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    Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?

    Scott Morris - CCDE/4xCCIE/2xJNCIE

      Ok....  I'm going to throw something out here, and will mostly watch the responses...


      Personally, I am not a CCENT.  It has been MANY years since I have worked as someone new to an environment.  I'm not trying to sound arrogant or cocky.  I'm merely stating that I lack a certain perspective that I'm asking your (collective) opinion about.


      I know there are plenty of learning materials out there for CCENT/CCNA, and yet many of them don't appear to do the job.  Whether it's that people still have a hard time passing the tests.  Or worse, they can pass the test, but yet are missing important clues when they go to really do the work....  SOMETHING is missing.


      My goal within the next few months is going to be to try to identify some of these things and alleviate them.  I figure it will be an interesting challenge for me, and hopefully something valuable for others.


      What methods of learning work for you?  How should information be presented in order to maximize the knowledge and retention of knowledge?  What does it take for you to know the technical parts AND be able to actually apply it?


      Hearing/reading are always nice.  Equipment demonstrations?  Animated graphics?  Lab exercises?  Workbooks?  Practice Labs?  Singing around a campfire?  Drinking heavily prior to studying?  Videos?  Recreational pharmaceuticals?


      Obviously not all of these things will work for everyone...  But I'm interested in hearing what methods work best for you.  Likes, dislikes, etc.


      I'm not trying to pick on specific products either, so please don't bash any particular vendor/author.  Just trying to identify what is missing at the basic level and see how best to alleviate that.   In the end, my goal is to produce better engineers.



        • 1. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?

          Hi Scott


          A few years ago when my job was not looking too certain I trained to be an adult education teacher. This was a general teaching course not specific to IT. The course covered various theoretical aspects of teaching. It also included 30 hours of actual teaching. Now there is a lot of theory some motivated by political views but some based on scientific theory and observation. In the 30 hours I taught basic networking so I guess similar to the CCENT. In IT we have traditionally taken two approaches namely the lecture and the practical to enforce learning. In the work place we use "sit with me" and "read the manual" and that has worked well for many years. The advantage of work is you can walk into the computer room and see the actual equipment so it easy to relate to the subject matter. I remember having read about computer core which were rings with cables I was surprised when I actually saw them for real.


          So returning to the twenty first century with the GUI and computer centres offshore with manuals on the Internet and IT being taught in schools it is right that Scott has raised this question. Although IT is school is not new because I was taught computer programming from the age of eleven in my school along time ago. In essence I think there are four elements to learning name motivation, theory, practical and group support. Group support is were CLN is very strong. Motivation has to be there initially and all CLN can offer is a little encouragement often by example. The theory is covered by Cisco certification material, www.cisco.com and Google. The practical is quite interesting and although there are commerical products to provide labs I think they can be a straight jacket to learning although maybe focused on exam sucess. We need to invent a system when CLN provides an umbrella role so we can all help each other. I have always thought a CLN-UTube might be an intesting idea so people could actually see practicals being performed.


          Scott has previously spoken about students being overwhelmed with information as in the classic "Death by Powerpoint" so by day three you have forgotten the purpose of the course and also lost the will to live.


          Given the number of words in this posting I expect Darwin to beat me by a factor of ten.


          Please those of you who are preparing for CCENT or who have recently passed please let us know your ideas so CLN can perhaps better help you.

          Tell us what worked for you and what does not work and remember unlike exams there is no right or wrong way for individual learning.


          Regards Conwyn

          • 2. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
            Ziyad B

            Greetings Mr. Scoot,


            I am currently studying for my CCENT exam, I plan on taking it within 4 weeks. I still haven't mastered subnetting and router, and switch configurations. Working on them though. I do not and will not have any hands-on experience prior to passing the CCNA, so I'm just going to read all available books, and watch nuggets videos. Personally I prefer watching videos and using simulations than reading books, because I get bored easily and tend to procrastinate when bored.

            • 3. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
              Chris Buscemi

              Recreational Pharmaceuticals? Are we talking little blue pills here? Cause that could certainly be distracting. 




              Prior to getting my CCENT and CCNA, I always considered myself computer saavy, but obviously lacked the real world aspect to convince anyone in the corporate environment to take a chance on an unknown kid. But when I decided to get the Cisco certs to worm my way into the networking world I knew I wanted to do more than just be able to spout theory, no matter how correct it was.


              When I first picked up Todd Lammle's book and started reading though, the first chapter nearly made my eyes cross. He jumps right in with one computer ARPing for another computer's information using broadcast addresses. Now that I'm "in the know" that sort of information is totally elementary to me, but at the time I thought it might be a bit much.


              However, when I used the CBT Nuggets videos series, things just started making sense and "clicking" right away. It could be that Jeremy Ciorra is so passionate about this stuff that it's hard not to catch the fever. But I think it had more to do with the fact that it was like having a personal tutor who not only told you the information, but drew diagrams, related it to funny stories, and really showed you what was behind the words. And of course in those series you get to see the CLI first person(ish) to get a feel for that as well.


              After I watched those videos, reading Lammle's book was a piece of cake. These were no longer foreign technical topics I was trying to decode. They were things that I knew about, and was getting some deeper information on, and someone else's point of view. The same held true when I read Wendell Odom's book for ICND2.


              Now that I know what I do, I don't need to rely on a tutor to get me familiar with the topics. As I move forward into Cisco's security track, and some Juniper certifications that I'm working on, I can absorb what I read without feeling like I'm reading a book written in a foreign language. And what's more important, I'm able to apply what I read, in my own scenarios, to reinforce the learning and to know that I've got it right.


              I guess my point is, that for someone who is studying for the CCENT, or CCNA certifications, just reading a book most likely won't do the trick. Especially if they are completely new to the concepts. Obviously everyone is different in what works best for them. Some people can't learn outside of a classroom environment. Some people can read a book and know everything they need to know.


              As those of us who have taken the exams know and those who are studying for the exams should be aware, Cisco exams are not the type that you can just memorize a bunch of factoids and expect to pass, but rather you need to know the theory and how it applies in practice and to the real world. So, in my opinion, a more guided approach to learning the foundations (ie Video series', Instructor lead training, tutuoring) is probably the best bet for MOST of the candidates who are trying to make their way into the Cisco Certified world. I still think the text books are necessary to really fill in the details of those foundations.



              But in summation, for me, the combination of the videos (to learn the big picture) and the books (to learn the minutia) proved to be the best way to learn, retain, and implement the knowledge. And of course having a place like the Cisco Learning Network to come and ask questions of my peers certianly helped when I needed a more real world application of something I just couldn't quite "get".





              • 4. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?



                I can't believe more people have not responded to this that are studying for the CCENT. <shrug>


                I think evertyhing that I wanted to say was pretty much stated, but whatever method is best, I think it's important for the instructors and the student to realize that networking skills are built on a solid foundation and hands-on experience.  I know a lot of people are going to the "virtual learning" method and for me, I think that's fine for people are are not just starting out and have seen and put their hands on the real equipment.  So what does a bridging loop look like on a Cisco switch?  What are some of the tell-tale signs?  Can you tell what ports are "blocking" and which ones are forwarding on a switch by looking at the switch?  In the beginning it's crucial to be able to touch and and experiment with the equipment as much as it is important to learn the theory.


                Just my two.



                • 5. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
                  Paul Stewart  -  CCIE Security



                  This is a great topic that I am very interested in.  People often ask me about the CCNA and the CCENT certifications and I often direct them to the blueprint initially.  SInce I'm not in that mode of study, I don't know everything that comprises them now.  From that respect, I am in somewhat the same position you are in.  So initial learning methods I'm not sure what would work for me today on the CCENT or CCNA.  What worked for me back then was simply a book.  However, I think the programs are more challenging now though.  I have a lot of ideas that I think are good for methods.


                  First and foremost, I think GOOD ILT is always an ideal situation.  Getting away from phones, email, customers etc and into a place where you can concentrate on the content and bat ideas around in a small group is invaluable in my opinion.  The keyword in this statement is the word GOOD.  I have seen many complaints and even had personal experience where the instructor "read the slides" more or less.  There is also the problem of large class sizes having individuals of all different levels regarding the subject matter.  However, I think the biggest obstacle to newcomers and those pursuing the CCENT and CCNA via ILT is the cost.  When getting started on this path, it is far less likely that you will have an employer's support than if you are pursuing something at the intermediate or professional level.


                  I think self study is a very viable option, but it requires discipline.  I think those having this discipline have more potential in many cases than those who have received a training voucher and sat a class.  That's not to say someone setting a class cannot have the discipline.  Some do and some don't.  I also think that self study lacks the interaction with others that is especially important at the entry level.  At the CCIE level of study, the primary mode of study seems to be self study.  There are certainly GOOD classes, but even then you must be very prepared to receive the material.  Thus the percentage of time spent in a classroom versus self study is relatively small.  Honestly, I think there will be a good mixture of the self study and ILT approaches that will eventually emerge.  Quite possibly the ILT aspect of it could be noting more that a weekly WebEX or the like.


                  What I think would work well at this level is getting a group and keeping them together.  I think there should be a set schedule so students are together in their studies.  The schedule should basically cover the entire blueprint in an order that is complementary.  I would suggest student interaction through forums like CLN.  On at least a weekly basis, a WebEx type session to work out rough areas and to drive home core competencies related to the week's studies would be great.  I especially like to look at things from the wire and using a sniffer in training should be done more than I think that it is.  I really like your "Be the Packet" and "Be the Router" approach especially at this level.  A good understanding of what's on the wire allows people to see how these devices can make decisions based on the information in the packet and form a basis for more complete understanding of networks.

                  • 6. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
                    Paul Stewart  -  CCIE Security



                    I certainly agree with your position.  In my response, I should have included a hands on aspect or online access to lab gear.  I think classroom training is more important earlier on because of the lack of experience.  However, I think there are other ways that the necessary experience can be achieved.  I think the world is going more of an on demand path.  However, I think the best approach is a really good mentored, group approach.  I'm not saying that is better than the classroom experience, but quite possibly within reach of more individuals who are getting started.

                    • 7. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?

                      I started out by buying the Cisco Press book on CCENT and reading it, taking notes in the book, highlighting things, etc. I didn't pass the exam so I bought another book. Still didn't pass, but the second book helped me understand subnetting better. Then I started watching videos online about people explaing all the things that were in the book and the information just stays with you better that way, I think. When you SEE it and HEAR it being explained it works better. And so I took the exam again after watching all the training videos and I passed.

                      • 8. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?

                        Hi Scott



                        As you know i am learning Cisco and i am having the same problems i am having now as when i first started to study HF, VHF, UHF SHF communications 20 years ago.


                        For example i had a 40 page document on a certain card and it took me a many weeks to read and digest, however, when i actually got hold of the equipment, within 1 day i understood what it did far more clearly and more importantly, with the help of others i was shown how to identify when it was not working.


                        My point is, no matter how much you study; you need someone there you can ask questions from and have hands on the equipment. Knowing how

                        to configure something is not good enough, you need to know how to recognise if it is not working as it should and how to know that. I don't believe there is any other way to learn with quality.



                        The problems i find and i am sure many others feel the same way is this:



                        1.     Most of us don't have the money to pay 4,000 dollars for a course.


                        2.     If you do have the money that probably means you are working which probably means you don't have the time to spare to do the course anyway.


                        3.     Studying like most of us do with books and videos is not the best way but it is the most cost effective way. It is also probably the only way most

                                us can do it as we have little time to spare.


                        4.     Paying for a class to attend on Cisco which runs for even just one week is not viable for most of us. If most of us have a week off it is to spend time

                               with our families.


                        The answer ?


                        Most of us work hard during the day and study hard during the evenings and weekends. What would be perfect for me and i think many others is

                        a company that provides classroom face to face training in the evening and the weekends.


                        Taking into consideration the cost, I don't mean a full CCNA course where if you miss 1 weekend because you were busy working you are way out

                        of the game. I am talking about something you can turn up to and say:


                        "Hey, i am studying Cisco this weekend, i am weak on OSPF, teach me and give me hands on"


                        So you have saved as much money as you could by studying with books and videos, you know your weak points so you pay a few hundred dollars for a

                        days training rather than a few thousand, you turn up at the weekend to a class and you tell the instructor what your weak points are and by the end of

                        the day your weak point is now your strong point.


                        It would not have to be a one to one instructor, he could give you tasks to do, if you have issues you just shout out.


                        To me that would be perfect and i would without doubt pay for that. I would even pay someone with just a CCNA certificate if he knew what he was

                        talking about, i don't need to see the CCIE badge on his chest, if there is such a thing




                        That is my view and if ever i get good enough and no one has done this, i will start my own business because it is a big loop hole in this Cisco learning

                        game as i see it.








                        • 9. Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
                          Michael Büchel

                          Hello Scott,


                          I like the games on this website and this seems to work for me. In general I like discussions and I prefer it do do handwriting, because it helps to remember things better than writing it on a keyboard.


                          I have to try CCENT and CCNA first, ICND1 and ICND2 I did just three weeks ago, so I still have to figure out if it was enough or not.


                          My believe is that there is a big gap between lecture theory of ICND1&2 and the exam. But this I have to figure out and maybe tis "gap" is just conclusion I did not come to know.


                          So it would be helpful having methods to train applying learned stuff on new problems.


                          Best regards,




                          PS. my english is not the best because I'm from Germany

                          • 10. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
                            Paul Stewart  -  CCIE Security



                            I think you and I have very similar viewpoints on this.  What I think would work very well (assuming enough students were interested), is a structure that brings groups of people together in their studies.  In other words, a syllabus or such that "assigns" students to study certain topics with book references, blog references and challenges (where applicable).  Then periodic assessments to gauge where the student is at on the subjects.  I think at least a weekly WebEx or such so an instructor could go over what is often misunderstood as well as any questions that are on the week's topics.  I think someone could put together a three month or so program that would fit into this nicely and be much more cost effective than traditional instructor led classroom training.  I actually think if the interest were there, one solid instructor could handle several groups at different places in their studies.  I just think it is crucial for several to be in each group (but at the same place in their studies), to make the dynamics (and economics) work better.  I honestly think we'll start seeing this more and more, especially in this space where many are self-funded.

                            • 11. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?

                              Hi Paul


                              I think we need to remember Cisco relationship with the Cisco Learning Partner (CLP). Various training companies have entered the market place because of the need to train people (and make money). So I think the idea of Cisco providing a mechanism such as CLN groups may not be to popular with the CLP. The trick might be that the CLP provide the group leaders and you pay a fee to join the group. This would guarantee the quality of the groups because you could have two CLP offering the same group and the content could reflect the fee and Cisco could publish the percentage of people who passed from each group. Obviously we could still have the free groups as well but they would not have the professionalism of the CLP. If somebody ran a free group which was sucessful the CLP could recruit that person.


                              Regards Conwyn

                              • 12. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
                                Paul Stewart  -  CCIE Security



                                The relationship between CLN and the CLP's is something that has certainly crossed my mind.  I'm actually surprised that we don't see more CCSI's putting time in on CLN to get their name out there.  There is a tremendous audience here.  I do agree that if not approached properly, there could be conflicts of interests between those entities.  However, CLN, CLP's and Learning@Cisco in general should have the same end goal--providing good, strong technical training.  I certainly believe that there are ways that everyone can benefit from the relationship between these entities, but you are correct in your concern.  Everyone must keep their lights on, or they cannot benefit anyone.  My comments, and questions were purposely disregarding the rules and the relationship concerns though.  I'd like to think about what is really best from the trainee's perspective, specifically those training at this level.

                                • 13. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?
                                  Scott Morris - CCDE/4xCCIE/2xJNCIE

                                  That has always surprised me as well...   Especially when some of those CLPs like to complain about other people helping out who are non-CLP-affiliated.  Nothing is preventing CCSIs (the instructors) from joining up and helping out.  And yet, as has been mentioned, very few are actually doing it.


                                  I think I have seen more participation from CCAI's (Academy Instructors) than from CCSIs.


                                  Conflict of interest?  It's a form of marketing.  The more someone's name is out there, and everyone sees they are affiliated with (insert favorite CLP here), that would give more toward continued loyalty along the way.


                                  Does it take time?  Absolutely.   Impossible?  Nope.


                                  But herein lies the problem...  It's not (IMHO) a problem of someone thinking it's a conflict or a bad idea...  It's a problem with the fact that nobody is going to pay for it to happen.   Given the economy the way that it is, VERY few instructors at CLPs are full time employees.  They are contractors.  With contractors, it's a matter of time = money.  Paying for classes is cool, but paying for 'x' number of hours a day to answer messages is a whole different issue.


                                  And up to this point, my guess is that nobody has seen it as enough of a marketing benefit to put $$ behind it.  That's just the way it is.


                                  My two cents.



                                  • 14. Re: Starting Out:  Initial CCENT Learning - Methods Desired?



                                    If i had to choose a company which provided Cisco courses or any form of training, and one of those companies had someone like yourself and others on this site in that company teaching, i would be more inclined to go with them because i would know them and trust them.


                                    As you said Scott, it gets their name out there which is advertising. Dollars may not be earned directly from helping on this site but it certainly would earn dollars indirectly.











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