Monday, March 22, 2010

A Case for Lab Simulations and Hands-on Experience

More and more, certifications evaluate practical, hands-on skills. Employers want to know what you can do, not just what you know on paper. Kellye Whitney of Certification Magazine wrote, “Today’s employers need to know that the candidates they examine for contract and full-time employment have the right skills and are capable of executing a job.” Since we get certified largely to appeal to employers—or at least to keep our career moving forward—we’d do well to get as much hands-on experience as we possibly can.

Previously in The LabSim Experience blog, I wrote about performance-based exams and how they differ from skills-based exams. Preparing for performance-based exams has everything to do with gaining hands-on experience. It’s fantastic that certification companies are focusing more on hands-on skills and making the exams better markers of an individual’s realistic abilities. But how do you gain the skills that will help you both pass your certification exam and be ready to execute a job? In addition to the education or practice you may already have, the training you choose to prepare for your certification should give you realistic, hands-on experience. If it doesn’t, it really isn’t worth your time.

Dan Veitkus of Novell said that “to study effectively for performance-based exams, candidates might need to mesh a combination of instructor-led courses, online labs, self-study kits, mentoring or even authorized books from the major vendors, depending on the certification.” And from Michael Reid of Cisco: ‘’If somebody only touches the book, they will probably score less than 20 percent on the exam, and that’s generous. . . . If they don’t practice the hands-on ability, they simply will not perform at all.”

What are you using to get the hands-on experience you need to prepare for your certification exams? Many are using LabSim training courses, which provide the full combination that Veitkus described: instructor videos, realistic online lab simulations, self-study lessons, and valuable practice exams that give you experience with what the real exam will be like.

The hands-on simulations in LabSim courses include hardware, operating system, and networking labs. LabSim simulates a $30,000 PC lab with an interactive workbench where you select and configure PC hardware. You gain experience with Windows operating systems, Server 2000, 2003, and 2008, DOS, and Linux. You also administer, configure, and troubleshoot complex networks with servers, clients, routers, switches, and hubs. After completing the simulated labs in LabSim, you’ll have the hands-on experience you’re looking for to pass your certification exam and—even more important—to succeed in the job you find after getting certified.

Emily Howard, TestOut

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