In 2008, I managed to achieve the goal of becoming a Microsoft Certified Trainer. Once I achieved the status, Microsoft shipped me a binder with dozens of DVDs containing lab VMs and class materials for all the current classes. At some point, instead of receiving DVDs, you were expected to download images which was quite difficult with my slow connection. Unfortunately, while I did teach a lot of classes, I only taught one Microsoft Official Curriculum class and let the certification drop after a few years.
With the prevalence of cloud services and virtualization, there are new ways to provide learning environments for students. One example is Katacoda, now owned by O’Reilly. You can create virtualized environments based on templates that students start up with a few commands all within a browser. Docker uses Katacoda for their tutorials, so you may have used it.
I recently taught a class using a similar technology from Microsoft called Azure Lab Services. All I had to do was create a template VM loaded with the software and labs. At class time, each student had their own VM to use based on the template. The class went well, so I’ll use this method again.
Two of my favorite ways to learn from Microsoft are no longer available. The Microsoft Professional Program, which retired in 2019, was a way to take classes on EdX towards a certificate. The first certificate was Data Science with several other disciplines added later, and quite a few data platform community members took the Data Science track before it went away.
Another way to learn, which I am sad to see go, was the Microsoft Hands-On Labs in VMs. The labs allowed you to spin up a VM on demand with everything you needed to complete a module. You could follow the lab or just experiment with the VM.
Not to fear, Microsoft has some new high-quality offerings to help you learn their technologies. Microsoft Learn has several modules with virtual hands-on learning based on job roles. The classes are tied to certifications if you are interested. You can also learn GitHub in the GitHub labs or take a class on LinkedIn Learning. Of course, there are many other great sites with training and resources as well.
Microsoft recently announced 30 Days to Learn It. This program is also role based, and you have a month to complete a set of role-based modules to receive a 50% off certification exam. The clock starts counting down once you click “Get Started” so you can’t see what’s in the track if you are not ready. I began the DevOps challenge this week. One of the modules set up a sandboxed Azure subscription to use for the class. This way, you don’t burn through credits or have to pay for the services you use during the lab. I’m not sure how this works under the hood, but it’s a great platform and I look forward seeing it in future modules.
Technology has changed our lives in many ways, and learning is no exception.