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New Trends in IT Certification Training

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

The world of IT certification training is changing. It's becoming faster, more agile, more convenient and more effective. The new era of IT certification training and preparation is fueled by new online training options and the emerging concept of "knowledge subscription."

It's not at all unusual to hear certification mavens, pundits, and prognosticators natter on about lifelong learning. It's more unusual to see a complete change in the way that training and skills development works, and the tools available. We are at the start of such a change, and it can't help but be good for all of us. The key to this change is online training, and a new model for its development, purchase and use. Read: 13 Best IT Training and Certification Resources

Those of you who follow my work here at Tom's IT Pro may or may not recognize the name of one of my frequent co-writers: Mary Kyle. I just happened to bop over to this morning, and found a very interesting article from her entitled CertMaster, MeasureUp, and the Trend in Online Certification Training. The basic point of her story is that students learn in many different ways, and the more and better we can support what works to facilitate their learning, the better the resulting educational outcomes will be. Not only that, she also makes the valid and telling point that "The adoption of an attitude of life-long learning is a must for those seeking to retain peak skills and remain at the top of their profession." I couldn't agree more, but have to observe further that the pace of change in certification has sped up to the point where conventional, old-fashioned information delivery systems -- especially books for study guides, exam prep, and so forth -- have trouble keeping up.

Let me illustrate with a particularly fresh and compelling example. Microsoft released Windows 8 to manufacturing (RTM) on August 1, 2012, and for general availability (GA) on October 26, 2012. Windows 8.1 followed on October 17, 2013, and Windows 8.1 Update 1 went live on April 8, 2014. At the moment, rumor has it that Windows 8.1 Update 2 will go live on Patch Tuesday this coming August (8/12) or September (9/9). Unbeknownst to many IT pros, publishers have been struggling mightily to keep up with this new "rapid update cadence" with their cert prep materials. I was hired to provide a tech edit on a Windows 8 book by a major cert title publisher I've worked for over the years, and found the original Windows 8 title supplanted by a Windows 8.1 title (coming out this month, in fact) before the first set of deadlines for the original book came and went. I can only imagine what the upcoming release of Windows 8.1 Updates 1 and 2 this year will do to the Windows 8 exams, and the materials that address them. I don't have to own a genuine crystal ball to foresee that old-fashioned, paper-based publications and processes simply can't cut the cadence any more!

Coming Soon: Standing Certification (and Other Forms of) Training on Its Head

If we have to move away from such materials, what can replace them? It pretty much *HAS* to be something online, to speed up the production processes involved in creating and distributing such materials, and to help keep pace with the frequency and degree of changes that have already beset certification coverage and curricula. Read: 5 Ways to Save on IT Certification Expenses

I was stunned a couple of weeks ago when one of my blog editors for a major cert publishing house asked me not to write about the laudable efforts of an online training company to help US military vets and active duty personnel transitioning back to civilian work because they perceived this all-online training company to be a "major competitor." I have to admit that I really didn't get what was going on until I stopped to consider my recent experiences with the Windows 8.* cert materials, and related subject matters, and what this truly means for cert training, practice exams, and information delivery to understand that yes, these organizations really are in deep competition, and that conventional publishers are going to have to undertake upkeep of their print publications in updated digital forms to serve their customers the information they need to prepare for their cert exams, whether they like it or not, and whether or not it fits their old, familiar, and well-worn business models.

The field of study to which certs relate has changed substantially in the last decade, particularly thanks to the introduction and uptake of virtualization- and cloud-based technologies, and the rest of the IT business, including training and certification, is going to have to change along with it. In fact, this change is already well underway – as Mary Kyle's GoCertify story amply explains and illustrates -- and will only become more entrenched as the pace of such change increases. We already have some excellent subscription models for training materials and practice tests, like the CertMaster and MeasureUp items she mentions in her story, along with offerings from numerous other training and testing companies all over the landscape including established giants such as Global Knowledge, New Horizons, and so forth, all the way down to niche-oriented boutique players such as Shon Harris's Logical Security and Clement Dupuis's and the CCCure portals, to name two outstanding players in the infosec space. Check out: Best IT Certifications

In fact, given the need to maintain at least some existing certs over time (Cisco and VMware as good examples), and an ongoing need to acquire new skills and knowledge over time, I believe we're heading into the "knowledge subscription" era of IT certification training and preparation. It's already typical to see major players offering training materials (including books and video-based or classroom training stuff), tune-ups (such as Exam Cram or Exam Ref titles), and practice exams as individual or bundled offerings. It is becoming more commonplace for IT pros to sign up for a single monthly fee to gain access to all of this stuff for some period of time (pay-by-the-month, by-the-quarter, and yearly plans are typical). Many such offerings are "all you can eat" in the sense that subscribers are free to download and use as much (or as little) of the materials available as they can handle.

This is the way forward into a brave new world of IT cert training and preparation. We should not only get used to it, we should start looking for providers with the best overall sets of materials and offerings, but also of the cert programs and plans of greatest interest to us, as a way of shopping around for subscriptions that best meet our needs. As things look right now, for $50 to $100 a month, this looks not just doable, but downright interesting.