Anyone can look at my blog articles or my list of certifications and know that I’m a huge fan of SANS trainings. I’ve taken in person courses and OnDemand courses but what I had yet to take is a vlive or simulcast course. I’m currently on my lunch break from Day Three of the SANS 414 (CISSP prep) course at Cybercon and thought I would make a few observations about their online courses.
The cost savings are huge. Costs of hotel and travel can fluctuate wildly but free is always the best option. While I was able to keep the hotel and food costs of my Community course in Phoenix under $1,000 my week at Caesars last September for Network Security was probably closer to $2,000. At Caesars a sandwich wrap, bag of chips and soda for lunch was $20 which is far greater than what I pay my wife for similar fare.
The whole “attend class in your pajamas” thing does indeed rock.
Before the class I felt like “I won’t get to meet the instructor (Eric Conrad) face to face so it won’t feel as real”. There may be a tiny bit of that but the flip side of that coin is I have unparalleled access to the instructor to ask questions. Eric is teaching from an island off the coast of Maine while I’m in the middle of the desert yet somehow he does a remarkable job at creating an intimate feel.
Anytime I attend an in person SANS training and a fellow student expresses concern about passing the associated certification exam I always recommend that they acquire the OnDemand version of the course if at all possible. The MP3s are a great resource too but there is just something about being able to see the instructor explain a concept on a whiteboard that I prefer. With any online course SANS gives you access to all of the course materials for six months after the start of the course date. The ability to go back and listen to your instructor explain a concept again once a course is done and your reviewing your material and compiling your index is invaluable.
The software is awesome. I’ve used it to attend a few small webinars but never for a prolonged period of time. It’s easy to use, balances the whiteboard and the chat window and does an unreal job at handling any lag. If you hit a phase where you’re having minor connection issues for whatever reason and your session freezes for a few seconds when you hear the instructor again you’ll hear him at a sped up pace similar to hitting the 1.5 speed button on an iPod. This will continue until you’re caught up when the instructor will seamlessly go back to normal speed again. I wish all online video content was done like this.