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Free IT training courses and resources

A free glimpse can be valuable. Training Advisor hed: dek: by Molly Joss

Every day hundreds (if not thousands) of people sign up for IT training and part with more money than they ever thought they’d pay for such services. In some cases, what they pay compares to the costs of owning a house or a car. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, if you’re willing to put up with a few inconveniences, such as looking at ads. You can earn your IT credits by studying online for free. That’s right, free.

I am not saying that free online courses offer the same caliber of educational experiences that high-quality classroom training can offer. That would be hard to do and I haven’t found a free class that can compare. However, I have seen some IT classroom training that is little more than cramming for an exam, which is what you get in most online classes.

Judge for yourself. Take a free course or two and see what you think. While there are thousands of Web sites where you can learn about IT for free, in this column I am only going to tell you about a few of them. Then I’ll point you to a few Web sites where you can do your own research into other online training options.

Before we get started on the site details, let me tell you why I like the idea of free online IT training. Granted, the fact that it’s free is a huge attraction, but there are other positives. The training is available 24 hours a day seven days a week around the world. That means you don’t have to live near a training center to learn about IT.

Free training is also a wonderful way to see if you have the right stuff for whatever topic you’re interested in learning. If you’re wondering if you should quit your day job in marketing and becoming a Web site developer, a free course in Web development lets you explore without risking a lot. No matter what slice of the IT pie you are interested in, you can sample several IT delights over a few months’ time without taking out a second mortgage on your house to pay the tuition.

After you finish the free training, you may find that you are both seriously interested and able to do the work in a new IT role. You may be ready to tackle certification exams. You probably will find, though, that you really do need some classroom training with a live instructor; and you will also discover that you need the hands-on lab work only available in on-site training. No problem: Your online training will give you a running start at a great price, no matter how much you snoozed through it.

Free courses are also a great asset for companies that want to strengthen the computer skills of their employees but don’t have a lot of money to spend on training. With free training, every person in the office could be trained in Microsoft Office within weeks. Free courses are a good way for a company to evaluate an employee’s aptitude for serious IT studies before the company signs a check for classroom training.

Free training sites

Here are only a few of the sites that offer free tutorials, exam questions, certification preparation materials, and so on. Each of the sites below has something useful or unique to offer, so all are worth a visit. Later, we’ll talk about how to locate other sites that offer free training resources.

Brainbuzz.com is an IT recruiting site that offers certification prep materials for a number of popular certifications including A+, Microsoft, and Cisco. Click on the Cramsession tab when you get to the site to access the list of available study and test materials. The site also offers discussion boards for the various certifications.

If you think you might have enough industry experience under your belt to pass a certification exam or you want to take a look at the kinds of questions on the exam, check out the Cram4Exams Web site. This site offers free test questions for many exams, including Cisco, Microsoft MCSE, and A+. You can also pick up (for a reasonable fee) study guides and other exam-prep aids at this site.

To learn about Web development, try the free resources offered by Simtel.net. Look for the Web Resources Tutorial Package. It has material on HTML, JavaScript, and other Web-related technologies. The site also offers free software and free exam questions for Cisco and other certification exams.

At Learnthat.com, you can study RedHat Linux and a variety of Microsoft applications. This site also offers free training materials on software programs that you might want to learn more about before you buy them, such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Intuit Quicken. There are also tutorials on Web design (not tied to a particular platform or development environment) and the A+ and Network+ certifications.

If you’re looking to test your current level of knowledge in a particular area, try the alternately free and cheap exams on Brainbench.com. The site offers its own suite of certification tests for many software programs–and at a far lower cost than most vendor certifications. Some of the tests on the site are free, allowing you to test yourself to see if you even need a training course. Companies can use the tests to evaluate the IT skills of job candidates.

Findtutorials.com is a Web site devoted to helping you find the kind of tutorial that you need. Not only can you find IT tutorials by searching at this site, you can find tutorials in a number of other areas, including careers, business, education, and hobbies. When I visited the site, there were more than 2,600 IT-related tutorials listed.

Computer Training 2000 offers Microsoft Office application training and general computer information, along with how-to articles and other resources. I like the site because its tips are short and pithy. No endless techno-babble here.

Read more about it

To learn more about such sites, sign up for the free IT training e-newsletter offered by Intelinfo.com, a non-profit organization seeking to promote online learning. Each issue comes with a few links to free IT learning sites and has a link that gets you into the organization’s database of free IT training resources.

I mentioned one IT recruiting site that offers free training resources, but there are others. In fact, it’s becoming a must-have for IT recruiting sites. For example, Techies.com offers some courses for free and others for a small fee. Keep an eye out for such resources when you visit IT recruiting sites.

Last but not least, let the Web do the searching for you. Go to your favorite search site and type in the search term free computer training. Watch the site listings pile up and check out a few of the more interesting ones. In less than 30 minutes you can find a half dozen sites other than the ones I’ve already mentioned.

Now that you know you can get free IT training on the Web, there is no excuse left for not taking that step forward in your career. Finding the resources and doing the work on your own is more difficult than stepping into a classroom, but you can do it.

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