Thursday, October 23, 2008

Installing the Training Sample Site

Before attending Sitecore .NET Developer training, developers install the training sample site. The sample site is a prepopulated Sitecore instance that helps students learn Sitecore concepts and complete the training labs.

The installer works well for the large majority of students; however, for certain system configurations the installation may not complete successfully.

The absolute best source for troubleshooting Sitecore installations is the Installation Troubleshooting Guide that developers can find on Sitecore's SDN site. The troubleshooting guide lists all common error messages and troubleshooting steps.

If you can not access the troubleshooting guide, request a login and password for the Sitecore Developer Network from your training adminsitrator.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sitecore Training: The Perfect Moment

We are at a unique moment in our training calendar for Sitecore certified training.

We currently have two thriving customer bases working with and implementing Sitecore: Sitecore 5.3 customers and Sitecore 6 customers. There are many Sitecore 5.3 solutions currently online from leading brands. Many of these implementations were performed by Sitecore partners and many were performed in-house. Sitecore 6 implementations are also ramping up and we will be seeing some major rollouts in the coming weeks. In the next six months, we expect to see new implementations on both the Sitecore 5.3 and Sitecore 6 platforms. (Of course, we have many solutions still running on Sitecore 4, Sitecore 5.1 and Sitecore 5.2!)

During this period, we will offer trainings on all current product versions: Sitecore .NET Developer training for Sitecore 6 and Sitecore Certified Developer Level One and Two training for Sitecore 5. Maybe you are starting a new solution in Sitecore 5 or 6, or you might be responsible for maintaining an existing solution in Sitecore 5. In either case, the next few months will be a perfect window of opportunity to schedule training.

As the months go by, we will likely see fewer Sitecore 5 trainings scheduled and more Sitecore 6 trainings scheduled. If you require Sitecore 5 training, the time to act is now. The training calendar includes Sitecore 5 courses in both August and September. If you have several developers who require training, you may consider bringing a Sitecore trainer to your location to present the Sitecore 5 curriculum.

If you are starting a Sitecore 6 implementation, sign up for Sitecore .NET Developer training (two days) or Sitecore HTML Developer training (one day). These are exciting new trainings for Sitecore 6 that focus in on specific developer audiences. You can enjoy these classes in our Mill Valley offices or at your location.

Regardless of which training you choose, it is important to check availability before classes fill up. You can request training using the training request form on the Sitecore site or by talking to your sales person.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The End of Sitecore Training?

Over the past five years, Sitecore has trained thousands of marketers, designers and developers in our main course offering -- Sitecore Certified Developer Level One (SCD1). The course was an ambitious one: two days of training covering data design, presentation development, workflows, publishing, security, media, multilingual features and much more. Earlier this year, as the release of Sitecore 6 drew near, we decided that Sitecore training as we knew it had to come to an end.

Our approach to SCD1 had been extremely successful. We received great feedback on our training curriculum and our instructors. The positive results of the training were evident in the thousands of sites developed by Sitecore partners and customers in countries across the globe. As an instructor, I was often struck by the ability of students to digest the curriculum, labs and certification within the short span of the training.

When we began developing Sitecore 6 curriculum, we took seriously all of the positive feedback and experiences we had with SCD1. We also took a 360-degree view, consulting with the Sitecore support team, sales, our customers and partners to understand what might be missing from our standard training and what could be improved. The feedback we received was that -- in aiming for comprehensiveness -- the SCD1 training was too broad. So much was covered in our two-day training, students sometimes found it difficult to retain all of the information. The training challenged students; but it sometimes overwhelmed them.

As an interim response to this feedback, additional trainings were developed in some regional markets. In the U.S. and Canada, we offered a day of prototyping, where students took the core concepts from SCD1 and applied them in a "start from scratch" website. This was an invaluable opportunity to get hands-on, instructor-led practice without introducing any additional content. A common exercise in the day of prototyping was to build a section of the customer's or partner's existing website using Sitecore data structures, .NET and/or XSLT.

With this experience and feedback in mind, we asked ourselves the following question: How can we best use our trainings to support our customers and partners in developing successful solutions? Several insights came from our discussions with the various training stakeholders:

  1. Each training needs to provide a digestible amount of content.
  2. The developer training needs to include as much hands-on prototyping as possible.
  3. We need to offer more trainings that cover critical topics in greater detail.
  4. We need to improve our documentation so that topics not covered in training are comprehensively described on the Sitecore Developer Network.
  5. The Sitecore Certified Developer exam needs to target experienced ASP.NET developers.

These ideas led us to design a training program that provides more courses, more focused courses and better supported courses. The training program will ultimately include twelve unique courses ranging from one to two days each. An average customer or partner will only take one to three courses, depending on their requirements.

Our initial rollout of this program includes two courses -- Sitecore .NET Developer (SND) and Sitecore HTML Developer (SHD). Driven by our new philosophy, each of these courses will spend at least 50% on hands-on prototyping. Students will leave these classes with a strong understanding of Sitecore fundamentals and extensive experience with instructor-supervised lab work. A typical student will take only one of these classes, depending on their skill area (i.e. .NET or HTML/XSLT). These courses cover fewer topics than SCD1; however, they will result in greater mastery.

In addition to the new trainings, Sitecore has produced new documentation on Sitecore fundamentals, as well as new features specific to Sitecore 6.

Finally, the Sitecore Certification exam has been completely revised. The new exam focuses on the intersection between Sitecore and ASP.NET. Developers will find the new exam highly challenging and thought provoking.

With the release of Sitecore 6, we bring one era of Sitecore training to an end. As we embark on our new training offerings, we will continue to revise and renew as we receive feedback from our trainees. If you want to join the excitement, contact your Sitecore sales representative or partner manager to schedule your next training.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

SCD1 -- Beginning, Middle and End

When students sign up for SCD1 training, their focus is typically on the classroom experience. A successful training, however, consists of more than what happens in the structured days of training. I break the overall training experience into three phases:

Phase One: Installation and Introduction (8-16 hours, self-guided)
  • Students will attend the pre-training orientation.
  • Students will install Sitecore on their local machine.
  • Students will read the "Fundamental Concepts" documentation provided by Sitecore.
  • Students will complete the "Building a Basic Website" exercises.
  • Students will familiarize themselves with the Sitecore user interfaces.
  • Students will complete the prerequisite quiz.

Phase Two: Instruction and Labs (16 hours, instructor-led)
  • Students will attend the instructor-led training and complete all assigned labs.
  • Students will complete the Sitecore Certified Developer exam.

Phase Three: Prototyping (8-16 hours, self-guided)
  • Students will read post-training documentation.
  • Students will prototype a basic website.

For the purposes of this blog entry, I want to focus on Phase One and Phase Three.

Phase One involves installing Sitecore, reviewing the basic Sitecore concepts and taking the pre-training quiz. Installing Sitecore is typically an effortless experience -- simply run the installer and follow the prompts. For certain machine configurations, however, students may run into difficulty getting the standard installation to work on their machines. Always install Sitecore at least two business days before the training to give yourself time to address any possible installation problems with Sitecore support staff. Showing up at the training without Sitecore installed will mean that you will not be able to participate in the lab exercises. (Instructor time is not used for installing the software.)

Reviewing the basic concepts before the training is also essential. I always recommend that students treat the instructor-led training as their second exposure to Sitecore, not thier first. Preparing before the training is the best way to optimize your training experience.

The pre-training quiz is designed to test your knowledge of the basic Sitecore and ASP.NET concepts.

Phase Two of the training -- the instructor-led portion -- involves both instructor presentation and lab work. It is a fun, informative and intensive two days. Depending on the instructor and the classroom dynamics, the training runs for six to eight hours each day.

Phase Three of the training involves reinforcing what you have learned. Sitecore does not currently provide curriculum for this aspect of the training experience, but we highly recommend that you spend as much time practicing and prototyping as possible before you jump in to your first project.

Learning Sitecore is a rewarding and sometimes challenging experience, especially if you are new to CMS software. Make the most of your training by blocking out time in your work schedule to prepare, pay attention and reinforce.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sitecore Certified Administrator training

There is often confusion around the intended audience and curriculum for the Sitecore Certified Administrator (SCA) training. Two misconceptions are common:

1) The training is for non-technical business users, typically Sitecore "power users."
2) The training is for technical IT staff, interested in system administrative topics.

The first misconception is based on the fact that none of the activities in SCA require knowledge of ASP.NET (or even HTML) coding.

While this is true, students with no technical background will certainly struggle with a number of concepts in SCA, particularly security, workflows and Sitecore architecture. While the coverage of security in SCA is presented in very basic terms, the curriculum still assumes familiarity with basic security concepts such as hierarchical inheritance. If you have never set NT security permissions, Sitecore security may seem daunting.

The second misconception interprets "administrator" as a traditional system administrator. Trainees expecting coverage of Sitecore deployment, database maintenance, network security and file permissions will be disappointed. For purposes of SCA, "administrator" refers to a user whose job responsibilities include basic content authoring, publishing, configuring of workflows and Sitecore security administration.

Who, then, is the ideal audience for this training? A business user who has on-the-job experience with Sitecore's editing interfaces and wants to dig more deeply into the product will likely learn new and valuable information from SCA. SCA can clarify how your existing Sitecore workflows and security permissions operate and how they might be tweaked as business requirements evolve.

A final note about this training: All of the topics in SCA are covered in-depth in SCD1. If you have taken SCD1, there is no need to take SCA.

For more information about administrative topics in Sitecore, check out the "End User" section of the SDN:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sitecore Video Training

Sitecore USA is piloting a program to provide training through a video conferencing system provided by one of our customers, SetFocus. Video training provides all of the benefits of remote training – such as flexible scheduling and reduced costs – while still providing a connection to a real-time instructor. The training includes 100% of the curriculum, lab exercises and certification provided by in-person training. An instructor is present for the entire training and can share their desktop as well as viewing individual student workstations.

In addition to cost savings, one of the major benefits of video conferencing is scheduling. Imagine your developers are currently involved in a project but also have an immediate need for Sitecore training. In-person training requires that students be available for at least two eight-hour days to complete the SCD1 training. With video training, however, students can sign up for four four-hour days and still have the flexibility to spend half of the work day on other projects. This means that your developers can be trained in Sitecore while still completing necessary business activities.

How does it work? Trainees are sent a video conferencing unit which connects to any standard television and internet connection. The television displays an image of the instructor as well as each of the remote training classrooms. Desktop sharing is done through web conferencing software, currently GoToMeeting.

If you are interested in this format for training, contact your sales person or partner manager for more information. I will continue to post updates regarding as the program transitions from pilot to launch.

The Sitecore Certified Developer Exam

To become a Sitecore Certified Developer, you must attend an SCD1 training and pass the Sitecore Certified Developer exam. The exam consists of forty questions designed to test your knowledge of the basic Sitecore framework and administrative activities covered in SCD1. The exam is pass/no-pass, meaning that you can score a 68% and still consider yourself a certified developer.

The content of the test draws from four major subject areas and presents a random set of ten questions from each. Each student will have a different mix of questions presented in a different order.

The format of the test is multiple guess, meaning that the system presents each question along with several possible answers. Students choose the most correct answer and proceed to the next question. The test is forward-only. As such, students have no way of returning to questions they have already answered.

The difficulty level of the test will vary on a student-by-student perspective. In general, the more experience with CMS and ASP.NET, the greater the odds of passing the exam. We encourage students to read each question and answer carefully, as the answers are sometimes only slightly different from each other.

The results of the exam will typically be sent to you within 24 hours of the completion of the exam. Exam results vary greatly – some students score 100% on the test while others finish the exam without passing. The exam has important consequences for your relationship with Sitecore from both a marketing and support perspective. While you shouldn’t get too nervous about the exam, you should also try your hardest to follow the training carefully.

Completing the exam ends the theoretical component of your training – now real-world prototyping and project development begins. It is essential for the success of your project that you begin working with Sitecore very shortly after completing the SCD1 training. The training is packed with information and – as with all intensive trainings – the details start to dissipate quickly if the information isn’t applied.