USAC kicked-off its fall training events with a meeting in Washington, DC, this past week. Representatives from the FCC and USAC were all in attendance. You can review the training materials on the USAC site and that will give you access to all the information that attendees received. There were no major announcements (e.g. the filing window dates were not released) and no significant rule clarifications.
Have you ever seen a movie that had a good story line, good actors, and a good director, and, yet, somehow, it did not turn out to be that good of a movie? It had all the promise, all the right players, and all the other elements necessary for success… but it just kind of sat there, not living up to its potential. In those instances, movie industry insiders will point to factor “A” or factor “B” that spelled doom for the movie; however, in all reality, the movie was probably just the victim of an unfortunate convergence of factors that resulted in a bad movie that could have been a good movie. It is disappointing, but life goes on.
This week’s USAC training was one of those movies.
USAC and FCC staff are busy, and they all invested a lot of time and energy to conduct a training event for E-rate stakeholders. There were question cards, and slide decks, and a lot of the “right people in the room.” Still, the training did not work that well. The agenda was jam packed with content tailored almost entirely to newcomers. This left little time for more advanced questions and answers. Also, the setting itself, an auditorium with a stage, created a perceived distance between the presenters and the audience, while also making it difficult for attendees to take notes, use their laptops, etc. There was not even a survey afterwards which could be used to share this type of feedback. This contributed to a general sense of frustration amongst the crowd.
I have attended E-rate trainings since 1997. I have never attended one quite like this one and I think most people in the room would agree that it did not live up to its potential. Yes, there were good elements, and some things that worked – maybe even most of it worked; but, just like a movie, the individual elements do not always add up to a good show. I could hypothesize further about what went wrong; and, in fairness to USAC, I could also spend more time listing off the things that went right. But, at the end of the day, I know that this year’s DC training did not reach its full potential and there is not one simple answer as to why. It is disappointing, but life goes on.
For future in-person trainings, I encourage USAC to create different tracks for various levels of experience and to build in more time for interactive discussion and feedback.
UPDATE: On October 17, 2017, USAC emailed attendees and invited them to share their feedback about the training.