Jack Bauer watch out! PASS is stealing your thunder with 24 Hours of PASS, which is scheduled to start 00:00 GMT September 2nd.  I can’t promise that many double agents or world-threatening plots will be thwarted, but there will be 24 hours of real-time, continuous, action-packed SQL Server content from some of the world’s top SQL Server speakers. Check out the lineup and register at 24hours.sqlpass.org, or email 24hours@pass.org for additional information. According to PASS, select sessions will be available for streaming after the event, with plans to have the full lineup available after PASS Summit Unite 2009 in November.

I've spoken with some of the PASS executives and I'm impressed with the registration numbers to date. The registration umbers are sure to rise, but as of this writing, more than 2,300 unique attendees from more than 60 countries have signed up for a total of more than 35,000 sessions to be viewed. On average, each attendee is signed up for eight sessions. That’s certainly a great educational resource PASS is making available to the community, and I thought the numbers were both impressive and interesting, especially in light of Kalen Delaney’s commentary last week ("What’s a Little Education Worth?") about the value of training, as well as conversations I’ve been having with my colleagues at Solid Quality Mentors. Kalen’s commentary focused on the overall down state of training budgets during this recession and the growing reliance on "free" training resources as compared to paid training and educational resources. Like Kalen, the SQL Server solutions firm I work for derives a large part its business from providing training and education to the SQL Server community, so training is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.

We’ve seen training budgets take a hit over the past year and conference attendance is down across the board at almost every SQL Server event. The cost of events, as well as travel costs, all weigh down on budgets during a recession, making free events like 24 Hours of PASS that much more alluring. Is paid education, especially "in-person" education, going the way of the dodo bird? I don’t think so, but I do think we’re in the early stages of a growing shift to more online and virtual events that will change the way training and education are delivered.

I’m at the SharePoint and SQL Server Best Practices Conference in Washington D.C. this week, and this topic came up during dinner with my colleagues. Sure, people have been talking about the rising importance of virtual and remote training events for the past 10 years, but for the most part, virtual and remote learning has been a relatively small slice of the training pie. I felt a bit like a dinosaur as one of our dinner guests was expounding on how natural it is for the younger generation to conduct much of their social and other networking through completely virtual means. Twitter, texting, and webcams are simply a part of the social fabric. (And then there’s me: I still don’t have a FaceBook page.) We also talked about how some major universities, such as MIT, are now putting all (or at least most) of their courses fully online for free with streaming media presentations, full lecture notes, course syllabi, and all of the materials you would need to get a virtual education. Right now the online courses aren’t for credit, but how long will it be before the next wave of college-bound students plan on taking a few classes from MIT, some from Harvard, and perhaps a smattering from Cal Tech, all without having to leave the privacy of their homes? I’m not quite ready to break down and get a Twitter account, but perhaps it’s at least time for Facebook. What do you think about the growing importance of online and remote training and education?