Cisco released a unique training offering for aspirants of the expert-level Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification in routing and switching. The CCIE Assessor Lab for Routing and Switching, a Web-based practice lab that provides remote access to live tools, duplicates the similar hands-on component that CCIE candidates experience in the certification process.
Post-lab anecdotal feedback from past CCIE participants frequently showed a disparity between what they had expected and what they actually encountered, said Mike Reid, CCIE senior manager. Thus, many of them registered sub-par performances or even failed the lab outright. “We’ve monitored and watched people take the test,” he said. “Over time, we’ve observed that a lot of times people will come in for the lab, and they’ll realize that they don’t know exactly how the lab works, what’s expected of them and the kinds of things we test. They may be very knowledgeable in the area, but they may not expect what they get and perform rather badly their first time.”
Users of the system will interact with icons that symbolize real equipment, which are embedded in a topology that represents the layout of the lab. “They can click on the icons within the topology to get to the command lines of each one of the routers,” said Kathe Saccenti, CCIE product manager. “It’s a live command line—therefore, they see the actual results and can see how their configurations affect the network that they’re building. The main components and challenges are most definitely there. They have a number of things available to them on their PC as their moving through this. They can have the lab guide in front of them, as well as the lab diagram, which is interactive.”
“The equipment they use to perform these scenarios are real gear,” Reid added. “It has to behave the same way and have the same structure as the real test. With the real test, you can do things in different orders—whatever you feel appropriate—and this is very much the same thing. There are some things you have to do in order: You have to do layer-one stuff first, otherwise your layer-two stuff won’t work, and so on.”
The objective of the CCIE Assessor Lab is to familiarize candidates with the lab environment and expectations for the exam prior to the real thing, Reid said. “What we’ve built here is something that tries to mimic the labs as much as possible. It’s hand-on equipment, so it’s the same kind of environment. The scenarios that they use during these practice labs are similar to the ones they could expect to see on the real test—in fact, they’re built by the same people and use the same process that we use to build our actual lab test. The only difference is really in terms of scale. They have four hours (for the practice lab), so it’s not as big of a commitment as the real eight-hour test. And they can take it anywhere in the world. They don’t have to fly to a site. We have 10 lab sites that they have to visit for the real thing, but for this, they can take it at their home, office or wherever they are.”
That convenience and accessibility is one of the advantages that Cisco is emphasizing heavily. Interested individuals can register for the four-hour session any time they like using the system’s calendar function. “This is available in all time zones, and we follow the sun with the scheduling,” Saccenti said. “They will actually log into a Web-based management interface.”
Another important aspect of the CCIE Assessor Lab is the assessment feature, Saccenti said. “During the course of the session, they can elect at any time to have the assessment (tool) evaluate their progress and grade their configurations, and give them point-by-point feedback on how they’ve done as well as learning objectives per section to give them hints, tips and insights about what we’re looking for and where they can go for further study. They can choose to run this at any given time during the course of the session and also run it automatically at the end of the session. This assessment report is also e-mailed back to them.”
For more information, see http://www.cisco.com/ccie/assessor.