur when training is done on a real system, such as accidently deleting a library or canceling a production job.
To see how the simulator is used and to get a better idea of Manta's unique training approach, start at the "Courses" tab above and drill down to any course.
When you get to the course level, the second tab from the right will let you take a sample session from that course for free.