NOTE: For all those who come here because of my fiction, this is not one of those posts. That said, stay tuned as I have BIG news coming very, very soon.
I’m an IT guy by trade and I was recently approached by a representative from uCertify, a site that specializes in Computer Based Training (CBT) to use one of their training modules in exchange for an honest review. Never one to shirk from either the chance to learn something for free or the opportunity to run my mouth, how could I say no?
My concise summation for the short attention span crowd: uCertify is decent. There are pros and cons but overall I’d say it’s worthwhile.
Here’s a more in depth review for those of you who are either genuinely interested in uCertify or are morbidly curious to see if this departure from my blog norm is still somehow a ruse. There are a lot of CBT programs available to the IT community, one of the biggest and most known being CBT Nuggets and then newer competitors such as Udemy. I hadn’t heard of uCertify before being approached by their representative, so I can only assume they’re one of the newest kids on the block and want people with contacts in the community to spread their gospel. As a fledgling novelist, I can relate.
uCertify has an impressive array of courses to choose from. Basics such as Security+, Linux Essentials and Microsoft Word 2013 to more in depth training like Certified Ethical Hacker and Oracle Database Administrator are present in their course list. You can look through their most requested courses here.
It appears all of their courses are designed to prepare you to take and pass an associated certification exam. For those unindoctrinated to the world of IT, these certs serve as credentials that you know your stuff… it’s resume gold. Security+, for example, is required for nearly any type of government IT contractor.
I tried out the Python programming course. I didn’t know Python before, having only experience in bash scripting and maybe dissecting the Perl scripts of others.
The interface is quite clean. Take a look.
They keep track of your progress and are perpetually evaluating your readiness to take the certification test based on your progress with the lessons and performance with the labs and tests. The Chapters & Lessons section is the bulk of where I was during my stint with uCertify. Again, a very clean interface with quick access to labs, quizzes and flashcards.
I had zero problem and felt very comfortable navigating the site. My biggest issue came from their labs. I found them both daunting and buggy. The Python Basics (Chapter 2) coursework was basically being able to type a line or two in Python and have the output spit out “Hello World.” It talked about the different types of data types such as integers and strings (basically not numbers). Coursework was quite easy to follow and included examples, charts and even videos. But here’s the very first lab:
Keep in my that this “def” thing doesn’t actually get talked about in the coursework until like Chapter 4. This is the very first lab, which is labelled 2.1.24. That in itself made me feel like for Chapter 2, lesson 1 there were 23 other labs that should’ve been included before I even got to this one. I honestly didn’t know what to put into this lab that wasn’t already there to make it run. This is the daunting part. The buggy part happens when you actually do run the program, see where you’re wrong, fix it according to what you need to succeed only to run it again and it still fails. For a large percentage of their labs, you can copy the entire correct code from their assessment page, plug it in exactly as they gave it to you and it will fail. I’m assuming the mileage on lab bugginess will vary depending on the course and coding, including Python, isn’t inherently a “this is right and this is wrong” sort of thing but more of a “what’s the best path to get what I need” endeavor. You can overcome the bugginess by just running Python independent of the lab and testing their results but you won’t really be able to overcome the fact that the uCertify course is still saying you’ve failed to code the lab properly and not give you points toward completion.
I found the more I ignored the labs altogether and just focused on progressing the coursework, the more the prior chapter labs felt less daunting. Perhaps it’s how they had to code the lab checks, where the only way to make it halfway workable was to incorporate Python elements that the student hadn’t even covered yet.
Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of learning style and cost. If you’re a step-by-step completionist, uCertify may not be the right thing for you, if my experience with the Python course is any indication. It was rather frustrating to have a hot zero for chapter 2 labs while I’m green on chapter 5 coursework. If you’re a whole picture type learner who mostly cares about how it all looks at the end, then you may benefit the most from it. And of course, perhaps the cost is also a motivating factor. While I’m not sure about Udemy prices, I know CBT Nuggets is subscription based per month. uCertify is an ala carte affair, each course I clicked on cost $139. I think that’s better suited for folks who don’t quite know what life is going to throw at them and may not get around to studying for certification properly for weeks at a time.