Cisco’s Simulations Suite

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Cisco Systems’ IT certifications are some of the industry’s most respected largely because of their reputation for reliability. Part of the program’s status stems from the company’s credentialing exams, which are known for their rigor and thoroughness. “One of the things we like to say is that ‘certifications equal exams,’” said Cindy Hoffman, certification track manager at Cisco. “They’re an integral part of what we do.”


Many of those exams include a performance-based testing component. In particular, Cisco has used technical simulations to assess certification candidates’ comprehension of the company’s products and solutions, said Erik Ullanderson, manager of certification exam development and innovation at Cisco. “They exist in all the tracks,” he said. “There are lots of different products, routers, switches and pieces of security protocol that we have in which a simulation can help garner an individual’s competency.”


The first complex item within a Cisco certification exam outside of the CCIE program was added in 2002, Ullanderson said. Because these simulation items are reusable, Cisco has been able to branch out from that point. “We’ve sort of built upon that concept and continued to expand, so as new product lines are introduced, if we determine that we want to simulate the user interface, we have that as part of our repertoire of things to tie into,” he said. “We plan to enrich the depth of the simulations. As new product lines are moved out, we’ll simulate those and add them to the repertoire, like a toolbox. The best way to describe it is that the depth of the simulation will grow as the depth of the network grows. We will continue to use multiple-choice and all of the other tools in our toolbox in order to best assess individuals.”


Also, as technology continues to advance and Cisco simulation designers become even more adept at constructing these modalities, they’ll become much more immersive. “It’s a simulation, so we need to code around all the possible avenues an individual can take,” Ullanderson explained. “The idea is to be able to allow people to really experience simulations to the point where it feels like there are real-life objects that they’re interacting with. As simulations have grown, they’ve gotten much more complex, and we’re able to simulate more and more different real-world environments and situations. Are there plans to make them more intense? Absolutely, but not just on the surface level. If it doesn’t actually assess the person’s competency, it does not matter to me if they look cool.”


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