Road To MCSE: Microsoft MCT Program Goes Into Underdrive

Monday Oct 30th 2000 by ServerWatch Staff
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'Cha cha cha cha changeslearn to face the strain'. I suppose that could be the fighting song for IT workers around the world. Change is the lifeblood of the IT industry. If there isnt a lot of change in your environment, youre stagnating, and theres an up and comer right behind you nipping at your heels to grab your job.

Thomas Shinder

"Cha cha cha cha changes...learn to face the strain". I suppose that could be the fighting song for IT workers around the world. Change is the lifeblood of the IT industry. If there isn't a lot of change in your environment, you're stagnating, and there's an up and comer right behind you nipping at your heels to grab your job.

At least this is the current mindset. If you're not changing, you're not growing. And if you're not expanding, you're contracting. I would say the majority of change we see in this industry is for the best. But sometimes, change takes place for the sake of change and not to improve a product or service. You run into this sort of situation when someone takes a new position in a company and wants to differentiate himself from his predecessor. He wants to be seen as a "mover and shaker". However, not all moving and shaking is created equal.

The Microsoft Certified Trainer Program

Which brings us to our current subject, the Microsoft Certified Trainer Program. A Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) is someone who has been certified by Microsoft to present the Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courseware. This courseware is developed in-house by Microsoft, and can only be taught at Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs) and Authorized Academic Training Centers (AATPs). Only MCTs can teach the MOC, and the MOC can be be taught only CTECs and AATPs.

What does it take to be an MCT? An MCT must pass a special "Train the Trainer" course, which is typically a two or three day event where the prospective trainer learns about effective teaching techniques, and then practices those techniques in front of the instructor and the other students in the class. After passing the Train the Trainer course, the next step is to take at least one MOC course. You only need to take one course, regardless of the number of courses you expect to teach in the future.

How Are They Certified to Teach Courses?

Right now, to be certified in a MOC course, you must review all the course materials, and fill out a checklist, which is sent to Microsoft. This checklist confirms that you have read the MOC, studied all the ancillary materials, successfully setup the classroom and performed the labs, and that you have passed the corresponding certification exam. Not all courses have a corresponding certification exam. In that case, other stringent prerequisites must are set.

This process of being certified to teach a particular course insures that the instructor has the knowledge and insight required to teach the subject effectively. Students taking courses from an MCT can be assured that the instructor has at least a minimum level of expertise in the subject because he has studied and passed the certification exam.

Thomas Shinder

Change Is In The Winds...

It'll be this way until January 1, 2001. According to the Training and Certification Newsletter put out by Windows 2000 Magazine on October 20, 2000, the requirements for teaching a particular MOC course will change. First, all MCTs must be MCSEs. This is a good thing. The way the rules are now, any MCP that took the Workstation exam could go out and start teaching Windows NT Workstation, even if they haven't a clue about TCP/IP, NT Server, or any Enterprise concepts. By requiring MCTs to have the premium MCSE certification, you can be assured that the instructor has a clue about the bigger picture.

"Exam? I Don't Need No Stinkin' Exam!"

However, the requirement for passing the exam associated with the class is being dropped. What does this mean to you as a prospective student who may be taking the course in order to pass the Microsoft exam associated with a particular course?

Suppose you are interested in Exchange 2000. You want to take a class at a CTEC because your experience there has been that the instructors are knowledgeable about the subjects the teach. You register and take the class. 

During the class the instructor clicks through the torrent of slides provided to him by Microsoft and reads to you the MOC. Whenever someone asks a question, he says he doesn't know. When the class is over, you realize that although you don't know much about Exchange 2000, you knew a lot more than the instructor!

All your previous experiences with the center had been good ones. How did this happen? It happened because the instructor didn't need to really know the product well enough to teach it! He's an MCSE in Windows NT 4.0 and has never seen Exchange 2000, much less Exchange 5.5 or even Windows 2000. With the rules as they stand for 2001, this is perfectly legitimate and acceptable behavior.

You might think this would never happen. I assure you it will. The new Microsoft exams are an order of magnitude more difficult to pass than the old ones. This means it will take longer for people to prepare for and pass the exams. In the meantime, CTECs need someone to teach these classes. In our example, they could hire a contractor that has passed the Exchange 2000 exams. But contractors are expensive, and the training center already has MCSE staff instructors. The center will demand that their instructors teach these courses, and the instructors must comply because their employer's request is completely within the bounds of acceptable practice according to the new rules.

Thomas Shinder

Bottom Line: Caveat Emptor

Now, more than ever, when it comes to CTEC and MOC training, Let The Buyer Beware. The overwhelming majority of students do not ask who is going to teach a particular class. They depend on the reputation of the CTEC. However, if you want to avoid getting burned, you must now get more specific information about the instructor that's scheduled to teach your class. You need to get inquisitive.

Some questions you might ask:

  1. Have they implemented the technology in a business environment?
  2. Have they passed the certification exam associated with the class?
  3. Have the written any books, magazine or web articles related to the particular technology?
  4. Have they taught the class before? How many times?
  5. Do they have a web site that provides more information about them?
  6. Do they support the class material after the class is over, such as via email, newsgroup or web site?

The MOC courses are not cheap, and you have a right to get real value for your money. The chances are good that if you do not reconnoiter the joint before taking the class, you'll end up being taught by someone that's two pages ahead of you. That's not good. So, keep your eyes peeled and your head up, and get ready to ask those pointed questions if you don't want to be ripped off!

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