Windows 8 online training courses offer low-cost, flexible options

Online IT training centers are adding Windows 8 online courses to educate IT pros on how to deploy and administer the new OS.

Online IT training organizations have rolled out courses to educate IT pros on how to deploy and administer Windows 8. The new courses have come as Microsoft works to convince IT shops to test Windows 8 and deploy it where it makes sense for their businesses.

A Windows 8 online course can help IT administrators broaden their knowledge or study for certification tests at a lower cost compared with in-person classrooms.

Training organizations such as TrainSignal Inc., Global Knowledge Training, Learning Tree International Inc. and LearnKey Inc. offer online and virtual classroom curriculums for IT education. Many now offer, or will soon offer, Windows 8 classes for IT. Microsoft also offers Windows 8 online training.

It's the Netflix of training.
Jason Palmnetwork administrator, Clermont Senior Services

Chicago-based TrainSignal has started to release Windows 8 courses. Though the majority of companies won't deploy Windows 8 yet, IT administrators who want to be on the cutting edge will educate themselves on the latest OS versions, according to Scott Skinger, CEO and founder of TrainSignal. Among TrainSignal's current top classes are Windows Server 2008 and 2012 courses and Windows 7 fundamentals and administration.

IT professionals can pick and choose from a variety of subjects for one price as they study and ready themselves for certification.

"It's the Netflix of training," said Jason Palm, a network administrator at Clermont Senior Services in Batavia, Ohio. Palm is a one-man IT department who supports just fewer than 100 end users.

"It's important for me to be able to get up to speed on new technologies, especially with something I'm going to deploy," Palm said. "I think some of the older and traditional methods like boot camps [don't] work for me because I can't be out of the office. ... A week-long training [class] is impossible."

Online IT training courses come at a bargain

Over the past few years, more people have sought online training because of the cost difference, said Michael McNelis, a spokesperson for Training Camp, a classroom and online IT training provider based in Trevose, Pa.

A self-paced e-learning course for Windows 8 can cost around $500 to $1,000, and an end-user Windows 8 course can be as little as $200, he said. TrainSignal, which used to offer DVD training for $400, now provides online IT training for a monthly fee of $49.

In comparison, traditional classroom-based training can set back the IT training budget by $2,000 to $5,000, depending upon the class and length of time required for attendance.

The cost savings is a boon for IT departments that cannot afford to spend several thousand dollars in training and travel expenses. As a result, IT staffers may not receive the latest technical training they need, or they resort to wasted hours and days searching for information on the Internet or chasing down technical support from vendors.

At a recent conference, one IT pro who has tested Windows 8 described the difficulties of finding documentation on Microsoft's technical sites.

"Many Microsoft-produced articles are incorrect or lack the necessary technical details," said Brooks Peppin, IT client services technical lead at Compassion International, a nonprofit based in Colorado Springs, Colo. Someone can follow the directions word for word but find that Microsoft missed a step or typed it wrong and then have to figure it out themselves, go to a blog or just stumble across the answer, he said.

Online training also provides admins control over their own schedules of when and where they want to do the training. They can log on and read materials at home or watch the training somewhere else on a laptop or iPad, said William Rosenthal, president and CEO of Logical Operations Inc. in Rochester, N.Y.

Online training vs. in-person classroom interaction

While online training is convenient, it cannot replace personal interaction with an instructor and other students. Traditional classrooms also require a focused time for IT pros to devote their attention to learning.

Some organizations such as Citrix Systems Inc. place a high value on employee training. Trenton Cycholl, a senior director at Citrix, prefers that his employees leave the office to focus on the subject matter. Cycholl even likes his team to take training that may not be related to their core competency, just to expand their knowledge base.

"We're going to start incorporating [times] like office hours with key instructors once or twice a week," said TrainSignal's Skinger. Instructors also can lead live webinar classes so that instructors can dig into a single topic and tackle difficult subjects, he added.

This should help alleviate the lack of face time with instructors, but such interaction may not resolve all the challenges.

For example, information learned in the classroom may not spark new thoughts about a subject, which is what could happen during face-to-face class time, according to Rhonda Layfield, one of TrainSignal's top instructors.

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