The World Wide Web is emerging as a viable tool for professional education: a growing number of Web-based training sites are offering a relatively easy and cost-effective way for IT personnel to enhance their skills.
"People are coming to the realisation that the Web can provide timely and consistent training, delivered conveniently to a desktop computer," says Tim Kilby, an analyst at Hughes Training.
"Web-based training offers self-paced, individualised instruction that allows interaction." Kilby's own site provides analysis and resources on the field.
Market research company IDC predicts that distance learning via the Web will be the fastest-growing segment of technology-based training this year and that the Web-based IT training market will exceed $US1 billion annually by the end of the decade.
So just where on the Web can IT professionals go to build their skills? Here's a sampling of useful learning resources.
For: Network specialists, programmers
Sample courses: Building graphical user interfaces, Web client programming with Java, Photoshop for Web graphics, Living with the InternetPrice: $US125 to $US450 per course DigitalThink offers self-directed courses; most take 15 to 20 hours to complete.
Some classes require textbook purchases, and some require additional software. Courses include hands-on exercises, interactive quizzes, and access to audio tips, online chats, and discussion groups.
GartnerGroup Internet Learning Center
For: Systems administrators, programmers, analystsSample courses: Client/server concepts, Logical database design, Object-oriented analysis, Advanced Notes administrationPrice: $US99 or $US199 per courseThe GartnerGroup offers self-directed courses with no specific time parameters. There are three skill levels.
Courses follow a structured path and online exams are included.
McGraw-Hill Online Learning
For: Programmers, Web designers, those preparing for Microsoft certificationSample courses: Networking essentials, Advanced Visual Basic, introduction to the Internet, Web programmingPrice: $US295 or $US395 per coursePublisher McGraw-Hill offers self-paced courses that are led by an instructor. Prices include audio lectures, exams, textbooks, self-assessment quizzes, and graded projects.
Oracle Learning Architecture
For: IT specialists, database administrators, programmersSample courses: Oracle7 administration, Novell networking technologies, introduction to data warehousing, Unix fundamentalsPrice: $US185 to $US225 per courseSoftware vendor Oracle offers dozens of online courses, some in conjunction with NIIT, a global training company. Most classes last 7 to 10 hours.
For: Those preparing for Microsoft and Novell certificationSample courses: Windows NT 4.0 core technologies, Networking essentials, Novell NetWare 4.1 administration, NetWare 4.11 installation and configurationPrice: $US99 to $US995 per course Scholars' Community, a subsidiary of technical-training company CBT Systems, provides Microsoft and Novell online certification training.
The price includes course materials, online computer labs, and exam-preparation software.
Advisers are available 12 hours per day.
Course duration is from three to 18 weeks.