My View of the Cisco 360 Learning Program – PART 1

By Wayne Lawson II on October 28th, 2008

As a preface to this post, our lawyer suggested I point out that the views expressed in my blog posts represent my own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views or official standing of IPexpert as a company or of our staff, partners or others. :)  With that said…

Last week, Cisco officially threw their hat in the CCIE lab training ring with the announcement of their “360 Learning Program.” This announcement came as no surprise to the leading CCIE-focused training companies.

Back in early 2007, Cisco began approaching established and successful (and some not-so-successful) CCIE training vendors on the market. They cast the net far and wide, asking known vendors around the globe to bid for the “opportunity” to have their courseware purchased then be re-branded as Cisco’s own curriculum. While that may be the ideal model for municipalities seeking a contractor to mow the lawn in city-owned parks, I was gravely concerned by what the apparent determining factors would be when selecting the “winner” that would advance a CCIE training initiative.

When they approached IPexpert, they expounded on the benefits that would come from a “Cisco-controlled” CCIE training program that centralized and streamlined the training options available on the open market.  Initially, the program caught our attention. But after a few face-to-face meetings and many conference calls, our interest faded. That said, I still hoped Cisco would move forward with their program, believing it could be a potential benefit to IPexpert in various possible ways, whether it succeeded or failed.

I should note that, at the time, IPexpert was a Cisco Learning Partner (CLP), which was a dreadful experience that I’ll blog about in a future post. For now, the point is that “only Learning Partners” were allowed to bid on this opportunity, though it became well-known that outsiders were sneaking in through back-door channels.

Throughout the bidding process and well after, we heard more and more about Cisco’s vision of a program where CCIE-focused companies would create the content and other aspects of the proposed solution. At one point, it was suggested that the vendors work together adding bits and pieces to the program, which sounds nice, but is not based in reality. While there are examples to leading vendors partnering with one company or another, it seemed unlikely that such collaboration would take off in a model that provided so little incentive to do so.

In my view, the opportunity as pitched by Cisco boiled down to this:

  1. We’ll will take your materials that you created (likely of the course of several years and untold investment), then slap a Cisco logo on it.
  2. Then, we’ll slap the Cisco logos on what was your material and allow your direct competitors to sell it.
  3. Since we only have a relatively small number of racks to make available for CCIE candidates, we’ll take control of the racks you have purchased and created custom GUIs for, so they can be tied into our tracking and scheduling systems.
  4. We’d like you to fly your instructors across the country to teach other would-be CCIE instructors how to do what they do… for your competitors.

As you can imagine, this opportunity became less and less an opportunity for the “core” group of vendors that have a vested interest in protecting their brand and investments… except for NetMasterClass. Let me say clearly that I really like Bruce and Val at NMC. They are very nice guys and I won’t question or speculate on their motives. As the leaders of our companies, we all have decisions to make and live with. Only time will tell which decisions are the right or wrong ones.

So, here we are with the 360 / NetMasterClass offering being made official. During Cisco’s presentation last week, I found it interesting they avoided the topic of how much the training would cost engineers. They talked about costs for the other topics covered in the presentation, including lab exam costs, but forgot to detail the 360 program prices and what you get for each cost level. Their “Top 10 questions” page vaguely references $5,000-$20,000 and NMC’s menu presents a confusing list of options, so that might be why they didn’t try to explain it during the presentation.

NOTE: In the follow-up post to come this week, we will examine each component of the 360 offering. For now, I’ll just express my amazement of how much more expensive NMC’s products got when their logo was traded for Cisco’s.

Also, during the presentation, it was pointed out that Cisco’s desire for the program was to “teach experts” and not to “teach the tests.” Jeff Rensink, author of the CCIE Trek blog, really slammed this point on a recent blog post asking, “is Cisco saying that their test doesn’t adequately determine if someone is an expert.” Great observation, Jeff!!!

I think the truth is that it might just be another “right thing to say” catchphrase. During the past year, while Cisco was encouraging IPexpert’s involvement in the program, there was great emphasis on the tracking system that would be monitored to gauge which vendor is able to crank out the most number of CCIE successes.

Let us remember that Cisco’s learning programs are now aligned under its Customer Advocacy division, making it a profit center. It’s not all about the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from teaching people to be experts. Why else would Cisco insist on calling IPexpert’s CCIE training products and courses “derivative works” even though they had no CCIE training to “derive” other works from? (Because Cisco collects royalty payments for companies selling “derivative works.”)

So, what do I see in the cards for this new program? I know it’s risky for me to put predictions out there, but this is just some conversation among friends, right?

PREDICTION 1: Problems for the Learning @ Cisco team

Frankly, I don’t think the “Learning @ Cisco” team at Cisco really understands that the CCIE certification is a totally different beast – different than any other class or certification that Cisco currently supports (CCNA, for example).  Cisco’s model is for much of their content to be created by third-party vendors / developers.  This content is then formatted per Cisco’s standard template and thrown into a 3-ring binder, then made available as a “kit.”  When “ACME Computer Training” wants to teach that class – they call their CLSP and order the content.

The top existing CCIE training vendors have set a standard for keeping their courseware extremely up-to-date. At IPexpert, we do not inventory ANY courseware. It is all printed on-demand and shipped to the classroom the week prior to each course. Why? Because our instructors make refinements / additions / changes to the course materials between almost EVERY course. That way, students are always learning from materials that reflect the most current thinking, best practices and most effective content.

How up-to-date will the 360 materials be maintained? If they are able to keep innovating and improving the offering, who will do it and how will all these cookie-cutter entities get trained up on the changes and understand what the instructor that made the changes had in mind? Will past students automatically get access to revisions? How?

PREDICTION 2: Problems for the Learning Partners attempting to deliver the training

Most Learning Partners (those that focus on the lower-level Cisco certifications) are used to delivering classroom training. It will be interesting to see how they make the shift toward a blended learning model that emphasizes self-study learning as a part of one’s preparation path. How will they market the “off-the-shelf” (NMC) books in a way that differentiates them from their competitors, especially when they had no role in creating the product and can’t really identify with it.

Once they sell some books to a student, whose racks will their student use to practice hands-on? What will be available to them and when? At what cost?

PREDICTION 3: Problems for the CCIE candidates / students

For reasons that could include the points in my first two predictions, the 360 program may well prove to be a “sub par” offering. Wouldn’t that be ironic after Cisco described current third-party Boot Camps that way?   ;)

If that comes true, it will be the individuals – the CCIE candidates – that would have suffered the most. Probably the most affected will be Cisco employees, whom I suspect are going to be strong-armed into using the “official” training. Pride and corporate policy will keep Cisco from throwing in the towel for a while – long after a great many have over-paid for under-delivered programs.

What Your Peers Think: Some popular bloggers have chimed in on the issue

  • CCIEguru quips, “Cisco should do a 360 and re-do its 360.”
  • Arden Packeer’s in-depth analysis concludes, “I think I’ll stick to the third party vendors for my CCIE material.”
  • CCIE Journey points out that “the courses start out at $5000 and can get up to $20,000. Which to me seems high when you have Internetwork Expert, Narbik, IPexpert and the others out there that deliver high value material at a fraction of that cost.”
  • Greg Ferro at EtherealMind predicts, “the number of companies offering CCIE training to increase rapidly as they will think this is an opportunity to grow by adding CCIE to their existing CCNP/NA/SP/DP offerings and increase revenue. Of course it won’t be and they will exit the business by the end of next year.”
  • CiscoFerret worries about the 360 program moving to “spoon feed candidates” to satisfy Cisco’s commercial desire to “have a higher pass rate than the competition.”
  • CCIEpursuit correctly describes the material as “a rebranded version” of the NetMasterClass training

What do you think? Post your comments here and let’s talk it out.

Also, watch for Part 2 of “My View” this week, as well as more off-shoots from this topic in other blog posts soon to come!

My View of the Cisco 360 Learning Program – PART 1, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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    Tags: 360, CCIE, Cisco, net master class, netmasterclass, nmc, r&s, routing, wayne

    8 Responses to “My View of the Cisco 360 Learning Program – PART 1”

    1. Darby Weaver says:

      OK -

      NetMasterClass dumped all their old customers cold… I guess it may have been in the small print but no other vendor did it previously – except maybe… Mentor Labs…

      Anyone ever see the labs from ECP-1 and ECP-2? Do they look a lot like… NMC-1 and NMC-2?

      Hmmm..

      Yes, I thought so too… So much that I own them both and yep… Pretty much the same product +/- ip addresses…

      Next networkers remind to bring my print copies of all of the above…

      You see this is all “DEJA VU”!!!!

      It happened before… back when Mentor Technologies took a dive… Anyone remember where the NMC team came from before they became the NMC team?

      Yep.

      So here’s the scoop:

      1. Sell the product at a high dollar price and refuse to budge… typos and bad English notwithstanding… even to the point of being down right noticeable and disturbing.

      2. Offer the product for say 6 months… but let customers have access for much longer till they are ready drop the bomb again.

      That way they can be dazed and confused… and maybe come back to spend another $10,000 – $20,000 on the second or third round of “THE GREATEST CCIE CERTIFICATION SCAM” going…

      3. Here’s the skinny on what you will get with the Cisco 360 Program:

      1. The NMC Tech Library (limited time only) – Careful it’s got errors. An if you circle every time something is repeated more than 3 times… you will get become “HIGH AS A KITE”… seriously… how many times does the same sentence need to be repeated… really?

      2. The RSCCIE-1 aka NMC-1 aka ECP-1…

      Let me save you a week here

      - Buy the CCIE Assessor and get 2 labs with a lot of feedback for the price… of about $400.00

      - Get the Book by Szigeti Cisco Press End-to-End QoS and maybe Wendell Odom’s book on QoS Certification. Ok – You covered what they will spend 1 to 1.5 days of bootcamp on. And if you do the exercises you will get more paractice anyway…. which they will tell you to go do on your own anyway – BTW… Love that part.

      Ok – So you spend another $125.00 on books…

      - BGP – Famous all-time 1/2 day topic. They give this away in their FREE PDF handouts. Basically a few labs that go over… stuff like “Next-Hop-Self, EBGP Multi-Hop, and Update-Source… Also Peer-Groups gets a quick review, Confederations, and Route-Reflectors…

      But if you are slow in your labs… during class you will likely be doing these alone anyway… I guess that might be where the other $10,000.00 in mentoring comes along.

      Did you notice this is covered in the DOC CD too… yep.

      Not a bad find if you can read…. English. Kidding, but it’s FREE.

      Let’s see… IPv6 – They offered a nice paper on IPv6 that covered a lot of good stuff… but this is covered by oh so many others and to a larger degree…

      Personally, if you can configure RIP, OSPF, and a few tunnels in IPv6… you can work for me. So this is really a filler topic meant to cover space.

      I do understand Switching is covered in more depth now that 4 Switches are in use? This is a big MAYBE?

      My recommendation – Get a little book by Cisco Press called “Builing IP Resilient Networks” and you get HSRP, IP SLB, VRRP, Spanning-Treee that makes sense and you can actually see how it is applied in the real world.

      Wow! That’s a $50-60.00 book.

      Look you are probably going to be referred to Doyle V1 and V2. Pick up Solie since he tells you how to setup a home lab and build solid test tools… like Route Genrators, Terminal Servers, and Frame Switches. Useful for a candidate.

      Ok…

      what else – well… IP SLA is a nice to know feature and is useful in live environments but the LAB is only 8 Hours…

      Learning a TCL Script or Ping Macro is quickly available on Google… I posted my variations a few times all over the web…. same for the Frame Switch and the Terminal Server.

      Let’s see…

      The last day or 1/2 day is really a graded lab.

      It’s seems this is no longer offered for sale either… so…

      Get one one from IPExpert or IE or other reputable vendor.

      Lots of great feedback and realistic labs.

      Remember the graded labs from NMC were kind of like:

      15 points for BGP 10 Points for QoS, etc.

      In the real lab and in various vendor’s labs mentioned above… it’s like this 1 point for these tasks and 2 points for those tasks, etc. We call this realistic.

      So… there you have it…

      As for Week-2… just buy the labs and get them graded.

      Would you spend $5000.00 for 4 graded labs?

      Why would you go to a class to spend $5000.00 for graded labs and get just about 2.5 hours of feedback per lab that highlight the common problems and those may NOT be your specific problems anyway?

      Right?

      So if you can buy graded labs for say.. $130 – $250.00 each and 4 of them would cost you $520.00 to $1000.00…

      Why would you pay $5000.00 just for the privilege of doing them on premises?

      Yes… I fell for it too.

      I like the guys and all but when they slammed not just me but a lot of other guys I know (I guess everybody…) IT REALLY SUCKED!!!

      Up to now, I’ve just taken my lumps and layed down about it, pretty much.

      Look ultimately NMC sold out to Cisco.

      I spoke with a proctor who seemed a bit suprised by my words… about what was covered and what was not covered by NMC in thier materials…

      They are going to have to up the standards…

      Also if you have 3 instructors in class? What are the other 2 doing? If they are not teaching or coaching/helping students…

      I’m going to make like Count Chocula here…

      You have “1″ Instructor in the class who is “Instructing”…

      Not 3…

      If one is doing reasearch. If the other is grading labs… for other things…

      You only have 1+ instructors when the other instructors are have time for you.

      Whew!

      Anyway…

      All other vendors never DUMPED their entire clientelle.

      It seems this is DEJA VU and the question is now if the Cisco 360 Program fails… as it very well might, then are you going to lose.. $5000.00, $10,000.00 or up to $20,000.00 with a program that has already dumped its clients at least once (just now) and basically back when Mentor Labs went out of business…

      Understand that Mentor Labs was not Bruce and Vals business as I understand it… however they started teaching the from the same materials…

      Remember I’ve taken the time to collect ECP-1 and ECP-2 and it is a lot like NMC-1 and NMC-2, which is going to be pretty much what you get with CCIERS-1 and CCIERS-2 from the 360 Program.

      Hell you might just shop Ebay and wait for them to turn up.

      Did you notice…

      They do not really cover the following topics in NMC-1 aside from the Day-1 Diagnostic Lab that so many struggle with till late Monday night anyway…

      Frame
      Bridging
      Switching
      RIP
      EIGRP
      OSPF
      Redistribution does get covered heavily in the review and in the last day review of the lab given on that day.

      So…

      Careful…

      BUYER BEWARE!

      Let me say that again CAVEAT EMPTOR…

      Not the EMPTOR looks a lot like “Empty-handed”… as is left HIGH and DRY!!!

      Anyone still need more clarification… look me up.

      I miss my own formatting?

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    2. Darby Weaver says:

      OK -

      NetMasterClass dumped all their old customers cold… I guess it may have been in the small print but no other vendor did it previously – except maybe… Mentor Labs…

      Anyone ever see the labs from ECP-1 and ECP-2? Do they look a lot like… NMC-1 and NMC-2?

      Hmmm..

      Yes, I thought so too… So much that I own them both and yep… Pretty much the same product +/- ip addresses…

      Next networkers remind to bring my print copies of all of the above…

      You see this is all “DEJA VU”!!!!

      It happened before… back when Mentor Technologies took a dive… Anyone remember where the NMC team came from before they became the NMC team?

      Yep.

      So here’s the scoop:

      1. Sell the product at a high dollar price and refuse to budge… typos and bad English notwithstanding… even to the point of being down right noticeable and disturbing.

      2. Offer the product for say 6 months… but let customers have access for much longer till they are ready drop the bomb again.

      That way they can be dazed and confused… and maybe come back to spend another $10,000 – $20,000 on the second or third round of “THE GREATEST CCIE CERTIFICATION SCAM” going…

      3. Here’s the skinny on what you will get with the Cisco 360 Program:

      1. The NMC Tech Library (limited time only) – Careful it’s got errors. An if you circle every time something is repeated more than 3 times… you will get become “HIGH AS A KITE”… seriously… how many times does the same sentence need to be repeated… really?

      2. The RSCCIE-1 aka NMC-1 aka ECP-1…

      Let me save you a week here

      - Buy the CCIE Assessor and get 2 labs with a lot of feedback for the price… of about $400.00

      - Get the Book by Szigeti Cisco Press End-to-End QoS and maybe Wendell Odom’s book on QoS Certification. Ok – You covered what they will spend 1 to 1.5 days of bootcamp on. And if you do the exercises you will get more paractice anyway…. which they will tell you to go do on your own anyway – BTW… Love that part.

      Ok – So you spend another $125.00 on books…

      - BGP – Famous all-time 1/2 day topic. They give this away in their FREE PDF handouts. Basically a few labs that go over… stuff like “Next-Hop-Self, EBGP Multi-Hop, and Update-Source… Also Peer-Groups gets a quick review, Confederations, and Route-Reflectors…

      But if you are slow in your labs… during class you will likely be doing these alone anyway… I guess that might be where the other $10,000.00 in mentoring comes along.

      Did you notice this is covered in the DOC CD too… yep.

      Not a bad find if you can read…. English. Kidding, but it’s FREE.

      Let’s see… IPv6 – They offered a nice paper on IPv6 that covered a lot of good stuff… but this is covered by oh so many others and to a larger degree…

      Personally, if you can configure RIP, OSPF, and a few tunnels in IPv6… you can work for me. So this is really a filler topic meant to cover space.

      I do understand Switching is covered in more depth now that 4 Switches are in use? This is a big MAYBE?

      My recommendation – Get a little book by Cisco Press called “Builing IP Resilient Networks” and you get HSRP, IP SLB, VRRP, Spanning-Treee that makes sense and you can actually see how it is applied in the real world.

      Wow! That’s a $50-60.00 book.

      Look you are probably going to be referred to Doyle V1 and V2. Pick up Solie since he tells you how to setup a home lab and build solid test tools… like Route Genrators, Terminal Servers, and Frame Switches. Useful for a candidate.

      Ok…

      what else – well… IP SLA is a nice to know feature and is useful in live environments but the LAB is only 8 Hours…

      Learning a TCL Script or Ping Macro is quickly available on Google… I posted my variations a few times all over the web…. same for the Frame Switch and the Terminal Server.

      Let’s see…

      The last day or 1/2 day is really a graded lab.

      It’s seems this is no longer offered for sale either… so…

      Get one one from IPExpert or IE or other reputable vendor.

      Lots of great feedback and realistic labs.

      Remember the graded labs from NMC were kind of like:

      15 points for BGP 10 Points for QoS, etc.

      In the real lab and in various vendor’s labs mentioned above… it’s like this 1 point for these tasks and 2 points for those tasks, etc. We call this realistic.

      So… there you have it…

      As for Week-2… just buy the labs and get them graded.

      Would you spend $5000.00 for 4 graded labs?

      Why would you go to a class to spend $5000.00 for graded labs and get just about 2.5 hours of feedback per lab that highlight the common problems and those may NOT be your specific problems anyway?

      Right?

      So if you can buy graded labs for say.. $130 – $250.00 each and 4 of them would cost you $520.00 to $1000.00…

      Why would you pay $5000.00 just for the privilege of doing them on premises?

      Yes… I fell for it too.

      I like the guys and all but when they slammed not just me but a lot of other guys I know (I guess everybody…) IT REALLY SUCKED!!!

      Up to now, I’ve just taken my lumps and layed down about it, pretty much.

      Look ultimately NMC sold out to Cisco.

      I spoke with a proctor who seemed a bit suprised by my words… about what was covered and what was not covered by NMC in thier materials…

      They are going to have to up the standards…

      Also if you have 3 instructors in class? What are the other 2 doing? If they are not teaching or coaching/helping students…

      I’m going to make like Count Chocula here…

      You have “1″ Instructor in the class who is “Instructing”…

      Not 3…

      If one is doing reasearch. If the other is grading labs… for other things…

      You only have 1+ instructors when the other instructors are have time for you.

      Whew!

      Anyway…

      All other vendors never DUMPED their entire clientelle.

      It seems this is DEJA VU and the question is now if the Cisco 360 Program fails… as it very well might, then are you going to lose.. $5000.00, $10,000.00 or up to $20,000.00 with a program that has already dumped its clients at least once (just now) and basically back when Mentor Labs went out of business…

      Understand that Mentor Labs was not Bruce and Vals business as I understand it… however they started teaching the from the same materials…

      Remember I’ve taken the time to collect ECP-1 and ECP-2 and it is a lot like NMC-1 and NMC-2, which is going to be pretty much what you get with CCIERS-1 and CCIERS-2 from the 360 Program.

      Hell you might just shop Ebay and wait for them to turn up.

      Did you notice…

      They do not really cover the following topics in NMC-1 aside from the Day-1 Diagnostic Lab that so many struggle with till late Monday night anyway…

      Frame
      Bridging
      Switching
      RIP
      EIGRP
      OSPF
      Redistribution does get covered heavily in the review and in the last day review of the lab given on that day.

      So…

      Careful…

      BUYER BEWARE!

      Let me say that again CAVEAT EMPTOR…

      Not the EMPTOR looks a lot like “Empty-handed”… as is left HIGH and DRY!!!

      Anyone still need more clarification… look me up.

      I miss my own formatting?

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    3. [...] has caused some major problems amongst learning partners that are now competing in this offering as well as a few of their students that don’t approve of their sales tactics!).  Today – Global Knowledge announced that they were the first CLSP to offer this 360 program [...]

    4. [...] has caused some major problems amongst learning partners that are now competing in this offering as well as a few of their students that don’t approve of their sales tactics!).  Today – Global Knowledge announced that they were the first CLSP to offer this 360 program [...]

    5. [...] November 7, 2008 IPexpert Blog – IPexpert’s Wayne Lawson does a great job of taking us behind the Cisco curtain and disecting the new Cisco 360 CCIE training program. [...]

    6. [...] November 7, 2008 IPexpert Blog – IPexpert’s Wayne Lawson does a great job of taking us behind the Cisco curtain and disecting the new Cisco 360 CCIE training program. [...]

    7. [...] be a Cisco Learning Partner (Arden Packeer has a great explanation here).  Wayne Lawson seemed pretty underwhelmed by the whole deal in this post.  Does this recent announcement mean that IPexpert is joining the 360 training program?  More [...]

    8. [...] be a Cisco Learning Partner (Arden Packeer has a great explanation here).  Wayne Lawson seemed pretty underwhelmed by the whole deal in this post.  Does this recent announcement mean that IPexpert is joining the 360 training program?  More [...]

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