How to Study for Certification

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Several methods of learning will help you prepare for certification and your job in addition to experience. There are four main ways to learn and prepare for certification―instructor-led classes, self-paced e-learning, live e-learning and books.

Instructor-Led Classes
Instructor-led training is one of the most popular methods of learning and preparing for certification. Most everyone’s learning has been accomplished by sitting in a classroom with an instructor, so it is only natural for this form of learning to be used by many individuals. The combination of a knowledgeable instructor with good communication skills and the proper classroom equipment is powerful for helping learners master new skills. Using a combination of instructional tools such as hands-on labs, books and self-paced training provides a blended-learning experience, further enhancing the knowledge gained. Attending a class can also be one of the quickest ways to learn since learners feel obligated to attend each class when the instructor will notice absenteeism, and individuals are basically forced to progress through the material. Instructor-led classes are still the preferred choice by many individuals, but there are some drawbacks to learning in this manner.

Three- to five-day instructor-led classes providing certification training are expensive. It is not unusual for instructor-led classes to cost $1,500 to $2,500 for courses running three to five days. If you need to prepare for and pass five certification exams, you can easily spend $7,500 to $10,000 in class fees plus the cost of the certification exams. For many years, companies and government organizations have provided technology professionals with the benefit of free training. Companies and government organizations employing technology professionals have always wanted to advance and retain the knowledge capital of these professionals. Over the past two decades, this has been largely accomplished by sending technology professionals to instructor-led classes. However, companies and government organizations have been reallocating budgets traditionally spent on instructor-led classes to less expensive alternatives.

Instructor-led classes can have learners with widely diverse knowledge and experience. When a class is comprised of learners with largely similar knowledge and experience, the class and instructor can be very productive. However, when a class is comprised of learners with widely diverse knowledge and experience, the class can be very beneficial to a portion of the learners and a waste of time to the remaining learners. Attending an expensive and unproductive class can be frustrating, requiring either the less knowledgeable or the more advanced learners to be rescheduled into a different class.

Scheduling and attending instructor-led classes can also be difficult for technology professionals. Sometimes classes are not available when they are needed. Or, the class is available, but not at a time of day or on days of the week that are convenient. You must also get to and from the classroom, which may be inconvenient. While instructor-led classes are still the choice preferred by many, other learning alternatives are increasingly being used.

E-Learning: Self-Paced and Live
Various types of e-learning (also known as Web-based training) have gained significant acceptance by technology professionals and employers over the last five years. E-learning is defined as the process of providing training through the Internet to individuals located anywhere an Internet connection is available. There are two basic types of training available through e-learning ― self-paced e-learning and live e-learning.

Self-paced e-learning is the most widely used type of formal training after instructor-led training and is the fastest-growing segment of the training industry. High-quality, self-paced e-learning provides learners with excellent training, convenient anytime-anywhere learning, testing, the ability to take the training as many times as needed, help from instructor mentors, hands-on labs and exercises. Today’s leading self-paced training companies provide highly interactive courses created around sound instructional design truly delivering excellent instruction to learners. Learners can take a skill assessment test before beginning a course to determine if they have mastered all the skills of the course. If the skill assessment test determines a learner has mastered only some of the skills, a customized learning path is generated for the learner eliminating the need to relearn material already mastered.

Individuals learn at different speeds, and self-paced e-learning permits learners to proceed through the courses at their own pace. Since the training is available anytime and anywhere Internet access is available, learners can use the courses as often as needed at their convenience, without pre-scheduling. Learners can take courses in the evening at home or in a hotel room while traveling, or they can begin a course at home and finish it in a hotel room. Help from live instructor mentors provides learners with quick answers to questions, better understanding of key concepts and confirmation that particular tasks are correctly understood.

Hands-on labs and exercises further enhance learning within self-paced e-learning courses. Learning is significantly enhanced anytime a learner can perform hands-on tasks, and self-paced e-learning has advanced to this level at very reasonable cost. Today, many self-paced e-learning vendors also provide access to hands-on labs permitting you to perform such tasks as actually configuring a Cisco router or Windows 2000 Server.

The cost of robust, high-quality self-paced e-learning is much lower than traditional instructor-led training for the same type of topics. The average cost of self-paced e-learning courses is typically 75 percent to 80 percent less than the cost of instructor-led courses.

Live e-learning is the second type of e-learning, providing instructor-led or instructor-guided training through the Internet. While this is the newest form of e-learning, it too is enjoying greater acceptance. The purpose of live e-learning is to bring many, but not necessarily all, of the facets of an instructor-led class through the Internet to the learner. Sometimes live e-learning will truly be live with an instructor conducting a lecture, using a whiteboard to explain a concept and calling on learners who raise their hands. Other times, live e-learning will simply be an instructor-guided class with prearranged meeting times to talk by phone, chat or e-mail to obtain assignments, ask questions, discuss areas of an assignment and move through the material to be learned. Hands-on labs, exercises and other tools to enhance the learning experience can be included. Both of these forms of live e-learning work very well, with the key to success always being the instructor. Of course, this is also the case in traditional instructor-led classes.

The cost of live e-learning is usually less than traditional instructor-led training but more than self-paced e-learning. The average cost is typically 40 percent to 60 percent less than traditional instructor-led training, yet learners gain many of the same benefits. This form of learning will definitely grow among technical professionals over the next few years.

Books are still one of the most-used forms of learning by technical professionals to prepare for certification. While books are still a main source of learning, most technical professionals do not solely use books. Books are typically used to supplement instructor-led and self-paced e-learning to provide the most thorough blended-learning option available. After an instructor-led class has finished, books are also still accessible, permitting learners to refer to them often. Books are still quite inexpen

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