Monday, January 18, 2010

New LabSim A+ Course: An Interview with Don Whitnah, Part II

Read Part II of my interview with Don Whitnah, TestOut vice president of product development, about the new A+:

How does the new LabSim A+ course prepare students for practical, hands-on application? What are some examples in the new course?

Don: We’ve designed the lab scenarios in the course to expose you to as much hardware and as many operating system tasks as we can. For instance, we have piles of hardware we’ve purchased to make sure our labs cover lots of different hardware. In class or at home, you may have one computer to work with, and you don’t get to see all the components. How many classes show you a BTX or an NLX motherboard? They’re covered in the exam objectives, but where would you get experience working with them? Texts might give descriptions of them, but our labs let you perform configuration tasks on them.

See what happens when you unplug the network cable; what does it look like in Windows? Get practice identifying problems and taking all the necessary steps to correct the problems. There are also troubleshooting questions on the A+ exam. In our labs you work through the scenario, so you don’t just memorize the solution, you’ve actually practiced doing the solution.

Why is A+ such a popular certification?

Don: A+ is popular because it’s an entry level certification and covers the basics that people need to know. Many people just want or need to learn about computers and how to manage and use them. There are also college courses that teach basic computer management repair tasks and use the A+ objectives as a basis for what they teach. So, A+ training is popular even if you’re not going to take the certification exam.
Another reason A+ certification is important is that many employers in the field of building and repairing computers require it. CompTIA is an industry trade association. Companies can belong to the association and then CompTIA takes their input for what to cover in the exam. They say to the company, “We want the exam to be useful to you, so what are you trying to accomplish? What do your employees need to know?”

Another reason A+ is so relevant today is the Department of Defense initiative 8570 that requires government employees to prove certain competencies. While it’s geared a lot toward security, A+ is also a part of what will satisfy requirements, depending on your job role.

Why should IT students consider becoming A+ certified?

Don: A+ certification might be required by an employer, or an employer may give a bonus or a raise if you get certified. Also, the Department of Defense requirement for certification may affect your job.

When you’re applying to jobs, some employers won’t even look at your resume if you don’t have certain certifications. Basically, they make certification a job requirement.

Two candidates may be equally qualified, but certification shows initiative and depth of understanding. It’s an extra factor to help you get the job. Certifications don’t substitute for experience, but they may be the one thing that gets you the interview or differentiates you from other candidates.

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