Wednesday, 22 January 2020 15:24

RMIT University offers DASA-backed online DevOps course

By
RMIT Online CEO Helen Souness RMIT Online CEO Helen Souness

A new online short course from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) aims to provide people in technology and management roles understand the benefits and processes of integrating DevOps within their business.

Part of RMIT Online's Future Skills portfolio which address in-demand skills gaps in the jobs market, the DevOps course was developed in partnership with global software consultancy Thoughtworks and the DevOps Agile Skills Association (DASA).

The six modules are:
Understanding DevOps concepts and principles;
Roles and responsibilities within DevOps;
DevOps and the modern digital organisation;
Continuous delivery;
Running in production; and
Advanced DevOps

"It's a technical course, but it is also the fundamentals of the DevOps world," RMIT Online CEO Helen Souness told DevOps.com, so it is relevant to managers as well as developers who want to learn about DevOps. The course has no prerequisites.

"ThoughtWorks has been involved heavily in the DevOps movement since its inception both globally and here in Australia through sharing of articles and books, organising community events, contribution to open source tooling, and of course in our consulting work with clients both on DevOps strategy and implementation," said Thoughtworks' Australian head of engineering Evan Bottcher.

"We work with RMIT Online to provide SME input into the courses, ensuring the content is industry-relevant and up to date, and full of practical advice and case studies for the participants."

"Critical skills for every DevOps team members are courage, leadership, team building and continuous improvement. In this course, we focus on all four areas," said DASA founding member and chief evangelist Dimitri van den Broek.

"Courage is often undervalued but a key pillar when talking about skills. Courage is about the ability to act, to take a step and try something while taking risks into account. We address evangelism, coaching, self-confidence, proactivity, reflection, trust, open discussions, experimentation, the ability to fail fast and the courage to change."

Vacancies for DevOps engineer roles in Australia are expected to grow 21 percent in the next five years, and according to RMIT Online the course will develop in-demand technical skills including the tools and critical success factors necessary to apply to their industry.

Students enrolled in the course will explore the fundamentals of DevOps and how it can be used to decrease complexity and encourage continuous software delivery.

"Historically in the DevOps area, we've seen a lot of emphasis on technical implementation skills, and not enough on the cultural and organisational impacts of adopting DevOps, said Bottcher.

"This course is going to fill a gap for people from less technical backgrounds who want to help their organisation transform into a DevOps organisation, or someone who wants to join an organisation that has mature DevOps practices and culture.

"This will help with building a business case, designing a transformed organisation, growing a culture of cross-functional collaboration, and understanding the technical and delivery practices and competencies required."

van den Broek observed "Companies around the world realise that working in cross-functional teams will allow them to work faster, with higher quality and with higher employee satisfaction.

"Organisations need to deliver digital services faster than ever and enhance customer experience all the time.

"To remain competitive, organisations are investing in DevOps ways of working and hence the need to start working differently.

"Everyone can learn the skills and knowledge areas necessary to become a member of a high performing DevOps team."

While local industry mentors and case studies ensure students gain an understanding of the local landscape, the course is suitable for those outside Australia.

"We have international best practice combined with local flavour," said Souness. "We have students from all over the world" taking RMIT Online courses, she added. "So much in technology moves at a global pace."

"In an increasingly digitised world, we can't underestimate the importance of connected teams. DevOps was the natural next fit for our Future Skills portfolio, and the short online nature of the program enables working professionals to upskill and grow in their career, as well as positively impact the organisations they work for," she said.

"Even after a few years applying DevOps we still see un-met demand in our clients for people with real hands-on experience with DevOps both in management and leadership, and in technical roles," said Bottcher.

"On the technical side we've seen huge growth in the adoption of cloud and cloud-native architectures, and this is incredibly fast-paced so we see big demand for experienced people. In non-technical roles there aren't that many organisations that have successfully transformed into real DevOps organisations, eliminating silos and creating long-lived product teams with the 'you build it, you run it' philosophy.

"Most organisations are still entrenched in delivering long project cycles staffed with fungible resources, organised into functional silos - so real practical experience is hard to come by. We see this changing in the last year or so as even the biggest of organisations are (slowly) transforming into more DevOps-inspired organisations."

van den Broek added "The best teams are home to team members from different backgrounds (knowledge) and different personalities or styles.

"However, there are a few important things to have in common. You can only elevate the team to high performance once you understand that communication, trust, and culture are key.

"And related to this, everyone should be able to speak up, teams should be energised and team members have to be invested in the team's success.

"If I were to hire someone, I would not be looking for heroes but for a personality that supports these team dynamics."

The $A1600 (including GST; approximately $US1100) course requires a commitment of eight to ten hours per week for six weeks. Many RMIT Online students do all their study at weekends - the video lectures and webinars are available on-demand for those who cannot attend live - and around 70 percent of students are aged between 25 and 45, which means they are likely to have family responsibilities.

Slack channels and forums are provided for student collaboration.

While it is not compulsory to complete each assignment in the week it is set, students are advised to do so because RMIT's pedagogy research shows that yields better outcomes. It also means students have completed their assessment tasks by the end of the course.

If a student doesn't keep up, they have up to four weeks from the end of the course to submit their outstanding assignments. One resubmission is allowed if a piece of work does not meet the required standard.

RMIT has a progressive view of microcredentialling, Souness explained, and while the DevOps course does not form part of an RMIT qualification, the university does have a strong governance process around the learning outcomes of microcredentialled courses. Furthermore, the courses are co-credentialled by industry partners, in this case Thoughtworks.

If you pass, "you get a badge you can show on LinkedIn" as well as a certificate, she said. But this isn't like courses that only require students to show up in person or virtually: completion means the finishing assignments to an acceptable standard.

"It's really important to build currency when updating your skills," and with RMIT Online courses "you've proven you've got the skills," said Souness. Course content is "top notch, from some of the best operators in the space," and "we design our assessments carefully."

"We're setting a high standard for our credentials," she said.

RMIT Online product director Julian Stevenson pointed out that the course also prepares students for the DASA DevOps Fundamentals certification.

"Every DASA course and certification is based on a syllabus that covers the learning objectives, certification topics, etc. The syllabus needs formal approval by the experts and DASA's Editorial Board," said DASA's van den Broek.

"The RMIT course is based on the most up to date syllabus of DASA DevOps Fundamentals and covers DASA's competency model and principles."

Some previous Future Skills courses - including the one on blockchain - have been followed by covering more detailed aspects of the technology. Stevenson said a more technical DevOps course is under consideration, but there is no commitment to it at this stage.

Recognising the growing importance of DevOps in the workplace, Bottcher said it is important for industry and education to work together to enable the Australian workforce to upskill and maintain its global competitive edge.

"Our clients are finding it difficult to find people who have experience with DevOps and there is clearly a lack of accessible formal training in the area. We're proud to be partnering with RMIT Online to design a course that addresses the needs of Australia's future workforce," Evan Bottcher said.

van den Broek said "To meet today's demands for delivering successful digital products and services at speed, enterprises are shifting focus from DevOps tooling to developing DevOps competencies and skills. Learners and organizations will benefit from having access to RMIT's DASA DevOps eLearning content. RMIT has a strong reputation, and we are excited to team up in building high performing DevOps teams."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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