Software monolith moves training online and offers half-day coursesMicrosoft has made a series of announcements aimed at speeding up the certification training process for its certified developers and engineers.
The first of these initiatives is a push toward online learning content to supplement classroom work. The second is a series of short, half-day courses being offered as a taster for further learning.
"For many years Microsoft tried to train its users on its own," said Robert Stewart, general manager for Training and Certification at Microsoft. "The first year we went to a training partner model, in 1994, we went from 25,000 students to 250,000," he said. "Now we've grown the certification program to over two million students worldwide."
Com Tech recently commissioned some research into training and certification and discovered that 40 per cent of its customers stalled Windows 2000 deployment because of a lack of technical skills to manage the project. Stewart attributes these statistics to the lack of time available for IT professionals to sharpen their skills with training.
"From a Microsoft perspective, this is completely disheartening," he said. "One of the biggest challenges in this industry is managing time. Time is money, and it can be hard to justify the investment and the time you lose when you take three or five days off at a time for training."
The software vendor is now encouraging its training partners to introduce online learning as a part of the total training package, mainly for pre-classroom session reading. As yet, he estimates only 5 per cent of Microsoft training occurs on the Internet but expects this figure to rise sharply in the next few years.
Microsoft Australia has also customised a series of training packages that proved successful in the US, which involve three-and-a-half hour hands-on sessions on a particular subject or technology for $199. These "Hot-labs" sessions basically involve a room of 50 students, each armed with a workstation, manuals and white papers for post-class reading. Roslyn Jacob, group manager for technical readiness at Microsoft Australia, said the series of Exchange 2000 Hot-lab sessions attracted 780 students and a similar scheme is now planned for Windows 2000 Active Directory. She believes the sessions are a good taster for students who often choose to go on to a more substantial course with a Microsoft Certified training partner. "It also ensures they know the basics," she said.
Stewart believes Microsoft will need to push its training and certification schemes to the limit over the coming months as the company prepares to launch a full range of technologies under its .Net initiative. While he didn't go as far as to suggest programmers training in Java were wasting their time, as his UK counterpart Gordon Smillie was recently quoted as saying, he admits the marketing teams at Microsoft are gearing up for an "evangelistic" campaign to attract partners and developers.
"We believe the things we are doing around C# are going to lead the marketplace over the next few years," said Stewart. "The change from Windows to .Net is as big as the change from DOS to Windows."