Two posts ago, I took a look at three CompTIA A+ study guides for the current 220-801 and 220-802 exams. A study guide makes a good foundation for your exam preparation, but adults learn in a variety of ways and hacking away at a thick text book isn’t for everyone. One alternative to consider is training videos, but to be clear, I believe videos works best as a supplement to a study guide and not as a complete replacement. If you find the multimedia presentation alone serves you better, you should play to your own strengths. However, reading, watching videos both serve the same essential function in the adult learning cycle, and even if you both read a study guide and watch a full video course it’s not likely to be enough to achieve success when writing a cert exam. I’m going to drop my first mention of the adult learning principles that I follow, and these are principles that I plan on becoming quite important on CertManiacs going forward. While I don’t want to stray too far from the titular topic, consider this, studying a guide or passively watching training videos qualify as Experiences in this four stage process:
Experience – Something happens.
Reflection – What happened?
Generalization – Why did it happen?
Application – Make that thing happen yourself.
I’ll be returning to that process quite a bit in the coming months, but back to training videos. Today, I will take a look at two excellent A+ training video sources today, one free and one that can be a little pricey, depending on your point of view.
I discovered Professor Messer when I first began searching for A+ training material during the very start of my certification career. I was thrilled to find FREE video training to complement my study guide (see my A+ study guide reviews here). As it turns out, it turned out to be quality content, Professor (James) Messer has created a comprehensive course that he updates for each new revision of the A+ exams, when I first used his content it was still for the 220-701 and 220-702 versions. He keeps each video segment fairly short (most are under 15 minutes) and very on point for the target concept, which helps keep the content digestable. The videos follow a fairly simple format, a camera records a full face shot of him speaking, which plays in a small window in the corner over his presentation, which is often a slideshow but he does live capture processes in action when it’s appropriate. At a total video run time of 19 hours, there’s a fair bit of content to be watched, but if you do, it will go a long way to preparing you for the exams. In addition to the videos, Messer will run A+ pop quizzes and study groups. I noticed there was a lull in his site updates over the past few months, but it appears he’s back in full swing. I should note that he seems to be working on updating his Network+ and Security+ content at the time of this writing. You are able to view replays of old study groups, and I recommend that you check out at least one to see if they will be of any benefit to you.
The only issue is that the videos must be accessed online (via Youtube), which depending on your mobile data capability, may be something of an issue. The site does offer a solution to this problem in the form of a downloadable training course for $200 that includes: the video training on DVDs, MP3s of the audio from them, and his slides in PDF format. The price seems a bit steep compared to the cost of one of the printed study guides I’ve previously review, however, Messer does offer PDF study guides of his own for $10 each, certainly a reasonable price and likely a good supplement to the video course. I cannot say how the guides stand on their merit (or for that matter as a companion to the videos) based on the small sampling provided, but they appeared to be formatted in a “quick study” manner to concisely review exam topics. If you’ve purchased them then please feel free to comment and add your opinion.
We go from a free resource to one that has a subscription fee. CBT Nuggets is a reputable video IT training provider that covers a large number of vendors. I’ve been lucky to enough to get access to a subscription through my workplace, but the first thing we should discuss is the cost for their training. For individual learners who don’t believe they’ll need ongoing access to the catalogue, the cost is $99/month for the Basic plan, and while what “expensive” is for everyone is relative, it’s not an insignificant cost if you’re paying out of pocket. For that fee you get access to the complete video catalogue (must be viewed online (mobile apps are available) and their NuggetLab supplementary materials. I signed up for the 7 day trial to take a look at the A+ videos and unfortunately they do not make the NuggetLab material for the course available for trial so I cannot comment on the quality of that content. There is a higher tier plan available that requires a 12 month commitment that is actually cheaper per month and includes extra features such as offline video viewings (allowing you to download up to 20) and practice exams.
CBT Nuggets puts something of a focus on their trainers as personalities, and I will say for IT trainers, the CBT Nuggets instructors are pretty good. Jeremy Ciora is perhaps the most famous (or is it infamous?) instructor from the site, but James Conrad, the instructor for the A+ material, is a well spoken and engaging guide through the material. I’d give him the edge in presentation skills over Professor Messer. The video course, as with Messer’s, is comprehensive but between the two I’ll give the free course the nod in terms of layout. Its videos are shorter and dedicated to more focused topics than the CBT videos, which often exceed 25 minutes in length. The formatting of the videos for CBT is largely the same Messer’s, the instructor has a slide deck or whiteboard running as they lecture and will bring up pictures or live screen captures as necessary. Nothing revolutionary, but it works. I tested out the CBT Nuggets mobile app for iOS on my iPhone and it synced up my video progression from my PC to the mobile device perfectly, the app is simple to use and seems to work quite well.
So why bring up CBT Nuggets as the pay option? Well, it’s the one that I am most familiar with. Do not take my review of it or Professor Messer’s site as any kind of endorsement over any other free or paid option, my goal is to simply make you aware of training resources that are available for your A+ studies. While I’m not thrilled that you have to supply a credit card for their free 7 day trial, which does NOT automatically start a subscription when it lapses, I understand the barrier exists to stop people from repeatedly abusing the trial period.
You might ask, “Between these two options, which should I use?” For the A+ exams, I believe Professor Messer’s free video training will serve you quite well, and I can’t recommend paying the subscription fee solely for just the A+ material on CBT Nuggets.