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Top ways to learn for your certification

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Learning activities can help you grow your level of experience quickly and efficiently.  There is the “school of hard knocks,” and then there is school.  When afforded the opportunity, it is often better to learn through a designed experience before the unforeseen really bites you hard at the customer. Some may say that the pain of a “hard knock” may be the emotional connection needed to help you remember the next time you are in that situation!

When it comes to certifications though, you may not always have the necessary experience built on the job, and you need to gain the certification.  Sometimes a product or solution is new to the market, and you haven’t had a chance to work with the new features.  Sometimes you are extremely experienced with many aspects of a current solution but have not had a chance to work with some parts of an existing product set.  This is why we build courseware that helps certification candidates learn outside of their normal day-to-day tasks.

Choosing the right learning will help you advance toward gaining the desired certification in the environment that is best for you.  There are many options available.  Most people reading this are already familiar with classroom learning, typically referred to as an ILT (Instructor Led Training). We design and build supporting courses that work for both ILT and Remote or Virtual ILT. All three of these today typically also use a remote lab facility that allows access to the necessary hardware and software without the need to set it up on the classroom.

There are pros and cons to every way we deliver and receive learning.  Let me give my opinion as it relates to helping advance toward a technical certification. My apologies in advance if I happen to miss some aspect of one of your most loved type.

The traditional classroom has the benefit of social interaction in a closed and safe environment with other participants (learners/students) and an instructor or facilitator. This is structured learning, and in this setting, the instructor is typically an SME (Subject Matter Expert) and very knowledgeable in his field.  When the classroom learning, whether remote led or on-premise, includes an activity-based participant-sharing approach, the learning is greatly enhanced. Ultimately, because the classroom affords focused time and thought away from distractions, and the ability to share with other like-minded experts in the room, the experience is usually very good, and there is a great deal of learning. In the technical world, if the activities include case study experiences shared between participants and actual hands-on time with equipment, this modality is the best in my opinion.

Downsides of to this type of training are usually with the associated costs of either time away from normal work duties or the cost of travel and attendance. Another issue isn’t necessarily the amount of time, but that the time is usually contiguous.  It does take a significant block of time all in one setting.  If travel to a location is required, usually you need to be on location for a couple of days to an entire week. So what is good in an ILT classroom, bringing together like-minded SMEs and giving them time to focus on their studies is also difficult to accomplish.

Variations on ILTs are Remote Led or Virtual ILTs.  Remote Led ILTs are delivered through internet browser based sessions.  They have the advantages of good facilitation, and depending on the delivery platform, have overcome the issue of sharing between participants.  Good VILTs today are nearly as good as in the physical classroom.  The only downside is the ability of the participant to get distracted and taken away from learning, such as being pulled away to help with a technical sales call, or just getting bored and reading email.

The out-of-classroom experience, whether physical or virtual, is the realm of unstructured learning, or self-paced learning. These include the use of reading material, study guides, and videos such as one might view on YouTube. All of these unstructured learning opportunities have the huge benefit of flexibility. In today’s world, one can pick up and set down any number of self-paced learning programs just as easily as they would the latest novel they are reading.

The downside to all this flexibility is that it is very easy, such as in the remotely led classroom training, to be pulled away or be distracted.  The flexibility gives the participant full control over their learning engagement but also forces the participant to have self-discipline about returning to something they have left. One risks never finishing the learning if they do not have self-discipline. If there is a cost for the training, they risk wasting money as well.

A variation of the self-paced, unstructured learning is the self-directed approach we refer to in our self-directed labs. Here we provide a combination of self-paced with time constraints and guidance. These have the advantage of giving the learner exactly what they need for the period they want it.  It provides enough guidance to bring the learner along at their own pace.  The downside is that the instructor is missing. While we provide theory in most of them, the ability to ask questions is not in the programming yet.

Now back to technical certifications.  What is the best experience regardless of price and time? You need to determine the skills you are missing first. If those skills require lab work, then be sure to take an ILT, VILT, or a self-directed lab when it fits your needs. If self-directed labs are not available for the certification you want to achieve, you will likely best benefit from an ITL or VILT.

If you have the skills from experience in the field and just need to refresh yourself with knowledge of the subject, then our HPE Press study guides can fill the need for an unstructured approach.

I encourage you to develop your career by choosing the training that meets your needs and situation by working toward obtaining your first HPE certification or advancing the one you currently hold.

About the Author

jimlucari

Jim Lucari leads certification solutions enablement in Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s WW Sales Enablement organization. He is responsible for sales and technical certification exam development and program operation, certification course development, certification architecture and framework, translations, HPE Press publications, and remote lab operations. Jim has been in IT technology work for over 30 years with experience primarily in networking and storage technologies. He has 20 plus years of experience in training development and certification.