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There are many things to consider when you are looking for an education or training course to increase your knowledge and skills on a particular product or job role, and it can be a daunting task with all the options out there to choose from. First thing you need to do is decide what skills you are looking for. A good place to start is by using one of the many training paths that we offer for a product, brand, or skill set. For example, a list of training paths for WebSphere education can be found here . They include training paths for specific products, such as WebSphere Application Server, which is further broken down into paths for different job roles related to that product, like system administrator, or application developer.
Let's take a look at my favorite training path, for WebSphere Application Server V7 system administration:
There are several different types of courses offered in this training path. So the next big decision would be what type, or delivery method, of course would work best for you. There are 1) traditional classroom courses, 2) instructor-led online classes, and 3) self-paced virtual classes.
The WebSphere Course Code Decoder:
1) Wxxxx = Classroom course
2) Vxxxx = Instructor-led online (ILO) course
3) Zxxxx = Self-paced virtual classroom (SPVC)
1) With the traditional classroom course, you get the major benefit of having a live instructor with you, to answer questions, facilitate class discussions, look over your shoulder and help you troubleshoot problems with hands-on labs, and so on. The other benefit of being in a classroom, which many people often forget about, is being there with other classmates - your coworkers or peers. They can also help facilitate discussion and learning along with the instructor. Speaking as an instructor, it's much easier for me to engage students in a class when we are all physically there. I can tune into students' body language and gauge whether my teaching methods are effective, if students are paying attention, or if they're getting bored and I'm losing them, and then adjust accordingly to keep the pace and detail level appropriate for my audience. This is much more difficult to do when teaching an instructor led online course. Speaking from the student's perspective, I find it easier to stay focused in a classroom, I benefit from the interaction with the instructor and fellow students, I'm less likely to be distracted by the outside world, and I have a better learning experience overall.
2) A reasonable alternative to the classroom course is the instructor-led online (ILO) course. It is scheduled similarly to a classroom course, with a fixed start and end time, but because you can take it online, from the convenience of your own desk, it can be easier to fit into your schedule, and it is more affordable. You have the benefit of an instructor to deliver lecture material, answer questions, and facilitate discussion online, and you can also have access to hands-on labs via a remote system during the ILO course. However, as an instructor, the big disadvantage for me is that I can't see the students I'm teaching (no webcams). I have to rely solely on audio and not visual feedback to gauge my teaching effectiveness. As a student in an ILO, don't fool yourself into thinking you can multi-task and still have a good learning experience and retention. You get out of it what you put into it. However, when you need to obtain the skills, taking an ILO course is better than not taking any course at all. You at least have online access to an instructor, and the same course material that you would have if you were in a classroom.
3) I would not try to compare self-paced virtual classes (SPVC) with the other two options. SPVCs are really another category unto themselves, and have their place in the training path. You can take an SPVC online at your own pace, starting and stopping whenever you want, and you have a certain period of time ( several weeks) to access the material and complete the course. The material is similar to the corresponding classroom or ILO course, and provides the visual presentation with an instructor's narration. It may also provide access to hands-on labs via a remote system. This option is the most affordable, and offers the most flexibility, but you don't have immediate access to an instructor. You can send your questions and report any problems online, and receive a response later. We try to choose course material for SPVCs that lends itself well to self-study, so if you like to work independently at your own pace, this is an excellent way to obtain basic product knowledge.
I hope this information helps you make better decisions when it comes to your skill development and education needs. Please feel free to let me know what you think!