10 Tips for Finding Great Training

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Are you thinking of pursuing IT technical training? Or are you in the process of selecting a course provider, and are unsure of what criteria you should be basing your decision on? Or are you simply interested in what you should look for if you ever do pursue technical training? In any case, this article presents 10 practical tips that anyone who desires quality technical training should pursue before handing over tuition money and walking into a classroom. The purpose of these tips is to furnish you with a better knowledge base for making an intelligent decision regarding a training provider. Besides Tip No. 1, the other nine tips are not arranged in any particular order of importance.

1. Be Certain Your Desired Course of Study Fits Your Goals
The first tip is the most important tip offered here because unless a course of study is well suited to your personal and professional goals, you have no business entering that classroom. Before conducting research on specific training facilities, undertake some preliminary study on the IT certification track that most interests you. Ask yourself some fundamental questions: Why do I want to enter IT? Why do I want to become a technical professional? Why am I pursuing certification? Is the acquisition of IT job skills more important to me than getting certified? How will this course of study help me in terms of professional advancement?

If certification is your chief goal, visit the Web sites of the major IT certification vendors. Study what each certification represents, and discover precisely what is required to attain each certification. Most certification vendors offer some level of customer support. If necessary, call or send an e-mail message asking for more specific information. Your goal in this process is to narrow down your research to the particular course of study that is right for you. If demonstrable IT job skills are your goal, visit the Internet home pages of the technology vendors that most appeal to you. Ask yourself what you would like to get out of an IT training class. Ask yourself what tasks you’d like to be able to perform by the conclusion of your training. Once you have discerned a certain course of study, you are then ready to shop around for a training provider that can help you achieve your career objectives.

2. Verify Their Credentials
The world of IT training providers can be subdivided into two general classes: vendor-licensed and private. Vendor-licensed training providers are institutions that have entered into contractual agreements with one or more major technology vendors, such as Microsoft or Novell, to offer the vendors’ proprietary courseware. (See the sidebar for the names and Internet addresses of several major IT technology/training vendors.) Several other requirements besides the use of proprietary courseware are normally part of the relationship between the training provider and the vendor. The fact that a training facility is authorized by an IT vendor is a “feather in the cap” of the facility and informs prospective students that a certain measure of quality control is in place regarding courseware and instructional requirements. The disadvantage of this arrangement, of course, is that the student is in a way “force-fed” one stream of courseware (and consequently one training philosophy) from the training provider.

Private training facilities are completely not bound to any vendor-proprietary training requirements and can therefore design and offer courseware as they see fit. While this system can result in some really stellar approaches to teaching, it falls upon the prospective student to shop around to ensure that a facility’s mix of courseware and instruction is a good match with the student’s personal learning style.

3. Evaluate the Courseware
As we have already learned, some training facilities may be required to use vendor-supplied courseware, depending on whether the training provider is vendor-licensed or private. For instance, a Microsoft Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC) is required to offer classes that are based only on Microsoft-authorized (which is to say, Microsoft-created) courseware. The same is true for Novell Authorized Education Centers (NAECs) and Cisco Learning Partners (CLPs). In general, you will find that most courseware that is designed for IT certification will have this proprietary courseware prerequisite. One advantage to this system is that students receive courseware that is produced by the very vendors whose technology they are learning. One disadvantage to this system is that this proprietary courseware can sometimes be uneven in structure, content, presentation or overall quality. However, at the moment, it appears that the student has no choice in courseware if he attends a course that is offered by a licensed courseware provider. The take-home message here is that the prospective student should verify that any vendor-licensed training center is in fact using the vendor’s authorized courseware. If they are not, the training center is in breach of their licensing agreements, and you might therefore want to look elsewhere to find training.

Conversely, some training centers that are not bound by licensing contracts with certain vendors have the resources with which to produce their own courseware. ExecuTrain is one example of a training company that designs and uses its own courseware. I would suggest that you ask your sales representative at the training facility to let you examine the facility’s internally created courseware before you pay for the training in order to ensure that the courseware meets your personal standards for good content presentation. Still other training centers outsource their courseware. While some of this third-party courseware may be purchased from a “big-name” curriculum design firm such as Course Technology Inc., never discount courseware that is purchased from a course design firm that you have never heard of. Again, personally examining the courseware for a few minutes will be your best indicator as to whether you feel that you can learn from the material.

4. Verify the Instructors’ Credentials
As described in the previous tip, vendor-licensed training facilities are mandated to use vendor-licensed courseware. Along the same lines, some IT technology vendors require that instructors hold one or more of their certifications in order to qualify to teach their classes. For example, individuals who teach from Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courseware at a Microsoft CTEC or Microsoft Authorized Academic Training Partner (AATP) must possess both the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) credentials. Press your sales representative at the training facility on this point—if the facility’s instructors do not meet the vendor’s mandated certification requirements, the company is not in compliance with the terms of its vendor accreditation.

For a “stand-alone” training facility, instructor certification nonetheless lends a degree of instant credibility to its instructors and demonstrates that its trainers at least cared enough about professional development (which is to say, their jobs) to earn those credentials. Be sure to inquire about instructor certification at the training facilities at which you are considering training. Is instructor certification mandatory for all instructors? What percentage of the facility’s instructors are certified? What specific certifications do the instructors hold? These are all valid questions that can help you choose the right training facility.

Some private training firms have an internal certification process for newly hired instructors. These certifications are generally designed by the firm’s own administrative staff and are based on the educational principles held in esteem by the company. This internal certification process len

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