My Certification Journal No. 2: Using video courseware
This is my second entry in a series of blog posts detailing my experiences using select ExamForce products to train and prepare for Microsoft's MCSA: Windows 7 exams. My goal is to provide some insight into the process for anyone who is new to IT certification, or who is looking to renew an old certification or earn a new designation.
As I mentioned in my introduction to this series, it has been several years since I last prepped for a certification exam. The exams I am focusing on are as follows:
To help me get back into study mode, I spoke to the people at ExamForce and asked if they could set me up with some Windows 7 certification training and exam preparation tools.
Using CramMaster Online – Video Courseware
The video courseware that existed when I last prepared for a certification was pretty rough around the edges. Production values varied wildly from product to product, and the course content didn't always map well to the related exam(s).
For my Windows 7 training, I've been using the CramMaster Online video courseware from ExamForce. I am currently well into the Exam 70-680: Configuring Windows 7 CramMaster video course, and I have to say that this program has offered a much better experience than any of the products I saw back in the day.
CramMaster Online is a web-based application that offers video training directly via web browser. The course content is organized into major lessons that map directly to the relevant exam objectives; in my case, the Exam 70-680 objectives as listed by Microsoft. Each lesson is divided into topics and sub-topics according to the complexity of the subject matter.
Each sub-topic is presented through a short, well-paced video clip. Each video may include face-to-face instruction from the trainer, information presented via slide decks, and examples shown through live screen captures. A video can be paused or replayed at any time, so the learning experience is entirely self-paced. When one clip is finished, you simply click a button to play the next video in the lesson.
CramMaster Online tracks your progress as you go through each lesson in the course. Each video is automatically checked off on the Course Lessons navigation once it's been viewed, so it's easy to pick up where you left off when you start a new session. You can enter notes in a window under the video window for the topic being presented, a nice alternative to taking notes by hand.
The course structure makes it easy to schedule study sessions of any length. I've generally done one-hour sessions with the program, but the flexibility of the course structure means that I can fit in a shorter session anytime I have a 15- or 20-minute window before another event requires my attention.
The web-based nature of the program means that it can be accessed from any computer with a supported web browser. I have logged into my CramMaster Online account from both of my primary laptops, a Windows PC running Internet Explorer 11 and a MacBook Air running Safari 8, and been able to run the program without any issues. This makes it super convenient to study at home, or on the go.
The real standout of CramMaster Online is the quality of the courseware. Let's face it, any Windows operating system study material has the potential to be a snoozefest if it isn't presented with some energy behind it. The Windows 7 lessons I've taken so far, however, are well written, and the instructor is engaging and dynamic, particularly when working through live screen capture examples.
Besides the video courseware, CramMaster Online comes with the following add-ons:
? Quizzes — One quiz for each top-level lesson in the course
? Simulations — Flash-driven screen sims where the user has to click the appropriate items or enter command prompt text to perform tasks
? Glossary — A list of relevant terms and keywords
? Tools — A detailed progress report for the course, a help menu, and access to any notes you've entered while viewing the courseware
For me, learning from video courseware has offered a convenient, self-paced learning experience that is more dynamic and effective than reading a book, and is more convenient and less expensive than instructor-led classroom training. So far, CramMaster Online has been a great compromise between cost and a high-quality learning experience.
(Full disclosure: I have known the folks at ExamForce for many years, and contribute industry articles to their website.)