As I already mentioned, I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D. at UC Irvine. Among the many activities I have there, I am the teaching assistant (TA) for CEE123, which is an undergraduate senior class created to teach the 4-step modeling process to senior undergraduate and graduate students.

This discipline on 4-step modeling with a very intense (textbook) project to be done in TransCad, and I am the one teaching the students about the software (currently the 5.0 version, but I hope we will get the 6.0 from Caliper eventually since they have been very kind in giving us the software in the past).

The first time I thought this class was in 2011, and I found that even though Prof. McNally had put together a very detailed step-by-step tutorial for proceeding with the project development, some students had problems “visualizing” the instructions.

Since I already had professional experience with TransCad and already knew pretty well the theory of the 4-step model, I decided that I’d use some of my time as a TA to develop some material to help the students with TransCad features: A series of videos to help my students with their project and a text tutorial (the subject of a future post when it is more complete).

I produced about 15 to 20 videos at first, but by the end of the quarter I found out that very few of the students had seen it. However, I started getting questions and comments from all over the world (currently I have a Canadian and an Algerian asking questions regularly).

In 2012 I created a second batch of videos, and now a third batch will be produced (during the Spring Quarter), so I went back to check how many views I had so far. To my surprise I have over 9.000 views considering all videos, which is a lot more than I ever considered possible.

Why do these videos have so many views? I have a few hypotheses:

  1. People prefer to have a class on the software use instead of learning on their own (and a paid training session is too expensive);
  2. The videos allow them to learn and re-visit non-clear points at any time; and/or
  3. The manuals are too dense and it is good to have a set of videos focusing in a more tangible way the most important points.

Seeing how well the videos were received, I believe that the software houses could invest some time in creating their own video tutorials or giving incentives for users to do so. Especially software like Citilabs Cube, which has a much more difficult learning curve, would give a much better impression to their new users.

The videos can be found in the format of a playlist on Youtube, but you can also download most of the video files from HERE (675Mb). Please note that even though I will post more videos on Youtube, I will not update this file for download, so the safest place to find the most up-to-date videos will always be my channel on Youtube.

A friend asked me what do I gain from creating and posting these videos, and the answer to that question is very simple:

  1. I get to keep my TransCad skills fresh;
  2. I have to think over what I’m doing when creating the software, what makes me explore (and often) find more efficient ways to perform an operation using the software; and
  3. It gives me some visibility on the job market (found that out a little while ago, though), which might help me whenever I try to find a job.