The advent of Learning as a Service
A couple of days ago, I got an e-mail from a professional colleague who used to run certification content for a major networking hardware vendor and who is now doing likewise for an arm of Hewlett Packard (HP). The company has launched a "Learning as a Service" offering to complement its "Software as a Service" platforms and capabilities. It includes 24/7 access to training materials, hands-on labs and how-to demonstrations, courseware and even quizzes to help users understand and master their SaaS offerings. You can check out for yourself what the company has on offer in this vein.
There are some interesting items, and equally interesting capabilities, that are worth checking out.
Meanwhile, over at Microsoft Learning, they have the Microsoft Virtual Academy up and running full steam ahead, too. This is where anyone can find a plethora of free online training on over two dozen different topic areas, many of which relate directly to MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD topics and exam objectives. Somebody who knows their way around the material and the exam coverage can find plenty of worthwhile, quality material to help them prepare for certification exams there, too.
I can't help but see a bigger trend at work — namely, one where cert sponsors routinely build and offer training and prep materials (think hands-on labs and practice tests, though it doesn't stop there). Given that plenty of training companies also offer "all you can eat" plans to give subscribers access to their entire training libraries (which usually cover all the major cert players, such as CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, VMware and so forth, and quite a few more minor ones as well), it makes sense that those who develop the certs also have to start playing the "Learning as a Service" game, too.
Such services aren't always free, but they are increasingly available and becoming more important to delivering a complete and well-rounded certification program. This should help make life easier for IT professionals intent on earning or maintaining their certification portfolios. Tt also means more time spent learning and preparing, however, and more late-night or off-hours internet action in the interests of keeping up and keeping current. All in all, though, I see it as a good thing, and one that should make it easier to work through the learning and hands-on interaction needed to cultivate professional skills and knowledge.