GogoTraining.com Reviewed

We put an offer out from GogoTraining.com for 10% off their online training courses.  We’re not really familiar with them at all, nor were many of you, and as a result, they graciously offered to let us giveaway a free training class to one of our participants (what?  you didn’t know we did that?  shame on you…you should pay closer attention), and Eric Troldahl was the lucky winner.

He graciously agreed to our time constraints on getting not just the class but a review put together…and he came through nicely for us, and you.

Read on for Eric’s review…

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(As a quick note, I’m not editing this.  I’m not even proof-reading it.  I don’t want any thoughts or wondering if this was tampered with to skew things one way or another.  Hence the link to Eric’s LinkedIn profile up there in the beginning.  And a huge thanks to Eric for taking this on and getting this done.)

Quick background:

I have 30+ years experience working in various IT positions.  I have taken dozens of training courses in half a dozen formats, and am currently studying for IT certifications full time.

“Short” version of my GogoTraining review:

I selected the course “Red Hat Linux Essentials”.  I haven’t worked much with *nix since the late 80s, and never professionally, so the landscape has changed quite a bit since I logged on to an Altos(TM) running UNIX at the shell/command line.

I get the email from GogoTraining on how to register for the training, with a coupon code to make the training free.  That was professional and handled well.  I sign on, and registration is straightforward, quick, and simple.

The class includes 6 hours and 43 minutes of video covering 27 modules ranging from a little Linux history, installing RHEL, basic Linux commands, basic Linux concepts, commands, shells, editing with vi (the editor that ships in almost all *nix versions and Linux distributions), writing shell scripts (small programs equivalent to but more powerful than Batch files in Microsoft land), network applications, administering users and groups, and a 28th module on the next steps after this course.  The labs require installing Linux on a “spare” computer, or at least on a spare partition of a machine that can then be dual-booted.

I had some questions about the applicability of this course to the current Red Hat certification path, and GogoTraining had the instructor email me with the answers, then updated the online description with that information as well.

The course is Internet delivered with Videos followed by Lab assignments.  The lab assignments can be downloaded.  This is apparently a unique approach to teaching Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), as when I tried to find descriptions of other internet-delivered Red Hat classes I could not find them.  This course, combined with GogoTraining’s Red Hat Linux System Administration parts 1 and 2, were designed to prepare people for the Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) certification for RHEL 5.

RHEL is not free, and you can only get a 30 day “evaluation” copy if you have a corporate email address showing that you have a job, so I used the closest equivalent free Linux distribution, CentOS.  The videos are based on RHEL 5, but I went ahead and downloaded CentOS 6 because Red Hat has retired the RHEL 5 certification and I will need version 6 if I want to certify.  The description of this course now includes links to training on the two new features in the RHEL 6 Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) certification that replaced the RHCT cert.

Overall, I think the course was a good value for money.  I prefer training that has multiple ways of delivering the content, and this course included labs to practice on rather than just video.  Leave yourself plenty of extra time to do the labs.  The truth is that the nearly 7 hours of videos is the smaller piece of the training.  The labs take longer than a total of 7 hours, easily 15-20 hours if you do them thoroughly, even longer if like me you do something outside the box that requires internet research – like being unable to find DVD media and installing a different version of Enterprise Linux and having to research how to do a CD-and-Network install, then answer one step wrong and have to do the installation a second time.

While the course is a good value, for my learning style I like to have a Live instructor-led class combined with as many other learning methods as possible.  The main source I am using for my other studies right now generally combines Instructor-led (Live or “Online-Live”) classes with recorded videos, textbook, online Virtual Labs, an exam voucher (with a guaranteed pass or free re-take), and if available practice exams like the Transcender or Measure-Up exams.  The Transcender exams also have “Flash Cards” and the ability to take all of the questions in one pass, take all questions you have missed x number of times, review all flash-cards that you have missed x number of times, and in both modes, you can review the right and wrong answers so that you actually learn.  The down side of that other company’s combo training is that training for a single certification can cost $3,500 or more.

If you care for more information about my background and a more in-depth review, feel free to read on…

Long Background and more detailed review:

My name is Eric Troldahl.  I have been in IT for over 30 years.

In that time I have held the following titles:

Junior Computer Operator in “Maintenance, Operations, and Diagnostics Center (MOD Center)” (Mini and Mid-Frame DEC 20 series)
Computer Operator (MOD Center, Mini and Mid-Frame)
Senior Computer Operator (MOD Center, Mini and Mid-Frame)
Lead Technical Computer Operator (MOD Center, Mini and Mid-Frame)
Technical Consultant (Computer Programming, Sales Support, and Computer Operations on Mid-Frame)
Computer Programmer (Primarily Conversion between flavors of FORTRAN)
System Engineer (Yeah, fancy title for a computer programmer)
System Engineer (fancy title for a computer programmer with hardware repair responsibility: PCs, Terminals, and Batch Station)
System Administrator (Desktops, Novell and physical Ethernet networks, Backups running on Windows 286/Windows 3.x)
Advanced System Administrator (Desktops, Novell, physical networks including Ethernet and ARCnet, a little Windows NT)
— somewhere in here my work split from the title, I performed the following duties without a change in title…
… SQL script programming
… Application Integration Testing
… White Hat hacking (fixing files that malware had password protected, cracking the administrator password when another administrator quit without leaving any other sysadmin passwords enabled, etc.)
Contract Computer Programmer
Contract Network Administrator (Novell and Ethernet networks)
Contract Web Programmer (Database and form programming, someone else did the graphic design)
Technical Support Specialist (front-line phone support for HSI department of a cable company)
Senior Technical Support Specialist (front-line and second-tier support for same department/company)
Advanced Technical Support Analyst (supporting VoIP, HSI, and business versions of same, also commercial video)

Previous Training:

I’ve done authorized training, I’ve done training direct from the vendor, I’ve done training meant for people with no experience in the subject, I’ve done “Boot Camp” sessions at double the recommended pace (Two weeks of training in 4-6 days).  I’ve taken training in formats ranging from Live Instructor-Led to “Online Live” Instructor-Led (with two-way communication), One-Way Satellite, CD-ROM or Internet based recorded video, Textbook Only, and combinations of the above, with or without quiz or practice exam feedback.  Until this month, I had never actually sat down for a certification exam.  My previous training had all been geared towards either the work I was doing at the time, or expansions of my responsibilities or upgrades in versions of software.  In those 30 years, I took specific job-related training from the providers or their authorized partners in:

various programming languages and database engines as needed for my assignments
Novell 286
Novell 386
Novell 4
Windows NT 3.5
Windows NT 4.0
Oracle SQL
Cable Telecommunication Concepts (Fiber, Satellite, Microwave, Coax), covering Hybrid Fiber-Coax networks and installation training.

Since I left the Cable provider in April, I have been juggling training from:
Global Knowledge (Cisco CCNA — CD-based self-paced),
New Horizons (CompTIA A+ and Network+ — Blended Environment of live class, recorded video, Transcender Practice exams)
http://ProfessorMesser.com – Free internet based video training for CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, and MS Win7

So far I sat for one CompTIA A+ certification exam where the required passing grade was 675 of a possible 900.  I scored 836.  I will be taking the second and final A+ exam on Monday.

Thoughts on how I evaluated the training:

I have done a lot of jobs and taken a lot of training in many formats.  How do I compare this training to all of that?

I don’t think this training is as thorough as taking the equivalent authorized training in a face-to-face environment with a professional trainer, but it doesn’t cost as much either.  I think that for most people a class where they are in the same physical room as an instructor for the entire training session is preferable.  I also think that those classes usually include books, which give you a second way to learn or review the material.  But they cost real money.  And when I say real money, I mean usually more than $2000.  Sometimes over $4000.

On the other hand, for many IT certifications, there are free or low-cost training options out there.  If I was paying for my own training, only had to answer to myself for speed of learning, and was good at searching the internet for resources (which I am), I would only pay for training if I couldn’t find it for free, or if the free training wasn’t thorough enough.

I’m used to having training materials that give me feedback at the end of modules and labs.  Not just “do this lab” or “type this command”, but “when you typed this command the computer should have done this.” or review questions, preferably both.  At first, I didn’t really like the format of this training, partly because there were times when what I typed didn’t seem to do anything, and I didn’t know if I had made an error, or if the command did something invisible.

So, do I think that GogoTraining teaches real skills in a way that I learned something I may be able to take with me to a new job or to an interview to get that new job?  Yes.

Do I think that the particular training course that I took is the best out there for the subject?  No, but…  The only other Red Hat Essentials training that I found was only given as an instructor-led course.  Which is great, if you can get a week off of work, and have someone paying for the training, and for travel and hotel if needed.

Whether to use a particular vendor for anything is a personal decision.  Some companies that I will never do business with again have many fans who don’t understand why I will not, and the reverse is also true.

Do I think that GogoTraining is the best training company or has the best training material out there?  No.

Do I think that GogoTraining is what I would select if I had a company, government, parent, or trust fund willing to pay for most or all of “The Best” training out there?  No.

Do I think that GogoTraining is a reasonable value?  Yes.

To break down value I chose to compare the costs of CompTIA Security+ training, since I couldn’t really compare the specific course I won.  So I compared GogoTraining to my understanding of the prices for Global Knowledge (GK) or New Horizons (NH).  GK has a package that includes study material, practice tests, and an exam voucher for around $1500 (no live class).  NH has a live class for $2000 or a blended learning for $2500 that combines a live class, self paced materials, practice exams, and an exam pass guarantee.  GogoTraining has it broken down into 5 courses which have a total price of $475, so with the 10% discount for those of us lucky to be involved with DetroitNet it would be around $427.50.

So, for me, since I have a slightly larger budget for training, and a really good ability to find free resources, GogoTraining would not usually be my first choice, but for subjects like the Red Hat Certified System Administrator and Red Hat Certified Engineer, I would consider them as an option, because the free resources for those skills are limited, and the live courses are expensive and harder to find locally.

As always, YMMV.

Eric Troldahl

(Again, a huge thanks to Eric for getting this done, and of course to Marianne and the staff of GogoTraining.com for allowing one of our members the opportunity to take a free class and get some information out to our other members.  Much appreciated, and hope this helps all parties.)