At the minute I’m halfway through a Masters in Cloud Computing, so on top of working full-time, and trying to lead a normal life outseide of work and college there isn’t a lot of time left over. However I like to have several “projects” on the go, and for the last year or so I haven’t really taken advantage of keeping my skills portfolio up to date. So this year I’m also doing free courses online from 3 different sources:
The good thing about all of these courses is that they are free, and while I need to have flexibility around times, the courses don’t have any set time requirements for completion.
Microsoft Virtual Academy
Of the 3 sources, this is defintiely the one with the most material. Basically there are a number of different modules than can studied (think Windows 7, Hyper-V, MS Private Cloud), the format being a few videos for each module, with some papers to be read and a final multiple choice test at the end of each module that needs to be completed in order to advance. Points are awarded for each module, course completed, and if you are in teh top 10 ranked in your country you can recieve a free Technet subscription. In fairness, Dave Northey (the Irish IT Professional) has tried to reinvigorate the training in Ireland by offering a draw for prizes for those who complete a certain module each week.
Overall I find the academy ok: most of the material so far is based on cloud and virtualisation (at least the tracks available in Ireland) but it has a few flaws:
- some of the questions in the exams (similar to MCSE exams) aren’t relevant to the material cover, or are very ambiguous.
- It would be worth having a better “rewards” system in place, for example a simple certification hierarchy. I.e. A MS Virtual Academy title that you can refer to on Linkedin, badges for your blog etc.
- Most of the material is in video format. at least it’s supplied in multiple formats (wmv, mp4 etc), although transcripts of the recordings would be very useful as well.
Codeyear is a much simpler type of course, both in the course presentation and amount of material covered. Started in January this year, it’s aim is to bring programming to the masses. The way it works is simple:
- at the start of every week a new lesson plan is released
- People can program online, and as each objective is completed then again people can progress.
- Codeyear is a bit more gameified, in that each badges and scores are awarded to make it a bit more fun.
This is an initiative by Rackspace to provide a vendor-neutral Cloud qualification. I’ve only done 1 out of 10 leesons, so I can’t comment a whole on the rest of the course, but it seems to be a more introductory course, aimed at giving an overiview to IT professionals and managers (what’s an IaaS, how is it different from a PaaS etc) , rather than those who are tasked at implementing a Cloud service from the ground up. Leesons consist of some reading material and a recording, and the content is developed by Ben Kepes, who is an independent contractor. It’s a course I have the least amount of work done on, but I imagine it will be the first course that I will complete.
This is something I have actually used myself, but if I ever need to do any Ruby or Python Learn Code the Hard Way will be my first port of call. It seems to be a simple learning mode, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.
Like most people I haven’t a lot of spare time, and with myself in particular it’s at an absolute minimum (I’m doing this post as a break from virtualisation labs I’m doing!). So there’s no piont in just doing courses for the sake of it. But I still think it’s important to keep up to date with things in your field. Even if some of the courses I’ve done aren’t directly related to what I’m working on at the minute (some the MS cloud & virtualisation courses for instance), there are a lot of indirect skills I’m taking from them (background on SAN technologies etc).
Hopefully some of the course providers will also start to offer a more standardised recognition for the courses as well, such as an easy way to integrate the courses into Linkedin, or the badges that can be integrated into blogs