Real Live Learning: Page 2

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Instructor-led training is available from unauthorized sources as well. Plenty of independent training companies offer their own, custom constructed curriculums to help students prepare for certification exams. The best way to find quality courses of this type is through word of mouthfind out where your colleagues have obtained their training and how they rate the overall experience. You can also visit Internet forums frequented by IT professionals and ask for advice.

A third, often-overlooked option for classroom training is the community college. Although traditional education outlets have a reputation for lagging a bit far behind the cutting edge, they are increasingly attempting to remedy this problem, especially as it relates to IT education. Several major certification vendorsincluding Microsoft and Novellhave arrangements that allow community colleges to teach the same certification curriculum used by technical education centers, but in a semester format, and typically at dramatically lower cost. If you don't mind, or even prefer, the longer learning time, than these may be perfect for you.

There are several Internet sites that gather information on training courses into a searchable format, such as www.thinq.com and Yahoo!'s list of certification training companies, found online. These can be another good resource, especially if you're seeking training that's a bit less commonplace. Also, check out the sidebar of resources accompanying this article for a representative list of companies offering instructor-led training.

Check It Out First

However you uncover a preliminary list of training providers, it's important to do some homework even before registering for that first class. If you don't, you could end up pouring your time, no small amount of money and your attention into a class that doesn't live up to your expectations. To reduce the likelihood of a training disaster, take the time to research the instructor and classroom, before you sign up.

Start by finding out who will teach your specific class. Ask for the resume of the instructor, or at least a bio. It's possible the training center won't have an individual instructor assigned yet, but if so, they should still be able to provide you with information on the instructors they generally use. If you can't get the scoop on the trainer, take it as a warning that the quality level may not be up there.

What should you look for in a trainer? The best have both hands-on, real world experience with the technologies they teach, as well as significant teaching experience. Generally they should have already passed the exam you are currently studying for, although in the case of a complex certification covering multiple technologies in multiple exams, this isn't always the case.

The training facilities should come under your microscope next. Ask about computers and equipment that will be used in class. Are they up to date? Will you have to share with another student? Are relevant hookups, such as network and Internet, present?

The physical layout is important as well. Inspect it yourself, if at all possible. If not, make inquiries by phone. Is there room to spread out your materials? Is the classroom well-lit and the chairs reasonably comfortable? Ask about lunch arrangements and whether the equipment is available for practice outside of class time. Don't forget to inquire about the refund policy. Of course you're not planning to drop out the first day of class, but what if a family or work emergency arises and you have no choice? Will the training vendor refund at least part of your fees?

As about any guarantees they offer. Some vendors offer a guarantee that you'll pass the exam. While at first glance this is very appealing, if you read the fine print typically the guarantee is not that you'll get your money back, but that you can retake the same class at no charge (except, of course, your travel expenses). So take any guarantees like this with a grain of salt.

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