Collaboration

Interview with Dale Janssen: Cramsession has a clue

When TechRepublic's Bruce Maples sat down with the owner of Cramsession.com, the conversation got lively in a hurry.


There are certain Web sites that trainers should know like the back of their hands. These are sites that are so relevant, focused, and/or critical to what we do that they should be on your short list of Favorites.

In doing research for another article, I came across one of those sites. Those of you who already know this site will probably think something like “Well, DUH, Bruce!” If the site is new to you, maybe you’ll thank me instead.

The site, of course, is Cramsession , and it is the #1 site you should check out if you are working on a certification and/or studying for a test. The name tells you one of the site's main foci: the development and dissemination of “cram session” notes for a multitude of the major certification tests. The site has lots of other goodies, though, tucked away into various nooks and crannies, including “The List,” which is an absolutely amazing compilation of all the technical certifications they know about, including links to those certification sites. Did you know, for instance, there is a certification for ACT? Neither did I, until I visited Cramsession.

The site is so well-designed that I got to wondering about the person or persons who were behind it. After an exchange of e-mails, I was able to track down Dale Janssen, the VP of Training and Certification and the founder of Cramsession. The site was a reflection of the person behind it: I found Dale to be pleasant, well-organized, and focused. Here’s some of what we talked about.

From trainer to Internet entrepreneur
Dale and the Cramsession team are located in Canada. At one time, he owned a chain of training centers. He sold them to Entre, and needed something new to do. He took a look around and decided that the Internet was going to be the next big channel, and after doing some research, he decided to give it a try. In the end, it took three tries before he really had something.

“His first site was InternetEducation, which sold content for a subscription and which suffered from the same problem others were having: how to get people to pay for information that was free somewhere else on the Web. The next site was The Learner’s Guild, which offered online classes and actually turned a modest profit. Cramsession came next, and it took off like a shot. The whole process has taken about two-and-a-half years.

“We are now an infomediary,” explained Dale. “We make our money primarily through advertising. The interesting thing about Internet advertising is that it is bi-directional instead of uni-directional.”

Like everyone else, Dale initially thought that selling information was the way to go. He learned that there really wasn’t a business there. “The value of information is zero now that the Internet has come along. What’s valuable is summaries—little compressed bits of information that answer ‘how do I do this?’ for the user.”

What next?
Cramsession was bought by BrainBuzz last November, which has merely added to the momentum that Dale and his staff had already built. I asked him what was in the future for Cramsession and for the industry as he saw it.

“Our next challenge for the Cramsession site is customization of the information for each user,” he said. “We’d like to make the site match the user.”

He also had some interesting thoughts to share about the training industry. “The ILT [instructor-led training] market has coalesced into primarily the Big Three: ExecuTrain, Productivity Point, and New Horizons. The problem is, it’s becoming too cut-and-dried. People want smaller segments, and they want those segments on their own time schedule.” That's why there is an increasing interest in Web-based training that is available at all times and that moves in smaller increments.

Dale also had an interesting comment on colleges and IT training. “Go back eight to ten years, and you see the failure of the college world to keep up with the IT world, so vendors got into IT training. That has worked well, but there is a rebound coming for the colleges due to the dictatorial position of the vendors. We may see a middle ground develop where the colleges are once again recognized for their capabilities, and where a degree from certain colleges and universities has equivalency to some of the certs.”

Challenging, insightful, focused, yet easy to work with: That’s the way Dale Janssen, and Cramsession, come across. It’s obvious that both Dale and his site have definitely “got a clue.” Don’t be clueless yourself—check it out at Cramsession.com!

Bruce Maples is an author, trainer, speaker, and consultant living in Louisville, KY. To comment on this interview, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Bruce.

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