In this blog post, I will give you some insight as to what I’ve been busy with in the area of Sitecore for the last four months: eLearning. I will write about how I started, how I did it and how the exam went.
So, it all starts with my manager calling me half a year ago about the Sitecore certification we’ve had an agreement on. Apparently Sitecore had started with a new form of education and the choice I had to make was if I would like to try getting my certificate online or old fashioned classroom training. Instead of doing a 4-day classroom course, they offered 4 months’ access to an online eLearning environment and afterwards you would get an exam voucher. Curious, and confident, as I was I thought: “Why not?” Suddenly I got the access codes in my mailbox and as Louis van Gaal, former coach of Manchester United and enricher of the English language with beautiful literary translated Dutch sayings, could have said: “The ball lays with me”.
After a month being too busy at my current assignment at ING, I’ve had a four-week holiday - of which 22 days were spent in the US; so after two months I was able to finally begin the eLearning. Still confident I could finish the course in two months, I logged on into the eLearning environment and saw I had to finish something like 10 modules. Every module covered something I had no clue about, had no experience of whatsoever with Sitecore, but sounded like something I would have thought would be in Sitecore available. Things like analytics and statistics, query language, multi lingual, etc. The first step was to download student material and then I started with module 1. This gave a brief overview of how the course works. You have a video player showing the desktop of the nice lady talking you through the course. Every module is split up in smaller steps and some modules contain practical lab guides. They are in PDF format and after being downloaded you can follow the exercises.
The complete eLearning is mostly built around a fake website you’re going to build: Dogs Alive. Throughout the modules you have to: install Sitecore, create a Visual Studio project and build the site. Design is minimal; focus is really on functionality. Some functionalities are only shown via the video player, others -more practical- functionality are shown first, and after that you’ll have to do it yourself via the Lab Guide. This is the first minor downside for some people; there are no answers in the lab guides. So if you just get really stuck and the answer isn’t shown in the video player, you have to ask Mr. Google or a co-worker to help you out. Between different steps in the modules sometimes small questions are being asked about the stuff just being told. I really find this a plus, because suddenly you really have to think – become active – for yourself instead of – passive – listening and understanding.
After a few weeks, I really had to speed up a bit, and in the last week of access I started looking at the way how the exam would be conducted. I’ve some experiences with Microsoft Exams in the time SQL 2000 was brand new, so I was positively surprised how online exams have improved. A company called Kryteriononline is taking the Sitecore exam via a virtual exam room. You’re to point a webcam to your desk showing you and a bit of the surroundings or when you’ve a laptop pointed at you (otherwise taking the exam would be a bit hard). Exams can be scheduled via their website, and I wisely allocated my timeslot half an hour in advance, giving me time to review the first few modules I’d completed almost two months ago, since I felt I needed a quick refresh of the terms/functionalities being explained.
So, sitting at a clean desk and guessing somebody is looking at you from ‘the other side’, I started the multiple-choice exam and after 15 minutes or so I hit, with sweaty palms, the “Submit” button. The result was shown: PASS! What a relief!!
For now, I can end this post with some takeaways for you:
- Start when you can focus and don’t take too long. I haven’t measured the exact amount of time, but it took roughly 32-40 hours including the exercises;
- Print the Lab Guides when working on one display or use a multi display set-up. I found myself alt-tabbing way too much when working on only my laptop while fulfilling the lab guides;
- Pay attention to detailed terms and functions. The exam has some easy questions, but also some C# code questions. When doing the lab guide with the help of IntelliSense it all makes sense, but being able to know the exact syntax in an exam is different (or as Louis said: “That's another cook!”)