The Changing Face and Mission of Microsoft Learn
Over the past three years Microsoft Learning has become Microsoft Learn. At the same time, the company has completely reimagined, reimplemented, and recast its training and certification offerings. If you haven't paid a visit in a while, you probably won't recognize what you find when you visit the Microsoft Learn home page.
Though Microsoft still offers individual certifications, it's more focused on learning paths and learning modules now. The former combines lots of the latter, which themselves offer a mix of written word, video, interactive simulations, quizzes and problem-solving exercises to convey educational content.
Last May, Microsoft launched what it calls Learn TV. It creates what the company calls a "new content experience offering daily live, prerecorded, and on-demand video programming for developers and engineers within the Microsoft Learn platform."
Those who partake of its wares will find oodles of free, self-paced learning modules, plus a plethora of "live streams, shows, and instructional videos from Microsoft Cloud Advocates, Product Group leaders, and communities." The goal, as the Microsoft Learn team puts it, is to make "the Learn platform a one-stop shop to learn and grow."
Same Game, Vastly Different Playbook and Strategy
To me it's astounding that Learn falls under the more general Microsoft Docs umbrella, which heretofore embraced Microsoft's documentation and product information repositories. Mostly a volunteer effort until a couple of years ago, Docs is transforming itself.
This particular sector of the Microsoft realm has evolved into a meta-resource to provide those who work and/or develop with (or on) Microsoft products and platforms everything their need to learn the basics, develop specific technical skills and knowledge, and keep up with jazzy new stuff as it comes along.
The delivery mechanisms are also being completely reworked. Microsoft lucked out in refocusing on bite-size (15-to-30 minutes) chunks of learning material built for remote consumption. Indeed one can still find instructor-led classes, and there are still opportunities to engage in live classroom training, but those are mostly suspended now in the face of the global pandemic.
What we have now is a powerful, wide-ranging and comprehensive pastiche of bits and pieces. These can all be mixed and matched to provide learners with specific sets of knowledge and skills, along with ample opportunities to practice what is being learned in simulated circumstances and problem-solving exercises.
How This Changes Certification
Instead of setting up and maintaining big monolithic credentials such as the old MCSA, MSCE and MCSD, Microsoft now offers a much bigger and broader collection of certs on individual topics. Individual learners are not just encouraged (and sometimes challenged outright) to pursue these topic certs one after another.
They're also repeatedly informed that keeping up with Microsoft tools and technologies means ongoing, continuous learning, study through an ongoing succession of such individual topic certs. The IT training and certification world has long pursued the idea of continuous, lifelong (or at least career-long) learning and certification. Microsoft is offering an interesting and possibly viable model for enabling such continuous learning to occur.
For this model to work, people need to buy into the idea that learning is just a part of working life. The indisputable truth of this assertion, especially for those who work in information technology, needs support from those who offer opportunities to learn.
With what Microsoft now has on offer, along with the costs, time and effort involved, may just fit that bill. It sure will be interesting to watch the Microsoft Learn program evolve further, and to see what sorts of new topic certs appear, how long they last, and how they go into retirement.
Count on me to keep you informed about this, and to puzzle my way to understanding whether or not this brave new model fits today's and tomorrow's IT professionals' learning and career development needs. Stay tuned!