Road To MCSE: Is Online Training For You?

by ServerWatch Staff

You have a number of options if youre in the market for IT training, especially Windows 2000 training. Traditionally, the most popular option has been hands-on, in the classroom classes. This training option has been around since IT training began, and you could consider it the benchmark with which to compare other options.

Thomas Shinder

You have a number of options if you're in the market for IT training, especially Windows 2000 training. Traditionally, the most popular option has been hands-on, in the classroom classes. This training option has been around since IT training began, and you could consider it the benchmark with which to compare other options.

One training option is gaining a lot of popularity. There is a growing trend for online courses, delivered over the Internet. Until relatively recently, online training wasn't feasible because of bandwidth limitations. Those speedy 28.8 Kbps modems could not keep up with even a nominal amount of graphical material, and forget about streaming audio and video. However, the bandwidth barrier is falling, and if you have even an ISDN modem/adapter (128 Kbps), then you're in good shape to give the online training alternative a try.

What Is Online Training?

That's a good question. The moniker "online training" actually encompasses a variety of training methods and technologies. Some online training providers create streaming video and audio, so that taking an online training class is like watching a videotaped lecture.

Other online training companies prefer to cater to people who do not have much bandwidth and therefore would not get much a lot out of live or taped video feeds. These companies use a lot of screen shots and instructional graphics to provide a rich learning environment. Because these centers can't fall back on the glitz of audio/video feeds, they spend more time making the graphical environment attractive and educational.

Another group of online training companies just take material from another vendor, such as Microsoft, and slap up the same material that is found in the print manuals. These companies add nothing else to the learning environment and try to maximize their profits by not adding any expenses outside of the licensing fees they pay to the company from which they obtained the training materials.

Thomas Shinder

How Does It Work?

Again, different companies have difference ways of doing things, and you should be able to sample a course in order to assess if it has what you need.

The better online training centers will have a complete syllabus for you to peruse. You will be assigned an online tutor. The job of the tutor is to provide guidance and support during your studies. The tutor is also able to help clarify issues that might be confusing. The tutor will also grade any interactive exercises.

The online training provider should also provide some type of hands-on simulation. These simulations should provide a "virtual hands-on" experience so that the student becomes acquainted with the interface and the procedures involved with doing common and uncommon tasks with the operating system.

Skills assessment is important. You want to be sure that there are regular learning checks throughout the online training experience. The better online training centers have developed a curriculum that contains frequent testing of how much you remember in each section that you go through. This is vitally important in an online environment, where there is no instructor grilling you in real-time to test your understanding.

Thomas Shinder

Is Online Training For You?

Are you a good candidate for online training? Perhaps the best way to approach this question is to assess who are not good candidates.

If you don't have a lot of industry experience, online training may not be the best choice. If you lack a year or more of hands-on installation, configuration and troubleshooting experience, then the online training approach will not provide you with the core skills you need to develop. If you don't have this prerequisite experience, you should begin with traditional classroom training that provides you with plenty of time for hands-on, real-life, things don't work like they say in the book, experience.

However, if you have logged in a lot of time in the industry, and you are already working in the computer field, then the "just in time" aspect of online training may be your ticket. Since you are already savvy to the ways of the computer world, you know that the training will provide you with the "how things are supposed to work" perspective. Your experience will allow you to take the core knowledge obtained from online training and apply it to the real world. And you can do it on your own time.

A home network, or a test network at your place of employment, is something I recommend to everyone taking online training. Regardless of how nicely the simulations might work in your online training class, you still need to get the down and dirty experience of how things actually work. If you couple your online training experiences with a live network, you'll be in good shape for learning the material and making the most of your training dollar.

For More Information

If you are looking for high-quality online training centers, I would suggest, first and foremost Digital Think (www.digitalthink.com). This company offers a excellent mix of hands-on simulations, skills-based interactivities, tutors and skills assessment. The creators of the Windows 2000 courses are top-notch and drawn from an illustrious list of best-selling authors.

There are a lot of online training outfits out there promising to provide you the skills required to do the job and/or pass the exam. Your best bet is to talk to others that have taken a course with the company, and also ask for a sample course. In this way you'll be able to assess for yourself whether or not the methods used are right for you. But be careful, there are a lot of shoddy outfits out there that just want your buck!

This article was originally published on Sunday Nov 12th 2000
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