Posts By: Scott Brown

Why We Attend the Annual Service Training Institute

Posted on January 19, 2016 by - Academy Talk, Business Talk, Tech Talk

ASTI 2016Managing schedules (and time, in general) is a common problem, especially for people in service businesses, like ours. Everything tends to be emergency driven, and we feel pressure from the demands of customers and all the other aspects of running a business. The result of constant fire-fighting is burnout.

When we stop learning and creating, we stop growing and life becomes routine, tedious, and boring. We need to deliberately set aside time to do things that that help us grow. Recreation (literally, re-creation) is one form of this. But another equally important form is training and honing our craft, and experiencing those "Ah-hah!" moments when we gain a deeper understanding of the technology we work with every day.

It is vital that we MAKE the time for some big-picture work on our business. This is why annual training events, like ASTI, are so beneficial. Not only are you in a different physical location-- taken out of your regular work space-- but you're reuniting with old friends, meeting new Brethren in the Craft, and learning tons of cool new stuff, both business and technical.

With the Master Samurai Tech Academy, we have an additional reason for attending ASTI: to get the word out on the comprehensive, cost-effective appliance tech training that we offer online! We'll have a booth again and will be running an ASTI special, but also raffling off a free enrollment in our Fundamentals of Appliance Repair training course to anyone who stops by our booth for a visit.

Speaking of the MST Academy, a recent benefit we’ve added for our students is regular Office Hours live technical training webinars. I’ll usually have a special presentation on technical topics of particular interest to appliance techs. Some of the past topics we’ve talked about are:

  • Troubleshooting Strategies for Computer-Controlled Appliances
  • Digital Communications in Appliance Repair
  • Reading Tech Sheets and Schematics
  • Diodes and Rectification
  • Split-phase motors: theory of operation, types, and applications in appliances
  • Voltage and Voltage Drops in Electric Circuits
  • Techniques for Measuring Voltage without Getting Head-Faked by Open Neutrals and Ghost Voltages
  • Series and Parallel Circuits
  • Open Q&A on Student Coursework

I conduct these webinars using, the best service of its kind out there on the web today. I can pull up schematics and tech sheets for us to talk about and use the whiteboard app to whip out some sketches and talk through circuits.

Another big benefit of doing these weekly, live training webinars has been that we've gotten a real-time look into how, specifically, students are struggling to understand basic electricity, circuits, and schematics, and we’ll add additional videos and instructional material to the courses to address these trip points. This month alone (January 2016) we’ve added three new videos to the Fundamentals of Appliance Repair training course as a direct result of the Office Hours webinars! Here’s a 2-minute excerpt from a video we recently added to the Fundamentals course:


Do you know the answer?

We posted this clip on our Facebook page and got all kinds of different answers which confirms what we already knew: there’s lots of learnin’ to be done out there in the appliance tech community on basic circuits! And if you don’t know basic circuits, there’s just no way you can effectively use schematics to troubleshoot modern appliances.

Dynamic Doodle Dynamite! Another Powerful Tool For Teaching Circuits

Posted on January 14, 2016 by - Academy Talk, Tech Talk

Here's a 2-minute snippet from a recent Doodlecast video I made and added to the Fundamentals of Appliance Repair training course at the Master Samurai Tech Academy. The full video is 22 minutes and I explain current flows and voltage drops in parallel circuits using Ohm's Law.

I'm having fun making these Doodlecasts and we've found that they're a great way to explain basic electricity to appliance repair technicians!


If you are enrolled in the Fundamentals course, be sure to check out the full 22+ minute presentation in Module 3, Unit 4.

And to see even more of this kind of stuff, attend Office Hours, our weekly live webinars where I use presentation tools like this to explain all kinds of electrical and troubleshooting concepts.


New Quiz and Exam Format in 2016

Posted on December 30, 2015 by - Academy Talk

Some exciting new changes have been made to the quiz and exam format at the Samurai Tech Academy!

We've changed to "non-blocking" quizzes and exams, and no longer require 100% to pass.

It's probably easiest to explain this change by comparing what we've been doing with the new system:

Our original quiz structure was as follows:

  • Students had to score 100% on each unit quiz before progressing
  • They had three attempts to achieve this score
  • After failing their third attempt, they were blocked and had to interact with us either in the Student Forums or Office Hours before being allowed to take the exam again.

Module Exams were similar, but with different score requirements and attempt limits.

The rationale behind this structure was to enhance student accountability and prevent students from “brute-forcing” their way through the course without really learning anything.


  • Since all students had to score 100% on quizzes, there was no grade that meaningfully reflected a student's grasp of the material.
  • If a student missed one question, they had to retake the entire quiz, not just the missed question = annoyance factor.
  • Some students were basically using a “process of elimination” to get some of the answers correct.
  • Some students blew through 3 attempts without seriously trying to figure out why they were missing the ones they were missing. Then they had to wait to interact with us to continue.
  • Some students who got blocked stopped making progress in the course.
  • This structure was based on the assumption that all students would receive a certification. But we have found that certification is not a key goal for every student.

Solution - our new quiz and exam structure:

  • A quiz must be taken in order to move on to the next unit, but a student does not need to achieve a particular score in able to move on. This way, the important sequential order of going through the units is preserved, but there is no blocking that inhibits progress.
  • Each quiz and exam has a recommended minimum score of 80%.
  • Although there is a minimum recommended score, students are not required to achieve this score. However, to receive a Certification from the Samurai Tech Academy, their cumulative grade must be 80% or higher and they must score 90% or higher on the midterm and final exams (for the courses that have those). (Note: the cumulative grade requirement doesn't apply to students who were already partway through the course when this change was made.)
  • Students get two attempts at the quiz to achieve their desired score. The final score reflects their grade for that lesson. If the student doesn't do as well as desired on the first attempt, it is up to him or her to do what they need to do to improve their score on the second attempt.
  • Students are not required to take the quiz or exam a second time. Each student makes that choice for himself.
  • Resets for students who want to retake quizzes/exams to increase their scores can be requested ONLY at the end of a module, after the module exam has been taken (if there is one). It will be for the entire module, not just for one quiz. The student must explain why they want a reset and what they plan to do differently the second time through.


  • The new structure allows for greater flexibility for each student to get out of the Academy what they want while preserving the important sequential flow of each course.
  • Places the responsibility for learning the course material and getting extra help with the student. This encourages each student to take ownership of his or her learning experience.
  • If a student does poorly on their first quiz attempt, it is his or her responsibility to seek interactive help, which is abundantly available to them in the Student Forums and Office Hours, before taking the quiz a second time and finalizing their grade for that lesson. This lets each student decide how much, if any, interactive help is needed in order to master the material and furthers our goal of offering a unique learning experience to each student.
  • A student’s progress is not impeded by getting blocked on a quiz or exam. This, in turn, will yield a higher graduation rate.
  • A student’s cumulative score becomes a meaningful metric of the student’s grasp of the material. The student (or his employer)-- not STA staff-- sets the standard for how well they learn the material (unless they desire a Certification).
  • Certification may not be important to each individual student. But those who want it will work harder for it and the help is amply available for them to get it.

Any questions? Ask us in the Student Forums!

Unleash Your Inner Super Tech this Holiday Season

Posted on December 29, 2015 by - Academy Talk, Career Talk

Stop the guesswork on service calls and become a Master Samurai Tech. Troubleshoot and repair appliance problems that none of your competitors could. Win the hearts and minds of legions of customers. Take pride in your work. Use coupon code SUPERTECH2016 when you enroll in any course or course bundle at the Samurai Tech Academy before January 6, 2016, and get a 10% tuition discount!

SuperTech 201

Master Samurai Tech Radio Episode 13

Posted on December 21, 2015 by - Academy Talk, MST Radio

In this year-end vodcast, Samurai Appliance Repair Man and the Mrs. Samurai do some reminiscing about all the great students we’ve worked with during 2015, the new features we’ve added to the Samurai Tech Academy's state-of-the-art online appliance repair training courses and we describe even more improvements coming in 2016!


New features already in place:

- Midterm exam with open answers in Fundamentals: challenging, enlightening, empowering.
- Weekly live webinar “Office Hours” with the Samurai for students: powerful presentations and illuminating Q&A.

Exciting announcement: even though we’ve increased the features and benefits of the Academy, the tuition is NOT increasing! Instead, we have changed to a continuing access fee model. When you enroll in a course, you receive full access for 1 year (2 years if you purchase a bundle), then you can opt to continue paying a very small monthly fee for access after that time period. (Note: this does not affect students who have already enrolled.)

More flexibility in 2016: we are changing the nature of the quizzes - they will no longer be “blocking” - leaving it up to each student to personalize their learning experience.

Oh, one more thing… In our enthusiasm to describe all the exciting goings-on at Master Samurai Tech, we forgot to mention our year-end tuition special! D’OH! Use coupon code SUPERTECH2016 at get a 10% tuition discount off any Samurai Tech Academy course or course bundle! This coupon is good through January 6, 2016.

Merry Christmas!

You can listen to just the audio portion of the vodcast in the player below or subscribe on iTunes/Android: